Carhenge: America’s coolest, and quite possibly best, tourist attraction.
In 2001, while preparing for a road trip around the USA with some friends, I came across one of those crazy roadside attractions America is famous for. Carhenge absolutely leapt off the page of my Lonely Planet at me, and in true Clark Griswold style, I marked it down on my trip plan as a “must see”. When my friends and I got together and the trip finally began, none of them quite shared my enthusiasm. Nonetheless, somewhere between visiting a friend in St. Cloud, MN and another friend in Boulder, CO., I managed to convince them that Alliance, a.k.a. middle of nowhere, Nebraska, was a worthy stop off. None of us were disappointed. Rising out of the dry plains was a sight that sent waves of pure joy and pleasure rushing through my heart. I was captivated by the coolness, ridiculous pointlessness and downright brilliance of it. Let me give you a little background.
Created by artist/Stonehenge scholar, Jim Reinders in 1987, Carhenge is as close to an exact replica of England’s famous Stonehenge as can be created out of 38 grey/blue painted cars that you could possibly dream to experience. It is, in short, magnificent. Carhenge captures all the atmosphere and eerie, prehistoric mystery of the original and ties it in with modern man’s fascination with the automobile. It has it’s own website ( www.carhenge.com – check it out for awesome fan photos), and a “friends of” society. It has been voted America’s “2nd Wackiest Attraction” (It was robbed!), produces merchandise, has featured in several TV shows and even a car commercial, and survived an attempt by the county to have it removed. It has now become the central feature of a sculpture park named “The Car Art Reserve”, with several additions including a tribute to Vivaldi, “The Ford Seasons” and, all of things in the Nebraska plains, a salmon. It’s free to visit, but be sure to make a small donation to its preservation.
My friends (now all accepting my brilliance for demanding we go there) and I spent a good hour or so wandering between the cars, strolling through the long grass, and just generally feeling good about life. Maybe I’m crazy, or just slightly odd, but just like the original, I believe there was magic there.
I have traveled the world and seen some amazing things, including the original Stonehenge. I have watched the sun set over the Grand Canyon, climbed the Eiffel Tower, camped in the Sahara desert, and spent six months living in the islands of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Yet despite the many wonderful memories these places provide me, nothing has ever come close to the thrill I first received when we piled out of VW bus and ran dreamily up the slight hill where myself, a wandering Australian, and my three American mates, had Carhenge all to ourselves.
So, when planning your next family holiday, forget Disneyland, the lights of Las Vegas or the crush of New York City, and head deep into the depths of America’s heartland. Add it to your bucket list, propose to the love of your life there, make a pilgrimage. Whatever you do, treat yourself to Carhenge; trust me, you’ll love it.