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Designed to attract pistachio lovers.
Billboards herald the approach of the World's Largest Pistachio.

World's Largest Pistachio

Field review by the editors.

Alamogordo, New Mexico

The World's Largest Pistachio may be the only roadside attraction inspired by a guilty conscience.

World's Largest Pistachio.
Construction in 2008 dwarfs puny humans.

It stands outside a pistachio farm begun by Tom McGinn and now owned by his son, Tim. When Tom was alive the farm was known as McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch. When Tom died in 2007, Tim felt guilty. "People would tell me I was the owner," said Tim, "but my dad was the one who created this out of an empty piece of desert. I felt like I was taking all the credit."

Tim wanted to memorialize his father with a monument or a statue. Then he remembered the road trips that his dad would take with the family. "We would stop at oddities and World's Largest things," Tim said. "And then I realized: he would think it was a hoot if I put up a giant pistachio."

Tim did some Googling, found, and saw (to his relief) that there were no other big pistachios. "Then I used [Roadside America] to find other giant things: the lemon in Lemon Grove, the pecan in Seguin." Tim took road trips to evaluate their size and materials. "I was excited to get underway."

Construction took place in late 2008, outside the ranch's small retail shop. A crew had to fashion the giant ferrocement pistachio atop a steel pipe bolted to several tons of buried concrete. Since no one knew how to build the thing, Tim searched through his crop and found what he described as a "perfect" pistachio. "I would step back a hundred feet, hold up the pistachio and say something like, 'Okay, shave a little off that side,'" Tim said. "It had to be done that way."

World's Largest Pistachio.
Fresh paint protects the Pistachio from snow in early 2021.

The completed sculpture was unique, even among America's diverse roster of roadside titans. Visible from a mile in either direction along US 54, the 30-foot-high Pistachio is an alien-looking monolith rising from the Chihuahuan Desert, with a buff-colored shell and purple-and-green seed. A bronze plaque at its base dedicates it to Tom McGinn, closing with the sentiment that he "dreamed big, expected big, and accomplished big things. He would have said the monument is not big enough!"

Tim was surprised when passing motorists stopped to snap photos of the Pistachio while its scaffolding was still in place. Within weeks, a hundred people a day were pulling into the parking lot to take snapshots. "Our store had been open since 1995," said Tim. "Had I known, I would've built the Pistachio, then the store." The Pistachio is now, according to Tim, the second most photographed attraction in New Mexico, trailing only the similarly otherworldly White Sands, which has been around as a National Monument since 1933.

Pistachio orchard.
The big Pistachio stands sentinel over 12,500 pistachio trees.

Pistachioland Ranch tour.
Visitors tour the PistachioLand ranch aboard an electric jitney.

Celebrities from Ozzy Osbourne to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile have made pilgrimages to the Pistachio, as have an endless succession of network and cable TV shows (including the short-lived Polka Kings). Its fame has motivated Tim to think less like a farmer and more like an attraction owner. He renamed the ranch PistachioLand, introduced hourly ranch tours in a motorized jitney, and significantly expanded the store to sell what is possibly the world's widest variety of pistachio foodstuffs and souvenirs, such as Atomic Hot Chili Pistachio Brittle and a World's Largest Pistachio bobblehead.

World's Largest Pistachio.
Flat terrain and a big desert sky offer unobstructed Pistachio views.

Despite the pressures of popularity and demands of the media churn, Tim has resisted suggestions to embellish the Pistachio with holiday lights, seasonal outfits, or a cute name. As a memorial to Tom McGinn, it was always meant to be "a classic roadside thing," in Tim's words -- something that would attract attention just by being itself: the World's Largest Pistachio. It has succeeded on its own terms.

"I like to think my dad was up there, putting the idea in my head," Tim said. "Gosh, he would've loved it."

World's Largest Pistachio

McGinn's PistachioLand

7320 US-54, Alamogordo, NM
McGinn's PistachioLand. North of the city, on the west side of US-54, four miles north of its stoplight intersection with US-82.
Lit at night. Store daily 9-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Tours $3
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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