Welcome to the final installment of Gawker Media's Spring Guide. Explore It! is your guide to weird, wonderful and borderline insane summer activities to help fight the boring. Inside: The roadtrip of all roadtrips, a cat birthday party, and derbies!
The Most Random Roadtrip Ever
The wind in your hair, a juicy NPR podcast blaring from the speakers, a vanilla-scented Yankee Candle car freshener swinging from the coat hook like a tethered yet still exuberant butterfly: That's right, it's roadtrip season, and we've got a triptik lined up for you that will make you look like the coolest kid on school and/or a total lunatic.
Lizzie Borden Museum and Bed & Breakfast, Fall River, MA
You all know the familiar rhyme: "Lizzie Borden had an axe/Gave her mother forty whacks/When she was done/She invited all her friends over for a slumber party." The grimly-inclined Fall River, Massachusetts Historical Society boasts an impressive collection of artifacts from the Lizzie Borden murder trial including the infamous axe, photos of mom and pop's crushed skulls, and oooooh! a blood-matted hair piece! And if all that ghoulish tourism has you worn out, you can crash in the very house that the attacks took place. August 4 is the anniversary of the murders, so book a room at the Lizzie Borden B&B now. [Historical Society Map] [B&B Map]
Dead Frog Circus, Holyoke, MA
In Holyoke, Massachusetts (just 80 short miles from Lizzie Borden's crib!) there is a dead frog circus. You peons in the audience might be asking what a dead frog circus is. Well, wonder not! It's clearly a circus created with taxidermied frogs and rats. Some of the rats are used as horses. For years it was in storage at the Wistariahurst Museum after some folks strangely decried it as tasteless. Thankfully it is back on display in the Carriage House Visitors' Center in its full glory. [Map]
Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA
Road trips engender pit stops. But a stop at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia—which houses a collection of medical anomalies (Grover Cleveland's preserved tumor! over 2,000 objects extracted from people's throats!)—will kill your appetite for weeks. [Map]
Spook Hill, Burkittsville, MD
Once upon a time, some Union soldiers killed some Confederate dudes on "Spook Hill." Supposedly, if you park your car in that exact spot, it will roll up hill. Spoooooooooooooky. Nothing like a car haunting to remind you that the South shall rise again. [Map]
DEA Museum, Arlington, VA
Direct quote from the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum's website: "The new Bohemians, Beat literary types, were sending a very different and powerful cultural message: drugs and altered states were part of being hip, social rebels." Straight from the horse's mouth, ladies and gentleman! Museum exhibits include a replica head shop featuring a huge bong emblazoned with the name "TOKEMASTER," and, amazingly, green snakeskin platform shoes and fox and rabbit fur coats worn by DEA undercover agents in the '70s. Because all those hip '70s cats dressed like pimps, man. [Map]
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, St. Paul, MN
Stop on in to the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices (located within the Science Museum of Minnesota) and test out the Foot-Powered Breast Enlarger or the McGregor Rejuvenator, a contraption that used magnetism, UV and infrared rays to supposedly reverse the aging process. You could use a tune-up. [Map]
Bigfoot Museum, Willow Creek, CA
End your summer season in tiny Willow Creek, California, home of the biggest Bigfoot museum in the country. This Labor Day weekend, the town where the sasquatch was first caught on film (that publicity whore), will host its annual Bigfoot Days Celebration. Come for the parade of large men in fur suits, stay for the ice cream social. Mmmmm. Ice cream. [Map]
Pet Parties, Parades, and Races You Could Potentially Win
Pet events, parades, and bizarro races: Together at last. All in the name of your summer fun. Because fun is what we are supposed to have, damn it all to hell. So get happy and dress up your dog or something.
Thank Your Pet For "Loving" You
By "loving," we mean "tolerating." And by "thank," we mean "embarrass for your own enjoyment." See how that works?
Hawgz 4 Dawgz, Santa Clarita, CA
Own a dog named Harley? Then the Hawgz 4 Dawgz Black Jack Run and Rescue Event is your and Harley's dream event. Just throw on your matching leathers, tuck Harley into his custom-made sidecar, jump on your bike, and take a ride to the Acton Community Center for raffle drawings, a meal, and other festivities. All proceeds benefit local pet rescues. June 27. [Map]
PAWS Annual Beach Party, Chicago, IL
Totally humiliate your pet for charity at this Beach Party for Pets. We can think of nothing more fun than relaxing Lake Michigan-side with 100 beachwear-clad dogs. And every cent of the $150 ticket price goes directly to PAWS Chicago, so think of all the furry baby friends you'll be saving. July 22. [Map]
Matilda the Cat's Birthday Party, New York, NY
The Algonquin Hotel in the heart of NYC is historically a hotbed of fabulous intellectuals. It's also presently home to a ragdoll cat named Matilda. This August, drop by to celebrate the life of a true lady at Matilda the Cat's 15th Birthday Party. If it's anything like her 7th birthday bash, 150 of her closest friends will be there, and the guest of honor may jump on her cake and run out of the room, leaving a trail of paw prints behind. Date in August TBA (you can email Matilda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend her on Facebook for more information). [Map]
Semi-Nude and Shitty-In-A-Good-Way Parades
No one loves a parade. But these gems might get you to change your mind.
