I love quirky, odd things along the side of the road. Jackalopes, bigfoot, the world’s largest spoon, aliens….that sort of thing. On a recent road trip to Washington we found ourselves checking out the Highway 2 roadside attractions and we were not disappointed.
Before leaving our hotel in Spokane, I Googled “things to see along highway 2” and found several articles, I also found one of my favorite websites, which I had forgotten about: Roadside Attractions. This is the go-to source for “offbeat tourist attractions.”
We viewed Washington’s Highway 2 roadside attractions from east to west, starting in Spokane and ending in Everett.
We started at the world’s largest waterfall (no water) just beyond Coulee City. We thought it was pretty hilarious that the world’s largest waterfall is waterless, making it a dry fall, but names are everything. The massive 400-foot cliffs of Dry Falls are the remnants of what may have been the largest waterfall thay ever existed on the planet. It turned out to be a really interesting stop.
Several times, glacial Lake Missoula busted its ice dam and drenched eastern Washington with more water than all the rivers in the world combined. Then it poured over this 3.5-mile wide chasm of basalt. Imagine it! Dry Falls State Park is found along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, which sounds like a very interesting trip for another time.
Amenities: bathrooms, ice cream and hot dog trucks, water, visitor center, interpretive signs.
Address: Hwy 17, Coulee City, WA
Directions: On the west side of Hwy 17, two miles south of where it splits from US Hwy 2. Pull into the parking lot for a good panorama of the former falls.
Driving through Waterville, I got very excited and started shouting, “lumpy dowser, lumpy dowser.” No one knew what I was talking about. I had read about the statue of a cartoonish man holding a water dowser, but hadn’t added it to our itinerary since it was already pretty full.
We missed a turn in Waterville and pulled over next to the statue and small museum to turn around. It was kismet!
The statue is just called “The Water Dowser” according to the person working in the museum, but since Roadside Attractions calls it “Lumpy Dowser,” and because that’s a better name, that’s what I call it. You should, too.
Address: Southeast corner of Central Ave./US 2 and Walnut St.
Directions: In front of the Douglas County Museum.
Hours: Museum – Memorial Day-Labor Day. (Call to verify) Lumpy is out there year round.
Admission: Museum – donation. Lumpy – free.
We originally were drawn to Leavenworth after reading about the Gingerbread Factory. It was Finn’s birthday and we were looking for something he would appreciate even more than a giant dry waterfall or the Lumpy Dowser statue. Then we found out it was located in a Bavarian-themed town. And we learned about the Giant Suit of Armor! Clearly we had to stop.
We started to head into the Cascade Mountains as we approached Leavenworth. It used to be a normal town, but in the 60s they decided to go with a Bavarian theme to attract tourists. And it worked! There were tourists (including us) everywhere! Even the Starbucks and gas stations have Bavarian fonts in their logos. Everything. Is. Bavarian. It’s cute, but I think it could be a little much after awhile. The setting in the mountains is gorgeous, though, and there is a ski area for winter recreationists.
We planned to eat at the Icicle Brewery (nothing more Bavarian than beer! Except lederhosen.). While the food looked great to me, the boys were not impressed. As it was Finn’s birthday, we decided to eat next door at Sulla Vita, a Euro-themed restaurant. I know, we should have eaten at the Sausage Garten or München Haus, but I can only take so much Bavaria.
Address: Sulla Vita – 931 Front Street
I was a little disappointed with the Gingerbread Factory. It’s not a factory. It’s a cute coffee shop that sells gingerbread cookies along with everything else. That said, the boys were pretty happy with their gingerbread.
Address: 828 Commercial Street
This was my favorite stop. It’s right on Highway 2, but we almost missed it, as it is nestled in between a couple hotel buildings. It really is just a giant knight with a shield and battle ax, but I love the randomness of it.
Address: 190 US Hwy 2
After all the city fun checking out Highway 2 roadside attractions, it was time to get into the woods and let the boys burn off the gingerbread cookie sugar. From the parking area, it’s a short walk to a lovely waterfall, but the best part is the 0.5- mile interpretive loop trail along the creek and through the woods. This was our first stop in the forest and it felt great to breathe in the clean air and feel the weight of the Pacific Northwest. Ferns, bryophytes, running water, and big trees ushered us along the trail.
One of the coolest spots is where the creek hits a wall of granite and takes a sharp right turn.
Amenities: Vault toilets, picnic tables, interpretive signs
Address: US Highway 2 at milepost 56. The entrance is on the north side of the highway.
Hours: Open Memorial Day through Labor Day(ish)
There was a period when Anders was little when he got really interested in Bigfoot. Being the interest-led homeschooling mama that I am, I helped him check out a bunch of Bigfoot books at the library. He’d read them in bed and then be too terrified to sleep. We returned the library books. Maybe it wasn’t a good choice for a five-year-old.
Anders is barely scarred from the terror and was happy to visit the Friendly Bigfoot statue. There are actually several Bigfoot statues here, all friendly. This area is where a scene from Harry and the Hendersons was filmed. We haven’t seen the movie, yet, but hopefully it isn’t scary.
To see the Bigfoot holding a raccoon, walk down the grassy hill left of the porta-potties.
Amenities: Coffee kiosk with food, drinks, Bigfoot fur, and other Bigfoot souveniers; porta potties.
Address: Hwy 2, near Index
Directions: Espresso Chalet. US Hwy 2 at milepost 36 on the south side. About a mile east of Index and Index-Galena Rd.
Admission: Free- sort of. The parking is only for customers of the coffee kiosk. We bought a cup of tea.
There are more of Washington’s Highway 2 roadside attractions, but we couldn’t stop at all of them. Next time we might stop at one of the apple cider mills along the highway, check out the Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, strolled an abandoned railway grade on the Iron Goat Trail, or gawked at the waterfalls at Wallace Falls State Park.
Need more Roadside Attraction inspiration? Check out my post on the Teton Mystery or one of these books from Amazon.
by Doug Kirby