If you are driving along Interstate 10 in the United States anywhere between California and Texas, there’s a good chance you will come across more than a few road signs advertising The Thing in Arizona. The Thing? Yes, The Thing! A unique Arizona roadside attraction, you may be wondering if it is worth a visit on your next family road trip. After a pit stop to see The Thing, Buddy and I are sharing all about this unique attraction to help you decide if it’s worth visiting.
Our visit to The Thing
Full disclosure, Buddy and I have been driving past The Thing for decades. Buddy watched the signs advertising The Thing for over 15 years. And I have been driving past for over two decades. This is because we frequently drive back and forth from Tucson, AZ to my hometown of Albuquerque, NM many times a year.
The Thing is a roadside attraction on I-10 along the way. When Buddy was younger, and after he learned to read road signs, he occasionally asked to stop. But we never did stop. This is because one of my brothers visited the attraction in the late 1990s. He said it was not worth it. So, we always kept driving.
Well, this was all before a recent mom and son camping trip that Buddy and I did in Southern New Mexico near the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Without the pressure of having to arrive in Albuquerque at a certain time, and with hours less of a drive (Gila National Forest is hours closer to Tucson than Albuquerque), I made an impulse exit at The Thing. This surprised Buddy and he asked, are we really going in to see the famous roadside attraction.
We did! And it was A LOT more fun and interesting than we anticipated. The Thing definitely exceeded our expectations, and we had a great time!
The Thing: The details
The Thing is in Dragoon, Arizona off I-10 at exit 322 near Texas Canyon (yes, Texas Canyon in Arizona – go figure!). Dragoon is an unincorporated community in Arizona’s Cochise County located between the towns of Benson and Wilcox. The exact address is 2631 N. Johnson Road, Dragoon, AZ. It is about an hour’s drive from Tucson. It is a fun stop if you are heading to Apple Annie’s in Wilcox for the day.
Admission is $5/person and they do offer family discounts. The Thing is open from 7am-7pm daily and there is no website for more information.
Entrance to The Thing is through the main doors all the way to the left.
Pro Tip: Yes, there are public restrooms and a gas station onsite.
The Thing: The history
In 1965 The Thing arrived at its current location in Arizona by way of California. Brought to the desert by attorney Thomas Binkley Prince, it became a roadside attraction. Bowlin Travel Centers acquired The Thing in 1969 after Prince died, and since then road trippers and families alike stop in to see it.
The Thing remained largely unchanged from 1969 until 2018. Then, in 2018, it got its own museum space. The museum expanded on the back story of The Thing.
5 Reasons The Thing is worth visiting
1. The Thing, the road signs
If you are driving on I-10, whether east or west bound, you will see large billboards advertising The Thing miles and miles before nearing the attraction. Sometimes, these signs are back to back advertising one after another. Other times, road signs are included among other billboards announcing hotels or other nearby attractions.
Either way, you will see the signs. And they are intriguing. Travelers of all ages, but especially kiddos, will be interested in the signs. Some kiddos may even ask to stop and visit based on the road side advertising alone.
It is fun to drive up to The Thing after hours of getting hyped up from the many road signs.
After 15 years of seeing advertising for The Thing on 1-10, and after years of asking to stop and see the attraction, Buddy was pleasantly surprised when we stopped to visit. He was excited.
And The Thing definitely lived up to its road sign hype.
2. Aliens vs. Dinosaurs
If you, or your kiddos, love dinosaurs, or aliens, The Thing attraction is for you! Why? Because the backstory is a story about aliens vs. dinosaurs!
For a roadside attraction in the middle of the desert in Southern Arizona, the story behind the thing is incredible. So much so, that the plot of The Thing could easily be a Hollywood movie. The storyline goes back, waaay back before human history!
We loved the storyline. I thought it was very clever. This is what Buddy thought.
A Teenager’s Perspective
Buddy says, “I liked the storyline. If you stop and read it , you can actually believe it. I think that if you are really into Sci-Fi movies or something other things like that, you definitely want to visit The Thing.“
One thing to note is that there are no screens, videos, or voice overs that convey the plot. To fully get into the storyline, visitors have to read the placards. So if reading a long story that is shared on walls (think museum), this stop is not for you. But if you or your kiddos are avid readers, and like aliens, dinosaurs, or a good Sci-Fi plot – visit The Thing!
