It may not have stood out as the finest piece of engineering art when it spanned the Thames, but London Bridge is a marvelous sight in the middle of the Arizona desert. A replacement for a series of bridges that date back to medieval times, inspiring the children’s rhyme, “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” this version of London Bridge was constructed in the 1830s. When it was no longer able to handle the demands of London traffic, the old bridge was replaced by a modern concrete span and its stones were put up for sale in 1967.
Bought by property developer Robert McCulloch for $2.4 million, the 10,246 blocks of stone were shipped here and reassembled at a cost of another $7 million. After a channel was cut under the bridge to bring water from the Colorado River, the Lord Mayor of London flew in to attend the rededication ceremonies in October 1971. The bridge now stands as the centerpiece of a fast-growing retirement and resort community that’s home to more than 50,000 residents.
There’s no admission charge to see this oddly compelling sight. If you have a taste for surreal experiences, walk across the bridge and sample the Ye Olde England ambience of Barley Brothers brewpub. Even more schizoid is the adjacent, all-suite London Bridge Resort (866/331-9231, $125 and up), where the “original” medieval turrets and Arthurian design flourishes have been redecorated with palm trees for that unforgettable tropical island experience.