California is known for its beaches. Las Vegas as the city of Sin. While we may not know what the Big Apple actually means, these cities all have a general and understandable claim to fame. Nothing weird about warm weather and flashy casinos. You know exactly what you are getting when you head to any of these destinations based on their universally known features. However, there are a number of cities around the world with a somewhat unique claim to fame that might not automatically ring a bell - and may peak your interest.
Have you ever wondered where the first ever 911 call was made in America? Or where the coldest place in the world is? Perhaps you are looking for a different sort of vacation with a much less obvious sort of attraction. Small towns across America and around the world capitalize on obtuse claims to fame, hoping to attract tourists looking for something out of the ordinary. Take a look at our list of 20 cities around the world with strange claims to fame- and start planning your next road trip to visit these unusual hot spots.
20 Scottsboro, Alabama: Where Your Lost Luggage Finds a Home
Milan, Italy, New York City, and Paris are known as the shopping capitals of the world. Tourists will frequent these cities for the latest designs and inspiration on the hottest fashion trends. If you are looking for a slightly different trend in shopping, head to Scottsboro, Alabama where nearly 1 million shoppers each year visit the Unclaimed Baggage Center, hoping to score a find from lost baggage that is never claimed. The Unclaimed Baggage Center is the only store in American that purchases unclaimed luggage from airlines and re-purposes them for sale to customers. The clothing is dry-cleaned and laundered, the jewelry is cleaned and appraised and the electronic goods are tested and cleared of any personal information. You may be surprised at what you could find- the store owners once discovered a 5.8 carat diamond hidden in a sock!
19 Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada: Historical Hunting Grounds
This World Heritage Site is located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. For over 6000 years the native people of the Great Plains would study the behavior of the buffalo they hunted, and developed a practice of driving the buffalo over a cliff, and following afterwards to retrieve the carcasses. The unusual name comes from the legend of a young hunter who wanted to view the buffalo as they fell from the cliff, and hid behind a ledge to watch them fall. On an unusually good hunt day, the buffalo piled up and trapped him between the cliffs- leaving his head smashed in.
18 Metropolis, Illinois: Everything Superman
In Southern Illinois, a 15 foot bronze statue of Superman stands in the middle of Superman Square. The town’s newspaper is called the metropolis Planet. While “Superman” resides in a fictional American city named Metropolis, in 1972 DC comics declared the small Illinois city the “Hometown of Superman”. Capitalizing on the success of the franchise, the city erected the statue along with a Lois Lane statue down the street, attracting thousands of fans to the city every June for the Superman Celebration. No word yet on whether the crime rate is lower in the city due to superhero forces!
17 Klampenborg, Denmark: Oldest Amusement Park in the World
No family vacation is complete without a trip to some sort of an amusement park for the kids and adults to enjoy scary roller coasters and rides with carnival treats. As scary as the roller coasters are, there is something somewhat comforting about the more modern technology and construction that may give a false sense of security. In Klampenborg, Denmark however, you can test your adventure levels and visit Bakken, the world’s oldest operating amusement park and take a ride in a wooden roller coaster that was built in 1932- if you dare. The amusement park has been operating since 1583
16 Ames, Iowa: Largest Gnome in the United States
When most students look for a university or college to attend after high school they will look for the school’s reputation, programs, student life and quality of professors. Students at the Iowa State University can now also promote their claim to housing the largest Gnome in the United States. Located in the Reiman Gardens, a University owned public garden, the 15 foot gnome weighs almost 3,500 pounds. The idea for the gnome was brought up a brainstorming meeting as a way to attract visitors to the garden during slower seasons. While the attempt was the build the largest gnome in the world, a fiberglass gnome was discovered in Poland that stands at 18 feet, beating them by 3 feet. However, the Iowa gnome is still the tallest concrete gnome in the world!
15 South Korea: Fastest Internet Service in the World
With our obsessions with social media and everything technology related, access to WiFi and reliable networks are an increasingly important consideration for travelers. And if it is the only consideration for you, you may want to consider traveling to South Korea, which enjoys the world’s fastest average internet connection speed. The country is consistently ranked 1st in the UN Development Index as the average speed is 28.6 Mbit/s – to make sense of this, the world’s average speed is 7 Mbit/s, making South Korea’s speed 4 times as fast as the average.
