The Quirky Destination In Ireland Conan O'Brien Says Is A Must-Stop

As he revealed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien has had a DNA test proving he's "100% Irish." It was only fitting that the former late-night talk show host and current travel mockumentary host should visit Ireland for his Max series, "Conan O'Brien Must Go." In the fourth and final episode of the first season, Conan says he will find his roots as he sets out across the country where his great-grandfather lived before immigrating to the U.S. in the 1800s. Within three and a half minutes, however, his road trip brings him to a place that's decidedly off the beaten path in terms of Irish tourist destinations. "If you're driving through Ireland," Conan says, "you have to stop in County Tipperary. Why you ask? To pay homage to the Barack Obama Plaza highway rest stop."

Barack Obama Plaza is a real place where statues of the 44th U.S. president and his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, stand "waving to drivers on the M7," as Conan puts it. The M7 is a motorway; you can find the plaza and statues at Junction 23 from Dublin to Limerick. On a previous episode of his TBS show, "Conan Without Borders," Conan traveled to Qatar with Michelle Obama. You wouldn't necessarily expect to find a permanent statue of her and Barack in the middle of Ireland. However, before becoming president, Obama had traced his roots on his mother's side to the same country as Conan.

Why there's a Barack Obama Plaza in Ireland

Though Obama's father hailed from Kenya, his mother was part Irish. In 2007, the year before he made history as the first African American presidential elect, Obama learned through that his great-great-great grandfather had come from the village of Moneygall, Ireland. It's on the border between Tipperary and County Offal, just a minute by car from Barack Obama Plaza. Among other things, the news of his heritage inspired the viral Corrigan Brothers song, "There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama."

The Obamas visited Moneygall in 2011, and the nearby plaza and waving statues — the brainchild of Supermac's owners Pat and Una McDonagh — opened in 2014. A decade later, when Conan O'Brien visited and joked about him and Obama both being "famous Irish sons," it wasn't so far from the truth. As O'Brien notes in the episode, Obama (or, if you prefer, O'Bama) still has an eighth cousin who lives in Moneygall.

At Barack Obama Plaza, you can chow down on some Irish food, provided your definition of that is loose enough to include ... Papa John's Pizza? As it turns out, the plaza's name isn't the only thing Americanized here, as Papa John's is a U.S.-based chain that originated in a broom closet in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Its founder and former CEO once claimed that Obamacare would raise pizza prices, making it that much more ironic to see it peddling its wares in Ireland's Barack Obama Plaza.

Other places Conan O'Brien visited in Ireland

If you've got no intention of traveling all the way to Ireland to eat America's fourth most popular pizza chain, check out this popular foodie-friendly Dublin neighborhood instead. For his part, Conan samples some black pudding at Loughnane's Butcher in Loughrea, County Galway. As he satirizes a travel host's overexaggerated food reactions, each bite of black pudding at this shop (established in 1939) sends Conan into paroxysms of pleasure.

Merrion Square Park (pictured above) is the Dublin landmark where Conan finds "trace evidence of Bono's scat" as he hunts for the U2 singer like a wild animal, attempting to bait him with a Humanitarian Award. When you get bored of Bono hunting, you can head into a museum (or two) on the park's western edge. The National Gallery of Ireland and the Archaeology and Natural History branches of the National Museum of Ireland are all located here.

Wicklow is where Conan visits a lighthouse that is also must-visit for Star Wars fans. There are two lighthouses at Wicklow Head; he goes inside the working "front" one. The old one, built in 1781, is periodically rentable as an accommodation via the Irish Landmark Trust. At the end of the episode, Conan visits the town square in Galbally, where his great-grandfather lived. For those who manage to see both it and Moneygall, you'll come away from your trip to Ireland with a richer understanding of its famous sons, Conan O'Brien and Barack Obama.