The Leaning Tower of Pisa … in Illinois? Copycat Travel Icons Across the US
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.
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.
(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.
(Photo: Joel Abroad/Flickr)
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.