Coney Island Mermaid Parade, Brooklyn, NY
Ursula the Sea Witch will slap you on the ass if you miss out—again—on this annual parade of semi-nude individuals celebrating something to do with the sea. Plus, this year Lou Reed acts as King Neptune and wife Laurie Anderson plays the Queen to his King. A tip for Coney Island virgins: Do not drive to the Mermaid Parade. You will not be able to park. You will end up trapped miserably in your Honda while women in seashell bras have impossibly fun funtimes outside your dirty windows. June 19. [Map]
Horribles Parades, Various New England Locations
Hah, but it's not horrible, see? Hah. It's the antihesis of the All-American corporate-funded Fourth of July celebrations you've been forced to endure your whole life. This 4th, grab your Hot Topic studded collar and get thee to a Horribles Parade, where your sense of disgruntlement will be validated by a literal parade of political satire. No flag waving required. July 3-4. Try the Horribles Parade in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, or Chepachet, Rhode Island.
Tournament of Chips Parade, Prairie du Sac, WI
Nothing screams summer like sanctioned shit-flinging. As if you needed a reason to jet out to Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, their annual State Cow Chip Throw (with accompanying parade) is coming up! FYI: "Chips" are cow shit. And now, a snippet from the quizzical "Poop Scoopin' Boogie":
Out in the pasture past the Sauk Prairie sign
Where there are squishy pies just-a-waitin' to dry
The cow chip crew's pickin' 'em up till the sun goes down
They use pitch forks, cameras, bug spray and gloves
That's how the cow chip begins by doin' the poop scoopin' boogie
Races for the Non-Sporty
Can you float something down a river, ride a lawnmower, or whoop like a cowpoke? Then you might have a shot at the titles of these prestigious sporting competitions/spectacles.
Anything that Floats Race, Allegheny River, PA
There's still time to throw together a human-powered floating vessel to enter in the Anything That Floats Race in the Pittsburgh section of the Allegheny River. Just keep it clean—anything deemed "inappropriate" by officials will be disqualified. So no floating bongs or dongs. July 4. [Map]
United States Lawn Mower Racing Association Races, Various Locations
Back in 2003, USLMRA president Bruce Kaufman (the self-proclaimed "Mr. Mow It All) said of his chosen sport (riding lawnmover racing): "It's spreading like untreated crabgrass." He proved himself a prescient man as the organization has grown big enough to compete internationally. Catch one of their races this summer and cheer on "Sodzilla" or the "Turfinator" and the "grassthletes" who pilot them.
June 19-September 5. Click here for schedule and locations.
National Championship Chuckwagon Races, Clinton, AR
At the National Championship Chuckwagon Races at the Of Ranch on Shake Rag Road in Clinton, Arkansas (seriously, could anything be more chuckwagonesque?), 150 teams compete in five different divisions for the title of National Champion—and the associated swag, including silver belt buckles, saddles, jackets, and "Chuckwagon Bucks." All in front of 20,000 buckaroos. Dances, Ozark Mountain trail rides, and of course, performances by both country and western bands, will be part of the festivities. August 29-September 4. [Map]
What to Do for Solstice
Usher in the official start of summer at one of these sun-worshipping solstice events. You crazy-ass pagan.
Midnight Sun Festival, Fairbanks, AK
The summer solstice is the one day out of the year where no one in Alaska has to worry about vampires. Sure, they spend the other half the year in brutal cold, but that's the price one pays for security. The Midnight Sun Festival in Fairbanks celebrates 24 hours of daylight with a street fair, a 10k foot race and the 97th annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game. Perfect chance to wear your sunglasses at night. [Map]
Playboy Mansion Solstice Party, Los Angeles, CA
Yes, tickets the the Playboy Mansion solstice party cost $1000 and yes, the party isn't actually being held until July 24, but it's for charity people! Plus it's an opportunity to see how the other half lives, and by other half, we mean the naked half. [Map]
Cleveland Museum of Art Solstice, Cleveland, OH
Got a reason to be in Cleveland this week? Nope, neither do we! But theoretically if we did, we would make every effort to check out this solstice party at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Wander all night through the museum's eclectic collection of ancient and contemporary world art. Live music, food and "surprises" are promised. We imagine it's gonna be kind of like that Ben Stiller museum movie, only more Midwestern. [Map]
Summer Solstice Celebration, Queens, NY
The Noguchi Museum and the Queens Museum of Art have teemed up with a bunch of other artsy-fartsy organizations to throw this solstice shindig. Socrates Sculpture Park's 9th annual solstice party will feature kayak rides, shaman rituals, and an enough feel-good hippie stuff that you might forget you're looking over the Manhattan skyline. [Map]
Yoga in Times Square, New York, NY
On Monday June 21, Times Square will host hundreds of Spandex-clad freaks bending in ways you never imagined. Plus, participants will receive a free solstice goody bag. Old school Times Square denizens used to leave you with take-home surprises, and we are guessing these goody-bag gifts are better...and less itchy. [If you need a map of Times Square, we are worried]
Summer Solstice, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is the obvious place for a solstice love fest. Isn't that what they do all year anyway? "Blah, blah, we have reliable public transit and the weather is always nice and we love people of all colors and orientations, and there is music in the street and poetry on every corner!" You know what San Francisco? Shut it. You can have your drum circle at the Embarcadero and the Baker Beach bonfires. They sound totally awesome, man. No really, they do. Can we come? Please? [Various locations throughout the city]
Derbies. Because, Why Not?
