Every year we went to Hershey Park, I would see Roadside America on the opposite side of the highway.
And I would make a mental note that I wanted to stop there.
And every year, on the way home from Hershey Park, we would pass right by it before I realized it, and I would make a note to stop by the following year.
This went on for years.
But finally (finally!) when the kids and I and Mystic and his kids last went together (Labor Day 2011), we managed to stop in and finally check it out.
Roadside America is one of those quaint little unique stops that is perfect when you’re on a road trip and want to get out of the car for a few minutes and stretch your legs. Billed as “the world’s greatest indoor miniature village,” it certainly is a sight to behold. It started as a hobby of two young boys (Paul and Larry) in the late 1800’s and was born from their fantasies and active imaginations. Buoyed by regular drawing lessons from a nun (at three cents each session), the boys spent all their after-school and weekend free time working on the miniature houses and villages. Putting everything they had into it.
One of the boys (Paul) moved on to priesthood, so Larry was left to carry on. Inspired by visits to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts, he experimented with different mediums to add stained glass windows to some of the miniature buildings.
In 1935, as he set up his display for his family to enjoy (he was by then married with two children), word of his creation grew and it eventually became an official exhibit, occupying 1,500 square feet at Carsonia Park. As the exhibit grew again, it moved a few more times before it ended up near Shartlesville, where it is now. The family of the original designer continues to maintain the display and open it up for public viewing.
The detail throughout the exhibit is pretty amazing, with a surprise around every corner. It spans 200 years of American history, letting you see how pioneers worked and lived, right up to almost present day. We spent about half an hour going through the whole exhibit and taking pictures. There is a small area to purchase Pennsylvania Dutch gifts, and a gift shop next door, and it’s a fun little spot to break up whatever road trip you’re on as you pass by.
EXIT 23 off I-78
109 Roadside Drive
PO Box 2
Shartlesville, PA 19554