A roadtrip through the South means stumbling on to stunning natural vistas filled with rolling hills and roaring rivers, as well as a few unnatural ones—like the Big Chicken that looms over Marietta, Georgia or the neon-lit giant advertising Whiteford’s Giant Burger in South Carolina sky.
Restaurant roadside attractions have been a staple of the South for generations helping hungry drivers find dinner (Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken, anyone?) since the dawn of the motoring age. However, restaurant chains have been trading neon for billboards (the Arby’s in Athens not withstanding) to lure in drivers and mom-and-pop operations have dwindled in the last few decades (so long, ZZ’s Kream Kastle hungry pig), meaning those alluring neon signs have been slowly disappearing. According to Eater, though, they are poised for a comeback—and we couldn’t be more excited.
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According to Eater, nostalgia and a yearning for simpler times are inspiring younger fans to start documenting the signs and attractions, like Bob’s Big Boy hoisting a burger aloft or the Tastee-Freez twins or the Big Time BBQ sign over Chattanooga. Much like in the 1950s, when restaurants used the signs to draw in customers, modern restaurants are using the signs to give their businesses a cool kitsch factor. Marietta’s Big Chicken just got a $2.2 million renovation and Pearl, the world's largest squirrel statue (you're going to want to watch this video to find out more) that stands outside the Berdoll Pecan Farm in Texas, gets plenty of press for the farm—and the fact that these roadside mascots are highly Instagrammable probably doesn’t hurt either.
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It’s not just restaurants touting—and investing—in their roadside wonders, either. Towns like Gaffney, South Carolina with their giant Peachoid , Ashburn, Georgia and the World’s Largest Peanut, and Natural Bridge, Virginia’s impressive Foamhenge are benefitting from the Instagram generation, spurring drivers to pull over for a photo—and then hopefully stick around to spend money at the local businesses. It’s a genius way to bring the Instagram generation into places off the beaten path, just like the signs did back in the ‘50s.