55 Strange Facts About Famous Places
The world is healing, and soon you'll be able to travel the globe again, making up for lost time. As you check destinations off your list, make sure you know a little something about each of them. There are lots of facts about them you'd never expect.
1. Times Square
That big building in the middle of Times Square -- it's such a prime location, you'd think it must be one of the hottest properties in the world. Actually, it's vacant. The owner makes millions selling ad space on the facade, but inside, there's nothing.
2. Lincoln's Birthplace
Go to Hodgenville, Kentucky, and you can visit Lincoln's cabin, a preserved historical site. Except, Abraham Lincoln never actually lived here. The cabin's fake -- and through a wacky mix-up, it might be made of the wood from Jefferson Davis' cabin.
3. The Golden Gate Bridge
The original plan for the Golden Gate Bridge was to paint it using dazzle camouflage, which meant a series of alternating stripes. The Army favored red and white, like a candy cane, while the Navy suggested yellow and black, like a bee.
4. The Eiffel Tower
When the Nazis controlled France, they turned the tower into a dystopian beacon, complete with a Nazi flag. Though, the French first cut the elevator cables, forcing the Nazis to climb by hand and giving them a lot of trouble when the first flag they hung blew away.
5. The Colosseum
The wear and tear on the Colosseum didn't just come with time. Popes ripped the arena apart, using it as a source of stone. The floor of St. Peter's is made from rose porphyry taken from the Colosseum.
6. The Leaning Tower Of Pisa
7. Disney World
Disney World has a whole other island you don't know about. It was called Discovery Island and was used as a wildlife observatory at one point, but then Disney's Animal Kingdom left it redundant, so they abandoned it.
8. Four Corners Monument
The Four Corners Monument -- marking the spot where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico join -- is not actually in the spot where these states meet at all. Which renders it 100% pointless.
9. Mount Rushmore
Like something out of National Treasure, Mount Rushmore has a secret room containing a titanium vault and a 1,200-pound capstone. The original goal was to store America's most prized documents here.
10. The Kremlin
So many depictions of the Kremlin show an onion-domed church. That's Saint Basil's Cathedral, which is near the Kremlin but has nothing to do with it. The Kremlin is a walled complex with a 700-room palace and even several cathedrals … cathedrals that aren't St. Basil's.
11. Washington, D.C.
D.C. is one of the flattest major cities in the U.S., with the tallest commercial building measuring only 12 stories. This'll surprise you if you've seen any of the many movies set in D.C. filled with skyscrapers.
12. Berlin's Holocaust Memorial
Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe consists of 2,711 plinths of concrete of varying heights. It's a very popular location for the background of Grindr profile photos.
13. The Hollywood Sign
14. The Brooklyn Bridge
When the bridge first opened, it was so huge that people mistrusted it. Someone yelled that the structure was collapsing, and 12 died in the resulting stampede.
Stonehenge seems like a cool place for druids to hang out. Let's just not forget the time hippies actually did hang out there in 1985, and 1,300 British cops showed up to beat sense into them. The cops also killed seven dogs.
16. More On Stonehenge
Stonehenge was a tourist attraction even in the 1700s when visitors would routinely break off bits of the stones as souvenirs. This wasn't vandalism: The site's owners handed out chisels.
17. The Grand Canyon
Plan on hiking the Grand Canyon? Great. Just don't think you'll be hiking the whole Grand Canyon. That would be a distance of 700 miles through some very tricky terrain. It's possible, but roughly as many people have done it as have walked on the Moon.
18. The Moon
Despite all the depictions you'll see in media, there's no American flag standing on the Moon leftover from Apollo 11. If that flag were still there, the Sun would have bleached it fully white -- but anyway, the astronauts' ship knocked the flag over as soon as they took off.
19. The Great Wall
The wall seems like an honored symbol of China. But that other honored symbol of China, Chairman Mao, advised people to dismantle it in the '70s, telling them to grab the bricks to use in homes or pigsties.
20. The Washington Monument
21. Lake Erie
A salt mine sits 2,000 feet below Lake Erie. It stretches for three miles and produces 5 million tons of salt every year.
22. Los Angeles
L.A. has a network of tunnels closed to the public. They connect various government buildings and are filled with side corridors of ancient files and outdated equipment.
23. The Capitol
There's a demand for flags that have been flown over the Capitol. Such high demand that the Capitol has three mini-flagpoles and flies 900 flags a day, each for just 30 seconds, so people can buy them.
24. Las Vegas
Today's Vegas light shows are nothing compared to those from yesteryear. Tourists used to view the flashes from nuclear bombs the military tested in the nearby desert.
25. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
This cemetery was a famous landmark for its aboveground tombs, including voodoo queen Marie Laveau's. But so many people kept drawing on her tomb in an attempt to resurrect her that they had to close the cemetery to visitors.