14 Oymyakon, Russia: Coldest Inhabited City
Beautiful beaches and warm weather are so 2015. For a truly unique vacation, why not travel to Oymyakon, Russia to visit one of the coldest permanently inhabited places in the world. The town is situated between two valleys that trap wind inside and create extremely cold temperatures in the winter, usually averaging around -55.5°C. Anything warmer than that and children are headed off to school in balmy temperatures of around -50°C. The locals are proud of their ability to withstand such temperatures and a monument in the town square shows a reading of -71°C in the 1920s. The coldest recorded temperature, however can be traced back to 1933 with a record of -67.7°C.
13 Shag Harbor, Canada: UFO Incident
In 1964 in a small fishing village in Nova Scotia, Canada, reports of a large object floating in the waters was investigated by the Royal Canadian Mountain Police, the Canadian Coast Guard, and military agencies. Several reported sightings of the object in the air were made by pilots who were also flying over the Canadian province, as well as residents who reported seeing a spectacular glowing flying object in the sky. The object was never officially identified after it crashed into the waters, as was officially referred to as an Unidentified Flying Object by the Canadian Government. The small town has erected the UFO Gazebo and picnic areas for visitors to look out to the site of the crash- where the object has yet to be recovered.
12 Madrid, Spain: World’s Oldest Restaurant
Sobrino de Botin was founded in 1725 and is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. The restaurant maintains the original recipes from the original owners, and has also allegedly kept the flame in the oven burning continuously and has also kept the original hardwood interiors. The building that the restaurant is housed in has an extensive and fascinating history tracing back to the 1500s where the owners of the building applied for an exemption to having members of the royal family lodge in their multi-story building. The restaurant has been referred to Ernest Hemingway’s novels and was once a source of employment for the artist Francis de Goya.
11 Barkerville, Canada: Gold Rush
Bakerville, British Columbia enjoyed overnight growth and prosperity during the Cariboo Gold Rush in the 1800s. Named after Billy Barker, one of the first of the lucky few who struck gold in 1861, the town grew overnight and drew in hundreds of travelers looking for similar luck. The community grew even though it was filled with largely transient miners looking for gold, and the town built general stores, barber shops and convenience shops. In 1957, the B.C. government restored the town to its historic beginnings and it now operates as a tourist attraction with complete replicates of the original historical buildings. Most of the residents moved out to New Bakerville to allow for the complete restoration. It is one of the few places where the entire community has been restored for a truly historical look at an exciting time in Canadian history.
10 Thames Town, China: British Replication in China
You may not want to admit it, but you most likely have some sort of knock-off version of a luxury item sitting in your closet, and it most likely came from China. While they are known for producing knock-off items en masse, Thames Town, located 30 km from central Shanghai really takes the cake. Thames Town is named after the river in London, and has replicated the look of an English town, right in the middle of China. The town comes complete with its own fish and chips restaurant, cobbled streets, a pub, and a church modeled after Christ Church in Bristol.
9 Coober Pedy, Australia: Residents Live Underground
This small city of approximately 1700 residents has two claims to fame. Known as the ‘opal capital of the world’, the community relies on the mining of the largest opal mine in the world for its sustainability. What is even more interesting is the fact that most of the residents live underground in dugouts. 80% of residents to be exact. These aren’t your typical dugouts you will find in a baseball field, the homes in Coober Pedy have all the amenities of a traditional home, with swimming pools, kitchens and multiple bedrooms. The houses initially developed as literal holes in the grounds while residents were searching for opals, and slowly grew to livable homes and even hotels for tourists to stay in!
8 Stratford, Canada: Justin Bieber
There are a few cities that have become synonymous with the names of famous celebrities that once lived among the lesser known locals. Graceland and Elvis go hand in hand, Boston is commonly associated with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and in Canada, Stratford, Ontario has become internationally recognized as the birthplace of Justin Bieber. The city of Stratford has certainly taken advantage of its newfound fame, opening a Steps to Stardom Exhibit at the Stratford Perth Museum that houses relics such as Bieber’s first drum set and hockey bag, as well as offering a Bieber-iffic Map on its official Visit Stratford site that outlines his favorite places to go. It’s unclear still whether this association has helped or hindered the tourism stats!
