MAD DOG: Brand New Roadside Attractions

There's nothing like driving down the road and suddenly spotting a 50-foot Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox leering down at you from the side of the road to remind you that you haven't seen everything yet. Sure you've witnessed the six-legged cow at Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, KS, the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, and the world's largest ball of twine in Darwin, MN ("Natural selection at its best."), but when it comes to tourist meccas you can rest easy knowing there will always be a new one around the bend.That's why it's particularly heartening to hear that the Princess Diana Museum, Outdoor Shrine, and Spanish Delicatessen will be opening this summer in Althorp Park, England, about two hours north of London. Well, sort of. Actually the Spanish deli won't be ready until Phase 2.Before you go booking your transatlantic flight, be warned that this won't rank up there with Graceland, the Liberace Museum, and the cinnamon bun in Nashville that looks like Mother Theresa. Not yet, anyway. For starters, Dianaland will only be open from July 1st, Diana's birthday, through August 30th, the day before her death.They're doing this not because they want to make sure you have a chance of being there during good weather, but because they want to "retain its dignity and tranquillity." This is the same reason they're limiting the number of daily visitors to 2,500. Right. Like having 2,500 people a day tromping around the grounds will maintain a lot of tranquillity.Because they're limiting the crowds, they're selling advance tickets. For about $15.75 apiece. While this is the same thing it costs to buy a small buttered popcorn and a medium Coke in most movie theaters in the United States, it's still more expensive than a tour of Buckingham Palace, where you can see the closest thing to live royalty Britain has to offer, or even the Tower of London, which is where much of their ancestors died.In the first eight hours they sold more than 152,000 tickets. That's a lot of people with unfulfilled Diana cravings. But Dianaland should cure that. The tour of her summer home will include a museum filled with her clothes, childhood objects, diaries, letters, and books. There are the stables where she had riding lessons of, uh, several kinds. And there will be the viewing of Diana's grave from across a lake, since she's buried on an island in the middle of it.There's been no mention of a gift shop, but I'm sure before you leave you'll be escorted through one (it's a legal requirement in most countries) so you can get your fill of Diana toothbrushes, shot glasses, Christmas ornaments, and music boxes that play Candles in the Wind. All tastefully done, of course.What there won't be is rides, roller coasters, or cotton candy. That's why Terrapin Station is destined to be a lot more fun for the family vacation. Providing, of course, the whole family wears tie dye. Terrapin Station is a proposed $60 million ode to the Grateful Dead which developers hope to build in San Francisco. Phil Lesh, bass player for the band, says it should be open by New Year's Eve 1999, in time for a reunion of the Dead. Don't worry, even Lesh doesn't expect Jerry Garcia to make it. I hope.The planned Terrapin Station will have a museum, a concert hall, an amusement park, a research center, a hotel, and a very big first aid station specializing in drug overdoses. They expect to have 1.2 million people dropping a year. I mean, dropping by a year. At 3,287 a day, this is more people than would visit Dianaland but not as many as are expected to show up at Opry Mills, the soon-to-be retailized version of Opryland, which for those of you into genealogy is the theme-parked version of the venerable Grand Ole Opry.That's right, after 26 years of shows, rides, corn dogs, and country music, the owners of Opryland decided to turn it into a mall. And why not? As the old saying goes, you can never be too rich or spend too much of your life in too many malls.The owners say they plan on keeping the Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland Hotel, and a few of the 22 rides intact. In place of the other musical shows and rides will be 15 to 20 anchor stores, more than 200 retail shops, and of course the ubiquitous theme restaurants. Ah, that will certainly be a refreshing change.What all this means is you'd better call Dianaland now, before it goes the way of the Grand Ole Opry and Terrapin Station. After all, it's just a matter of time before the Spencers realize that if they expect to compete with such British tourist attractions as Haggisworld, the tiny Hall of Good Teeth, and Six Flags Which Used to be Over The Empire, they're going to have to make some changes. Like, say, adding a DisemBodied Shop, a Princess Cruise Lines office, and a Charles Chips outlet. Now that would make it worth the trip.


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