26. The Empire State Building
Pay to visit the top of the Empire State Building, and you'll get a chance to go to the 102nd floor. But the building also has a 103rd floor, with a 360-degree view unobstructed by glass (or by basic safety equipment).
27. More On The Empire State Building
28. The Statue Of Liberty
People associate the statue with welcoming immigrants. But that poem about "huddled masses" wasn't added till 20 years after the statue was constructed. Earlier, many people chose to see it as an exclusionary symbol, a guardian protecting the US from foreigners.
29. The Old House Office Building
This building south of the capitol, which held the offices of representatives, used to also hold its own bootlegging operation. A vet named George Cassiday was hired to smuggle booze for Congressmen during Prohibition, and he brewed it from within the building itself.
30. The Vatican
The Vatican has a bathroom called the Stufetta della Bibbiena, filled with erotic art -- art deemed too explicit to display publicly but too important to destroy.
31. The Tower Bridge
London's most famous bridge is often called London Bridge, of course. But that's not its name. London Bridge was a different bridge, which was sold in 1968, taken apart piece by piece, and reconstructed in Arizona.
In 1861, Sacramento got flooded so bad that the streets remained underwater for three months. They rebuilt the city nine feet higher, leaving Old Sacramento to be found underground if you look hard enough.
JFK airport in New York has a whole luxurious terminal, stocked with '60s-style furniture, that sits vacant. It was for TWA exclusively, and it's remained unused since that airline folded.
34. Central Park
35. The Supreme Court
There's a court in the Supreme Court building. A basketball court. Rumor says that it was installed solely for the sake of puns.
36. The Berlin Wall
The area east of the Berlin Wall used to be filled with barbed wire and mines. Also, it was filled with thousands of bunnies who found a place protected from all predators.
37. Siem Reap
Siem Reap in Cambodia has some famous temples, including the spectacular Angkor Wat. These are popular spots for tourists to take photos of themselves naked.
38. The Alamo
Pictures of the Alamo make it look like a preserved fort surrounded by wilderness. But we very practically built a bunch of restaurants and businesses all over the Alamo Mission, leaving just a single chapel, one that's dwarfed by surrounding buildings.
39. Lake Titicaca
On top of the lake, you'll find handmade islands composed entirely of reeds. The Uros tribe lives on these, and to keep themselves afloat, they have to constantly rebuild the islands using the lakes' own totora plants.
40. The London Underground
The Underground was used as a munitions factory during World War II -- the longest, narrowest factory in history. They spent $13 million converting it, and 4,000 people worked down there in hiding.
41. More On The London Underground
42. Christ The Redeemer
Christ The Redeemer in Rio isn't a solid statue. There are stairs inside, and 12 flights will take you to the top, outside.
Yosemite's a great national park. Just don't count on the bliss of solitude if you sign up for the famous Half Dome hike. You'll be packed with other hikers, shuffling in single file.
Shakespeare's home used to be a tourist attraction (about 250 years ago). Then the guy who bought it got so tired of fans showing up that he tore it down.
45. Grand Central Station
Grand Central has a secret train platform, with a line that goes directly to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. FDR took this private train to hide having to use a wheelchair, and the train he used is still parked there.
People love sticking traffic cones on Glasgow's statue of the Duke of Wellington. Annual cost for removing the cones? $15,000.
47. Taipei 101
This onetime tallest building in the world doubles as the largest sundial in the world. Its shadow moves across a circular park, indicating the time of day.
48. Area 51
49. The Lincoln Memorial
Go through the right door, and you'll pass from the memorial into a secret underground hall. What's there? Graffiti, mostly.
"All roads lead to Rome" refers to how distances to all corners of the empire were measured from a single marker, Rome's Golden Milestone. A bunch of other cities now have similar milestones, too, including London and Santiago.
51. The Louvre
You can visit the Louvre dozens of times and never see everything that's on display; there's so much stuff there. But everything on display is still just a fraction of everything the museum has in total, most of which is kept in storage, sometimes in the sewers.
52. The Taj Mahal
India has long considered the Taj a target in times of war. In 1942, they put a bunch of bamboo scaffolding around it to camouflage it from the air. In 1971, they tried draping the whole thing in greenery.
53. The Parthenon
The world has some truly authentic ruins of ancient structures. The Parthenon in Athens really isn't one of them. The Parthenon exploded in 1687, and it's gone through so much modern reconstruction lately that little of what you see now was there even a century ago.
54. Niagara Falls
In 1969, Niagara Falls got turned off. The Army Corps of Engineers diverted incoming water to Canada's Horseshoe Falls, to give them a chance to clear rocks from the base.
55. Easter Island