Stand-alone attractions worth the time?

February 10, 2023, 5:53 PM

I would love to hear some recommendations for stand-alone attractions that you think are worth the time and effort to visit.

I’m thinking of rides and exhibits that aren’t part of a theme park, but individual attractions. A couple that we’ve talked about in the past are the Wings Over Washington flying theater is Seattle and the Guinness Brewhouse in Dublin.

What would you like to add to others fans’ “you ought to try this” list?

Replies (6)

Edited: February 13, 2023, 4:06 PM

I am always impressed by the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Moving it closer to home, I am a sucker for Navy Pier and its boat tours and Ferris wheel here in Chicago.

February 14, 2023, 6:20 PM

If you are in Atlanta, you really can't leave without visiting The World of Coca-Cola. It's a terrific exhibit that walks visitors through the history of the beverage and that of the entire Coca-Cola company. Beyond being a corporate showplace, you get an amazing look at American life from the late 1880s through the eyes of some of the most talented artists of their age.
If you enjoy Club Cool at Epcot or the sampling area at The Coca-Cola exhibit at Disney Springs, you will be overwhelmed at the much larger and more diverse offering at The World of Coca-Cola.
Right next door is the jaw dropping Georgia Aquarium. Also worth a few hours.
While you are in the area, have a meal at The Varsity on North Ave. It's the world's largest fast food restaurant and the single largest seller of Coca-Cola products in the world. Have a chili dog, onion rings & a fried peach pie for me!

February 15, 2023, 9:27 AM

@Rob - I'll also add that also near the World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium is the College Football Hall of Fame. While lacking the prestige of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Canton, OH) and Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown, NY), this HoF is more modern with interactive attractions and engaging exhibits/displays. Atlanta has a CityPass that combines the aquarium, World of Coke, HoF, ZooAtlanta, and other attractions into one pass that can save lots of money over buying individual attraction tickets.

When I think of stand-alone themed attractions the most memorable one I've come across has to be the Flour Tower/Mill Museum in Minneapolis, MN. The Flour Tower, an elevator-style attraction that's like Tower of Terror minus the thrilling drops, is separately ticketed from the Mill Museum, but is well worth the upcharge. The Mill Museum as a whole is a very engaging look at the city during the industrial revolution, focusing on labor practices and technological advances during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Another excellent stand alone attraction that has been highlighted on TPI before is The City Museum in St. Louis. This ever-growing and changing place is an odd combination of art, playground, and kitschy history, but well worth a visit.

In my home region of Washington, DC, I can't recommend the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum more highly. This museum is located @20 miles west of Washington DC near Dulles Airport - in fact if you're ever stuck on a long layover at the airport, they offer shuttles to the museum - and while the downtown Air and Space Museum gets most of the attention (in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars for a complete renovation) I find the Udvar-Hazy far more interesting from an aeronautical history perspective. While the downtown museum houses iconic craft like Skylab, X-1 and X-15, Wright Flier, and the Lunar Rover, the bigger space offered in the Udvar-Hazy allows for the display of much larger pieces like the Concorde, Enola Gay, SR-71 (my personal favorite plane), and Space Shuttle Discovery. What I like about the Udvar-Hazy is that it's not nearly as crowded as the downtown museum, and displays craft in far more interesting ways because the building was custom designed to allow for hanging things from the roof at various angles.

While New York City has tons of one-off attractions all vying for tourist dollars, I was surprisingly impressed with the Observation Deck of One World Trade. Pretty much every big city has a tall building with an observation attraction (New York City has quite a few as you would expect), but One World Trade's experience is one of the coolest with an elevator ride that's one of a kind, and of course that unmatched view from the top of the US's tallest building. One World Trade is more expensive than similar experiences at the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and others, but is totally worth the cost and time it takes to travel to Lower Manhattan from Midtown.

February 15, 2023, 11:28 AM

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I am really looking forward to the opening of the revamped Casa Bonita in Denver in May. The guys behind South Park bought the place and spent millions renovating it, then they hired a Michelin-starred chef to revamp the menu.

Casa Bonita was a wonderful, cheesy mess with horrid food before. Will the input of actual creative and culinary professionals elevate what was one of Denver's biggest tourist traps into a commendable destination? Or will polishing this place ruin its quirky charm?

February 19, 2023, 9:40 PM

The Huntington Library & Gardens in the city of San Marino northeast of downtown Los Angeles is an excellent attraction, with a recently expanded or refurbished Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden, as well as a Desert Garden and other outdoor spaces.

In addition, there are world-class museum exhibits including a Gutenberg Bible, a First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays, an original illustrated Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and letters written by Abraham Lincoln and others in the library exhibit, and famous artwork such as Gainsborough's The Blue Boy and Thomas Lawrence's Pinkie.

Finally, there is a temporary exhibit until mid-March on French decorative arts and their influence on the Walt Disney company, focusing on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast. One room is about the Disney theme parks and includes the 1953 Herb Ryman "lost weekend" map of Disneyland, which Roy Disney used to convince New York TV people to invest in Disneyland, and is considered by Disney Imagineering as its Mona Lisa. You've probably seen images of the map in your Disney parks books, but the details can really be appreciated in its full 70" x 43" size.

February 28, 2023, 11:29 AM

The Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum in Gettysburg.

Was "tails" spelled wrong? Nope! You can see hundreds of clay-sculped cats in union and confederate uniforms re-enacting the battle of Gettysburg!

I didn't think it was real until I saw it with my own eyes :D

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