The small town of Margate, NJ, located just 15 minutes south of Atlantic City, is home to the largest elephant in the world. No, of course a six-story-tall real-life elephant doesn’t exist and live freely in the wilds of NJ – nothing as amazing as that would ever happen. This elephant is made of wood.
Lucy the Elephant has been standing on the beach staring out into the Atlantic Ocean since 1881. Not only is Lucy the world’s largest elephant, but she’s America’s oldest roadside attraction, and is older than the Statue of Liberty by half a decade.
Despite growing up 20 minutes away from Lucy, I could only remember seeing her once or twice, and not since the ’90s. So when I was home for the holidays, I
dragged convinced my family to visit Lucy on a gorgeous day we were given and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Now is the perfect time to visit Lucy because she just got a makeover – a fresh coat of paint. Even her toes are looking fiiiiiine. Lucy is free to see, and the tour of her insides is $8 a person. You should definitely take the tour because you get to walk up the stairwell in one of her legs and go inside the belly of the beast. The tour begins with a video and old-school footage of Lucy throughout the years as well as a narrative on her fascinating history. Old photos and artwork inspired by Lucy cover the walls. The bathroom that was installed when Lucy was temporarily converted into a summer home is off to the side. Lucy was not only used as a home for a little bit, but also as a tavern and, later, a speakeasy. This elephant has quite the resumé.
Lucy used to have two elephant friends by the same architect, James Lafferty, one in Cape May, and one in Coney Island, but both were destroyed before 1901. Lucy’s resilience is pretty impressive considering the fate of her friends. She’s suffered damage from hurricanes, but she’s sturdy, due to being constructed by ship-builders. She’s also survived a move or two to different locations within Margate.
When you look out at the ocean through the eyes of Lucy or from atop her back in the Turkish Pavilion, you can understand why she’s outlived so many other elephants and so many other roadside attractions from her day. The salt water of the ocean, the view of the Atlantic, and the fresh air is good for all of us.