The Leaning Tower of Pisa … in Illinois? Copycat Travel Icons Across the US

Yahoo TravelJuly 28, 2014

Just as designer handbags have their knockoff counterparts, so do some of Europe’s beloved travel icons. And a handful reside here in the good ol’ USA.

From the Parthenon to the Eiffel Tower, copycat monuments have been erected to honor, to humor, to inspire curiosity, and — in typical American fashion — to attract business.

It’s also good news for the budget-conscious “world” traveler: No need to splurge on pricey airfare or dig up that passport to visit them.

We’ve rounded up a few favorites that are less obvious. Unlike the big-budget travel replicas found in Las Vegas and Disney World’s Epcot Center, these travel icon “knockoffs” reside in small towns and cities sprinkled across the country, each with its own colorful backstory.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, these are very sincere (and eccentric) kudos.

Related: Around the World in 11 Drinks at Walt Disney World’s Epcot

The Leaning Tower of Pisa … in Niles, Illinois

It’s a slice of Italy in Illinois. The Leaning Tower of Niles is an eye-catching attraction off a busy thoroughfare north of Chicago. Those who don’t anticipate it almost always pull over. Half the size of the original, this replica dates back to 1934, when it was constructed to mask a water tank for local swimming pools. Thanks to significant preservation work over the years, it now provides a backdrop to the occasional musical performance — and plenty of photo ops.

leaning tower of Niles
leaning tower of Niles

 (Photo: Henryk Sadura/Thinkstock)

The Parthenon … in Nashville, Tennessee

Can’t afford a trip to Greece? Consider a trip to Nashville instead, where you can combine an affinity for Plato and Socrates with country music. A full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon resides in Nashville’s Centennial Park. It was built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, to honor the city’s reputation as the “Athens of the South” — a nickname that predates Nashville’s modern-day “Music City” moniker. Unlike the 2,400-year-old decaying original, this Parthenon is fully intact and houses a permanent art exhibit.

Parthenon in Nashville
Parthenon in Nashville

(Photo: Joel Abroad/Flickr)

Related: How to Throw the Ultimate Bachelorette Party in Nashville

Stonehenge … in Natural Bridge, Virginia

With more than 20 Stonehenge replicas across the USA, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But Foamhenge gets our vote because it’s the only one made entirely out of Styrofoam. Yes, Styrofoam. Chiseled to exact scale by artist Mark Cline — right down to the nicks found on the original’s stones — it’s a hauntingly accurate copy of the real thing. Imagine yourself among ancient druids while visiting this masterpiece in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Foamhenge in Virginia
Foamhenge in Virginia

(Photo: milknosugar/Flickr)

Related: 11 Weirdly Awesome Things in SkyMall Magazine

The Eiffel Tower … in Paris, Texas

Ooh la la, y’all. This version of the Eiffel Tower dons a giant cowboy hat. Would you expect anything less from a Texas town that shares a name with the City of Light? The hat also comes with history: It was added in 1998 to beat the height of an Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Tennessee. Goes to show, don’t mess with Texas. (Just don’t remind these “Parisians” that the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas is more than 400 feet taller than their beloved replica.)

Eiffel Tower in Texas
Eiffel Tower in Texas

(Photo: edeevo/Flickr)

Related: National Hot Dog Day: The 18 Most Ridiculous Hot Dogs We’ve Ever Seen

London Bridge … in Lake Havasu City, Arizona

In 1968, London Bridge really was falling down. So the city of London sold it to the highest bidder, Lake Havasu City co-founder Robert P. McCulloch, for the bargain price of $2,460,000. The bridge was transported brick by brick and reassembled in the Arizona desert. So the London Bridge that cars drive atop, tourists walk across, and boats float under isn’t a replica — it’s the real deal. McCulloch was no fool when he made his investment: The bridge helped bring tourism to Lake Havasu. It’s Arizona tourism’s second-largest attraction after the Grand Canyon.

London Bridge in Arizona
London Bridge in Arizona

(Photo: Gordon Ednie/Flickr)

Related: These Ain’t Your Grandma’s Motels: An Ode to the Roadside Motor Inn

The Titanic … in Branson, Missouri

No, you won’t find Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet on this boat. And sure, this isn’t an icon you can actually visit, given the original now lies more than 12,000 feet below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface. But its replica in Branson, Missouri, is a can’t-miss attraction that looms over the city’s main drag. Built half to scale complete with infamous iceberg, the Titanic Museum Attraction houses a thoughtful and interactive museum about the legendary ship and its passengers. Don’t let the kitschy exterior fool you — but definitely snap a selfie in front of it.

Titanic in Missouri
Titanic in Missouri

(Photo: Erica Bray)

Erica Bray is an avid yogi and Chicago native who took a self-imposed sabbatical from corporate life to travel the world and blog about it. If you see her on the road, be sure to say “Hello.”

Want more like this? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so that we can inspire you every day.