7 Haleyville, Alabama: First 911 Call
Dialing 911 in an emergency situation is something so ingrained in our conscious it is hard to believe that the first 911 call was only made around 50 years in ago in a small town in Alabama. Haleyville proudly shows off its claim to fame as the birthplace of ‘911’. Banners hang off of streetlights with pictures of the red phone that was used to make the first call, and the phone itself sits in a clear case, on display for visitors. While the first call was a ceremonial call between two politicians and not an actual emergency, the town that established the single call system shaped the course for the rest of the country to follow.
6 Qatar: Highest Amount of Expats
There are a number of countries that are seen as ideal for expats to live and work in- UAE and Singapore usually top the lists. However the smaller gulf country of Qatar has an overwhelming 85% of its population as expats, leaving the locals as a very small minority. Qatar has the highest amount of expat to local population in the world, due to its promises of tax-free income and lucrative salaries. While not as developed as the UAE, Qatar is slowly becoming a tourist destination as well with the expansion of properties and amenities geared towards its massive expat population.
5 Death Valley, California: Highest Recorded Temperature
If the coldest place on earth doesn't appeal to you, you may want to head to Death Valley, California where the highest ever recorded temperature was docketed in 1913 at a staggering 56.7 degrees. No need to head to the Middle East for desert like temperatures, you can simply head to the desert in California and experience the dry heat firsthand without leaving the country. While the city hasn't reached such record highs in recent times, the average temperature continues to reach around 47 degrees - comparable to other desert areas with record breaking temperatures. While we are certain that the city's name has no relation to these unfortunate incidents, there have been reports of people dying from heat exposure every year- so maybe plan a visit during the cooler months in December and January!
4 Austin, Minnesota: Where SPAM was Born
Whether you want to admit it or not, everyone has either tried or been curious about the famous meat in a can, SPAM. In Austin, Minnesota the largest employer is Hormel Foods Corporation, the makers of SPAM. The meat was introduced to the community by Hormel in 1937 as a way to increase the sale of the pork shoulder cut. Its popularity grew during WW2 and the Hormel headquarters were established in Austin. The city also has a SPAM Museum, a completely free museum that is completely dedicated to the canned and cooked meat; take a tour to see how and why 8 Billion cans of the product have been sold since its creation!
3 Pripyat, Ukraine: Nuclear Event
If you haven't heard of Pripyat before, you are likely more familiar with the name Chernobyl. Pripyat is a former nuclear city in the Soviet Union, and now is a ghost town that can be visited to see the remnants of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. During a late night safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, an uncontrolled reaction occurred, causing the evacuation of the city, and leading to multiple injuries. The city is now uninhabited but is maintained by the government for its historical significance. Tourists can visit the city with guided tours as radiation levels have now dropped such that exposure to the city is now safe- for short periods of time!
2 Nagoro, Japan: Town Full of Life Sized Dolls
It sounds like the plot to a bad horror movie- although this town's story is all too real. After discovering that her small town's population had dwindled down almost to single digit numbers, a local artist began making dolls to replicate the town's former inhabitants. The dolls are placed around town and engaging in activities that their actual human counterparts enjoyed partaking in. Currently, there are more dolls in the town than actual humans. While some may find this sort of nostalgic homage flattering, it is kinda creepy.
1 Monowi, Nebraska: Population of 1
Do you ever feel like escaping the crowds of the big city of life and dream of running away to an island all to yourself. You could do that, or you could go to Nebraska and meet Elsie Eiler, the sole resident of the incorporated village of Monowi. As the sole resident, she is of course, the mayor of the village as well. She operates a local tavern for visitors and maintains a library in her late husband's honor. Monowi is the only incorporated municipality in the United States with such a limited population. If complete solitude sounds appealing, act fast- there are a total of three homes in the village, one of which is occupied by the Mayor!