Pro Tip: The Thing is on display at the very end of the exhibit.
3. Quirky souvenirs
When driving through Arizona, what rest stop souvenirs come to mind? Perhaps some cactus candy, or scorpion in a lollipop? Or maybe a key chain or coffee mug with an iconic Saguaro cactus?
Yes, you will absolutely find all of these souvenirs in any rest stop on an Arizona highway. But if you are also looking for armadillos from Texas, alligators from Florida, or aliens from New Mexico, you will find those, in Arizona, at The Thing!
The Thing has a very large and very eclectic gift shop with souvenirs from around the nation. In most cases, the names of the places of origin are faded (perhaps scratched off). But some still remain visible. It is fun to see tchotchkes from all over the United States in one location.
In addition to the quirky souvenirs, there are also traditional souvenirs. During our visit, Buddy bought a postcard to send to Grandma (a traveling tradition) and a T-shirt, which he does wear to school. And I bought a keychain to add to my travel keychain collection.
Pro Tip: You do not need to pay admission to The Thing to experience the quirky souvenirs!
4. The Thing has friendly staff
The staff are incredibly friendly! They greet you when you walk in the door and immediately direct you to the restrooms. Staff will also ask you about your drive and where you are coming from.
BONUS thing you will love about The Thing – clean restrooms!
When we visited, Buddy and I were pleasantly surprised with the friendly staff. We were surprised that greeted us as we entered and directed us to the restroom. My guess is they do this because they figure that most people stopping by are there to use the restroom. I heard them do this with every guest that entered the store.
You will love the warm hospitality at The Thing.
5. Dairy Queen
There is a Dairy Queen at The Thing. And not just any Dairy Queen. But a Dairy Queen complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, chili cheese dogs, and ice cream. It is a perfect pit stop if you need a bit more sustenance than gas station snacks.
When we visited, despite Buddy’s asking, we did not grab ice cream. However, when I was driving down I-10 coming home from a solo work trip the following month, I did stop and get a hot fudge sundae – shh, don’t tell Buddy!
Is The Thing worth visiting?
In the end, whether or not The Thing is worth visiting is up to personal preference. If you’re someone who enjoys quirky and unusual roadside attractions, it’s definitely worth stopping by. However, if you’re more interested in traditional museums or historical sites, you may want to give it a pass and visit some of Southern Arizona’s National Parks instead.
But if you want our opinion, we say yes!
We think that The Thing is a fun and quirky quintessential Southwest road trip culture experience.
Mom here. I had a really great time. I drove that stretch of 1-10 for over 20 years before making a stop and I am so glad that I did.
A Teenager’s Perspective
I do actually recommend it for teenagers. I think they will like it. Actually, I think everyone will like it because it is very amusing. Also, for little kids, it is good to know that The Thing isn’t actually that scary. But I don’t want to say anything about it because I don’t want to reveal it to people.
I feel the same way. While I did take a photo of it, we are not sharing it because we don’t want to ruin the experience!
And we did not film a Movement Postcard. Maybe next time!
Road Tripping around Arizona?
Here are some a few items you may want to bring with you for the journey through the desert. We always desert road trip with these items in our car.
- Lots of water! For both you and your car. Especially if you are traveling during the summer months.
- Jumper cables
- Simple first aid kit
- A tool box
- A sharpie and a pen, because you never know when you might need them!
- Portable charger like a Jackery or Bluetti
- A blanket just in case. The temperature drops dramatically in the desert. We just grabbed a few sleeping bags from our camping stash.
- A flashlight. We took our camping headlamps.
- Offline road maps
- Refillable water bottles
- A hat for your site seeing in the sun
- Comfortable clothes since you will be sitting for a long time
- Some good music or podcasts!
- And of course, snacks!
Are you planning a road trip through Southern Arizona? Have you visited The Thing? Let us know in the comments below!
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