Visit Bessie the Cow on Your Next Roadtrip

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Close up of cows

When you visit Wisconsin, seeing a few giant cheese slices across the state probably wouldn’t surprise you.

Known as America’s Dairyland, the state is famous for its dairy production and produces more cheese than any other state. But instead of displaying a giant piece of cheddar, the city of Janesville is home to Bessie the Cow.

Bessie is a giant brown and white cow. Let’s find out where you can see her and grab a selfie in front of this iconic roadside attraction. Let’s dive in!

About Bessie the Cow 

Although Wisconsin may be called The Badger State, a large fiberglass brown and white cow stands proud in the city of Janesville. Initially erected in 1966, Bessie the Cow has turned heads and provided a photo spotlight for over 50 years. 

She originally stood at the Oasis Restaurant that Rollin “Ole” Natter operated. He had Sculptured Advertising of Spart fabricate Bessie and paint the iconic landmark.

She was moved to the grassy knoll near Arby’s in the early-2000s. This location, only a few hundred feet from the previous one, sits at a roundabout that guides traffic through the city. Thanks to Bessie, Janesville, Wisconsin, has made the road trip map for many travelers.

Where Is Bessie the Cow?

Bessie the Cow is in a prime spot to grab lunch while on the road, located across from Arby’s on Milton Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin. It also has an Exxon across the street. 

You can park in the Arby’s parking lot, get a few photos underneath Bessie the Cow, order a roast beef sandwich, use the restroom, and fill up on fuel, all before you head back out on the road.

How Big Is Bessie the Cow?

Just how big is Bessie the Cow? She stands 16 feet tall and 20 feet long and weighs over one ton. She cost Natter approximately $6,000 to build. Bessie even has an oversized stool and a milking bucket underneath her, big enough for an adult to climb in.

Image of bessie the cow
Source: Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

7 More Quirky Wisconsin Roadside Attractions

The Badger State is full of other unique roadside attractions. Don’t make Bessie the Cow your only stop. Check out these other quirky, iconic landmarks as you road trip through the state.

1. The World’s Largest Six Pack

Bessie the Cow isn’t the only large statue in Wisconsin, the world’s largest six-pack, constructed in 1969 by the G. Heileman Brewing Company, is located at 1111 3rd Street in La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

Although they weren’t always a six-pack, City Brewery redesigned the metal beer tanks to look like La Crosse Lagers. Apparently, they hold the equivalent of 7.3 million cans of beer.

Close up of the world's largest six pack
Source: World Record Academy

2. The World’s Largest Talking Loon

The world’s largest talking loon is named Claire d’Loon, standing 16 feet tall and weighing 2,000 pounds. This aquatic bird has stood outside the Mercer Chamber of Commerce since 1981. 

Although she isn’t the largest loon in the world, she is the largest talking one, as she makes traditional loon sounds when her voice box isn’t broken. You can visit Claire d’Loon at 5150 North Highway 51 in Mercer, Wisconsin.

3. The World’s Largest Penny

In Woodruff, Wisconsin, you’ll find the world’s largest penny at 15 feet tall. It’s 18 inches thick, weighing nearly 9 tons! In 1953, Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb challenged local school kids to save their pennies to help build a hospital. 

Word spread, and 1.7 million pennies were collected nationwide. According to the World Record Academy, “the students at Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School continued to collect millions of pennies to help fund the Dr. Kate Museum Memorial Scholarship.”

You can see the concrete penny and other exhibits honoring Dr. Newcomb’s life at a museum located at 923 2nd Avenue in Woodruff. Put this fun and memorable attraction on your list after you visit Bessie the Cow.

4. The World’s Largest Bicyclist

Sparta, Wisconsin, displays the world’s largest bicyclist at a small park on the southeast corner of Hwy 16/Wisconsin Street and Water Street. You can take exits 25 or 28 off Interstate 90. 

“Ben Bikin” or “Big Ben” wears a red coat and yellow pants as he sits atop a Victorian-era bicycle. The sculpture is 32 feet tall and was built by F.A.S.T. Corp. to ensure everyone knew Sparta was the Bicycling Capital of America.

Pro Tip: We’re always on the hunt for unique roadside attractions! If you are too, check out the Roadside America App.

5. Sputnik Crash Site

On September 6, 1962, a 20-pound piece of the Sputnik IV satellite crash-landed in the street outside the Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Today you can see a replica of this piece of history that put Manitowoc on the map inside the museum in a plexiglass box atop a pedestal. 

The original piece was sent to the Smithsonian, who, after replicating it, sent it back to the Russians. The two replicas later ended up in the museum in landed in front of. 

The International Association of Machinists embedded a brass ring in 8th Street to mark the exact spot where Sputnik had fallen. Although it’s in the middle of the street, you can see a safe marker on the sidewalk. So from Bessie the Cow to Russian satellites, Wisconsin has quite a range of unique attractions.

6. Forevertron

Recycled art is a common attraction across the country. But along US Highway 12 in Sumpter, Wisconsin, you’ll find amazing machines constructed with salvaged factory parts. 

The centerpiece is Forevertron, a 400-ton, 50-foot scrap metal sculpture that could be the largest in the world. This sculpture garden, created by Dr. Evermor, is open for public viewing every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

7. Pinkie the Elephant

Take exit 126 off I-90/I-94 to get a photo in front of a life-size pink elephant. Pinkie stands next to a gas station in DeForest, Wisconsin. 

It has camper and RV parking and a convenient selfie stand. Like Bessie the Cow, Pinkie the Elephant is another giant fiberglass figure styled with hipster black-rimmed glasses and features the iconic wrinkles that make elephants appear old and wise.

Keep in Mind: Looking to go camping in Wisconsin? Here’s how!

Enjoy Bessie the Cow and Other Roadside Attractions on Your Roadtrip Through Wisconsin

It’s no surprise that Wisconsin has a giant fiberglass cow. Wisconsin is well known for its dairy production, with over three million cows producing more than 25 billion pounds of milk yearly. But the state also has its fair share of unique, quirky roadside attractions that have nothing to do with cows or cheese.

So the next time you travel through The Badger State, get a selfie next to Bessie the Cow, visit the museum where you can see the remnants of Sputnik, and tour the sculpture garden that’s home to Forevertron. 

And you can’t forget all of the “world’s largest” attractions scattered throughout the state. There’s plenty to see other than dairy farms in Wisconsin!

When will you visit Bessie the Cow and her unique roadside friends?

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