For main travel destinations, you can’t do much better than immersing yourself in the sheer grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the magnificent monuments of Washington D.C. or the cultural and culinary delights of New Orleans.
But if you have the time — one of the many benefits of retirement — why not let your travels take an unpredictable turn or two by exploring some locations that don’t typically rank among your annual list of “Top 10 Best Places to Visit.”
How did we develop our list of quirky places? We used just two criteria: the peculiarity of the location’s name and how it got its name.
What’s in a name? As it turns out, plenty. After perusing the list, you just might want to add a few of these peculiar places to your travel itinerary.
Hot Coffee, Mississippi
In 1870, L.J. Davis built a store and hung a coffee pot over his door, advertising “the best hot coffee around.” The coffee consisted of pure spring water, New Orleans beans and molasses dripping for sweetener. Cream was forbidden, as Davis believed it ruined the coffee’s natural flavor. Politicians looking to brew up votes made the store a regular stop, and the popularity of the place eventually inspired the naming of the town.
Things to do: Visit nearby Mitchell Farms, which serves up peanuts, pumpkins and farm tours. 650 Leaf River Church Road, 601-765-8609.
No Name, Colorado
No Name received its name after Interstate 70 was completed in 1992. A transportation official noting the unincorporated area had no name, wrote “No Name” for Exit 119, and the name stuck, despite later attempts to change it.
Things to do: Nearby Glenwood, Springs, “the spa of the Rockies,” offers unlimited hiking, biking, river rafting and the world’s largest hot springs pool. Visit Linwood Cemetery, the final resting place of Doc Holiday, the dentist turned gambler and gunslinger whose legend was made at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The naming of Dish is a relatively modern occurrence. In 2005, the town, formerly known as Clark, voted to rename itself as part of a publicity stunt with Dish Network to give the town free satellite service. Signs in town declare Dish the home of free satellite TV, and the flat-screen televisions in the town hall are wired for Dish Network programming.
The two-square mile town lies 33 miles north of Fort Worth. With a population of 437 residents, Dish is the 1022nd largest city in Texas, based on official 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Things to do: Dish is part of Denton County, which borders the northern part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Denton’s historic county courthouse, which doubles as a museum, is one of the most photographed buildings in Texas. 110 West Hickory Street, Denton, Texas 940-349-2850.
Boring is named after William Harrison Boring, a Union soldier and pioneer whose family settled the area in 1856 in the Oregon Territory. Its sister city is Dull, Scotland.
Things to do: Despite its unflattering and uninspiring name, Boring, located in the foothills of the Cascade mountain range, approximately 12 miles southeast of downtown Portland, Ore., has quite a sense of humor. Every August, Boring is home to the “Goth Float,” where participants donning black swimsuits and heavy eye makeup float four miles down the Clackamas River. Boring also affords excellent and dramatic views of Mt. Hood.
The town derives its name from the fact that two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y-junction. At the time of its naming, state law required all city names to have at least three letters, so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.”
Things to do: The unincorporated community in Pima County lies just north of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a U.S. National Monument and UNESCO biosphere reserve and the only place in the United States where the organ pipe cactus grows wild.
The origin of the town’s name is still hotly debated. One version boasts that a pair of German travelers stepped out of a stagecoach one sunny afternoon in the 1830s, with one commenting, “So schön hell!” (translated as, “So beautifully bright!”) Their comments were overheard by some locals and the name stuck.
Another theory is attributed to George Reeves, an early settler who had developed and successfully operated a sawmill, gristmill, distillery and tavern in the still nameless area. When the pioneer was asked what he thought the town’s name should be, he replied, “I don’t care. You can name it Hell for all I care.”
Or the name may simply stem from the “hell-like” conditions associated with the area, including mosquitos and wetlands that once blanketed the region.
Things to do: Located 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, Hell is actually a very heavenly place, blessed with a lovely rural landscape. Wherever you turn, you’ll find establishments that play up the town’s devilish connections, such as the Hell Hole Bar and Diner (4025 Patterson Lake Road), Screams Ice Cream (4045 Lake Patterson Road), and the Hell Wedding Chapel (4045 Lake Patterson Road), where newlyweds are fond of saying, “a marriage made in Hell has nowhere to go but up.”
Whether you choose to go to Hell or favor other out-of-the-way roadside stops, congratulate yourself for choosing to get off the beaten path and discovering another side of this great and individualistic land called America.