A nutty tribute along highway 54 in New Mexico attracts visitors from around the world.

July 3, 2024

It’s a roadside destination and gawker’s delight that begs for a selfie. Standing taller than 30 feet, a giant pistachio protrudes from the McGinn family’s New Mexico farm, winery and country store along Highway 54 in Alamogordo. But McGinn’s PistachioLand is so much more than a souvenir stop on the way to nearby White Sands National Park.

“We’re an agritourism business that started with farming, then product production, then retail and then destination experiences,” explains Clarissa McGinn, whose husband Timothy McGinn’s father started growing pistachios on the property in 1980, waiting the expected eight years for a first harvest.

Clarissa and Timothy McGinn helped to construct the world’s largest pistachio, which is now a popular roadside attraction. The gift shop carries all-things pistachio to match the theme.
Photos: Liz Weatherwax

The late Thomas McGinn diversified with grape growing and a winery, along with a country store that has since expanded by 6,000 square feet. When he passed away in 2007, Timothy wanted to memorialize his dad, who happened to be a huge fan of roadside attractions.

After some research, the McGinns confirmed there was no other “largest pistachio in the world.”

Indeed, a trip to PistachioLand is an experience complete with a narrated golf cart tour, winery with tastings and country store stocked with all-things pistachio. Plus, the McGinn’s shop offers New Mexico souvenirs and items people ask for like theme-related mementos related to nearby attractions or events.

You can buy a bobblehead replica of the monumental nut in the shop — and so much more. Here, Clarissa shares what’s in store for curious visitors to McGinn’s PistachioLand.

Q. How has the country store and souvenir destination evolved over the years?

A. When we first opened, our little store would sell pistachios and not much more, and we’d get one visitor a day. Gradually, more people would stop and it started growing. People began asking for souvenirs of White Sands National Park, souvenirs of New Mexico. Ruidoso is Billy the Kid country, so there is a lot of tourism there and customers were requesting themed products. With Roswell two hours from us, home of the infamous UFO sighting, tourists will come in and ask for alien stuff. We started bringing in all of these items along with T-shirts, mugs, magnets and pantry products.

We sell everything we can find with a pistachio on it: loungewear, socks, bobble heads, pillows and plushies. And our best sellers are the food items — pistachio butter, oils, fudge, candies and homemade ice cream. We make these and other items in-house like pistachio-flavored candies.

Q. Any celebrities stop in for a visit to see the giant pistachio and your shop?

A. Yes! The latest was in 2018 when Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne were on tour for ‘Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour.’ They showed up at our pistachio farm and decided to make their own pistachio flavor and my husband was the judge for whose was the best. Ozzy made curried pistachios and Kelly made garlic-honey. Hers ended up being the winner, and we sell them in the store.

Q. What steps were involved in constructing the massive pistachio?

A. Timothy had the idea and I was like, ‘It’s different. But how can we do it? How are we going to design it?’ Turns out, one of Tim’s good friends is a builder in town and in 2008, the housing market had fallen so he said, ‘OK, I have time.’ Tim held up a real pistachio and said, ‘I want it to look like this.’ The builder had to go to a structural engineer and ask, ‘How are we going to make this work?’

It’s a steel frame covered in concrete much like you’d put stucco on a house. They built the steel cage in a pistachio shape, covered it in concrete and painted it.

When we uncovered it, we put a sign out. ‘Here it is: the World’s Largest Pistachio.’ In front of it is a plaque tribute to Tim’s father. Within an hour, the first person pulled off the road and started taking pictures, and within three years, it brought more and more people. Now, we offer an experience along with tours of the grounds to tell the story.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being a roadside attraction?

A. Being creative. I do a lot of the food creation and production, so I love coming up with new ice creams, new candies and new seasoned pistachio flavors. And, I love the customer interactions and getting to meet people from all over the world.