Go Here: Roadside America in Pennsylvania
Roadside America in Shartlesville, PA dubs themselves “an enchanted miniature land of yesterday and tomorrow that you have to see to believe.” I’ve seen it, and I’m still having trouble believing that it’s real.
The first time I visited Roadside America — an 8,000 square foot miniature replica of American history that spans from early pioneer days to the 50s — I was about 7 years old. Going back as an adult I wondered if it would be as impressive, on account of how jaded we all seem to get as we grow up. It was.
The attraction contains over 300 miniature structures, 18 operating trains, 10,000 hand-made trees, 4,000 miniature people (many of them with creepy, animatronic capabilities), actual flowing rivers and streams, an underground replica of Luray Caverns, a coal mine, and over 600 miniature lightbulbs. The whole thing is strung together with over 21,500 feet of electrical wiring.
Roadside America is a (slightly obsessive?) labor of love originally created by Laurence Gieringer, a man who spent 60 years collecting miniatures. The word got out in the 1930’s, and since then the miniature America has expanded, changed venues, and become an infamous road trip landmark.
The best part of Roadside America, by far — and the part that I had completely forgotten about in the years since my last visit — is the ‘Sound and Light Show.’ Scheduled for twice an hour, there is very little warning given before a seizure-inducing pandamonium takes over the entire museum. The lights are dimmed as night falls on the tiny town, and a delightfully outdated slideshow runs on six, single-slide 1950’s projectors while Kate Smith sings ‘God Bless America’ over a tinny, ancient loudspeaker system. The slideshow ends with a split image of Jesus Christ and the American flag.
God bless America, indeed.