Nothing says American with a capital A like the ability to appreciate a good derby, except for the fact that the term originated from a town in England. But you know what? Our love of pushing, punching, racing, and drinking is what makes our blood run red, white and blue...except those are the British flag colors, too. Crap, this analogy is going nowhere. Anyway. Here is a list of the best derby events happening across our 50 great states.
We're not altogether sure how this sport works, although we did watch Whip It twelve times for "research." However, we did learn this much: Chicks with bad-ass names, in bad-ass uniforms, do bad-ass things while hitting one another on roller skates. If that's not reason enough to attend a derby, we don't know what is.
Bay Area Derby Girls, San Francisco, CA
This Saturday, there's something called the Beach Blanket Massacre in which the B.A.D. Girls teams the San Francisco ShEvil Dead and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Bombshells battle each other at the Ft. Mason Festival Pavilion. Sign us up. If you can't make this massacre, there are plenty more happening this summer!
Gotham Girls Roller Derby, New York, NY
Gotham Girls Roller Derby is New York's only all-female roller derby league. Members hail straight from the mean streets of the concrete jungle, and they're ready to dish out multiple ass-whoopings on wheels. The next home bout will be held on July 10. Grab some tickets and choose your borough because it's the Brooklyn Bombshells vs. the Queens of Pain.
Detroit Roller Derby, Detroit, MI
With a motto like "Skate and Destroy" and teams such as the D-Funk Allstars and the Detroit Pistoffs, the DDG girls keep it, like, really, really, real. Their official season has ended, but check out the travel team, Motor City Disassembly Line, dissasemble the Akron's Rock'N'Roller Girls on July 10 in Akron, OH.
Demolition/Box Car Variety
Build, destroy, build, destroy. It's all part of the great circle of life. Car derbies go one of two ways. You can gather your Boy Scout troop and build a precious little racer (fingers crossed for that merit badge!) or you can throw your old Chevy into a pit and cheer as it gets annihilated.
All-American Soap Box Derby, Akron, OH
They sure love derbies in Akron. Over 15,000 spectators watch 300 participants race at speeds up to 30 mph at the All-American Soap Box Derby, in existence since 1934. July 24. [Map]
Team Demolition Derby Summer of Smash, Chicago, IL
Three summer smash-em-ups (aka, team demolition derby events) remain this season. You might want to choose the July 24 event, as it is flip-flop night and will feature "70s-era heavy metal in the opening rounds." [Map]
Derbies are also a type of hat. Turns out there aren't tons of hat-related events happening this time of year. But there are a few. And here they are. Hats!
Fashion Institute of Technology Summer Millinery Courses, New York, NY
This summer FIT's Continuing and Professional Studies program offers courses in Cold Weather Headgear and Contemporary Men's Hats, in which students will learn patternmaking and blocking skills while completing a helmet, hunting cap, and a cuff hat with a knit crown and a blocked fur crown; and flat patternmaking, sewing, and blocking techniques in order to design and produce men's hats from blocked hats to baseball caps, respectively. Only problem is you'll need to have taken a prerequisite. But maybe you can audit if you ask nicely? [Map]
Millinery Arts Alliance Events, Chicago, IL
The Millinery Arts Alliance, Chicago's premier organization for hat makers, hosts a series of summer soirees. Join the wacko hat-fiends for the aptly-titled Summer Soiree at Perennial where MAA members will debut their new collections. June 23. [Map]
Magic Hat Brewery Tour, South Burlington, VT
We couldn't find any more actual hat events, so here's a magic hat event instead. The Magic Hat Brewery cranks out 400 bottles of beer every minute. Take a guided tour of the Artifactory or just belly up to the Growler Bar for one or more of the 30 beers on tap. Bonus points for wearing a derby while taking the tour. [Map]