Quirky collections, roadside attractions, scary stories and mythical man-eating monsters.
Chicago is home to a variety of world-class museums and attractions for its visitors. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few odd ducks as well. Begin your offbeat adventures by exploring some of Chicago’s fascinating idiosyncratic collections. Visit Intuit’s extensive collection of self-taught and outsider art. The International Museum of Surgical Science has a mesmerizing collection of surgical artifacts illustrating the evolution of surgery. Finish your jaunt with the Museum of Holography’s hundreds of 3D laser-generated images or the Busy Beaver Button Museum’s pins and buttons.
McDonald’s #1 Store Museum in Des Plaines is a replica of the first restaurant opened by Ray Kroc in 1955. See an array of vintage memorabilia, from the original kitchen equipment to the 1950s classic cars parked on site.
The Volo Auto Museum is 36 acres of kitsch car-themed fun, with antique malls, a haunted trolley tour and a Betty Boop diner.
The Smallville Museum in Plano contains props used in the filming of the recent Superman movie Man of Steel. The museum commemorates Plano’s role as Smallville in the movie.
If you’re an avid fan of the big guy with the cape, you might want to head south to the Super Museum in Metropolis. Home to a collection reputedly worth $2.5 billion, it’s all the Superman you could ever wish for. But be warned, Metropolis is 350 miles south from Plano, so you might need your own super powers if you’ve only got a short vacation.
When Casey fell on hard times, Jim Bolin sprang into action to help divert some of the traffic on the nearby interstate to his beloved town. Thanks to his unorthodox vision, Casey is now the home to Guinness World Record constructions, including a giant wind chime, rocking chair, knitting needles, golf tee, birdcage and a fully functional giant mailbox.
If you’ve got a taste for the supernatural, you’re headed to the right place. The Alton Hauntings Tour, the Mineral Springs Haunted Tours and the McPike Mansion tour are spine-tingling introductions to the history and hauntings of Alton.
From super tall to super terrifying. Alton is home to a heartwarming statue commemorating the World’s Tallest Man, Robert Wadlow. It is also equally home to the Historic Museum of Torture Devices – a horrifying collection of torture devices that will warm no hearts at all.
On the Mississippi River bluffs near Alton is a mural of the Piasa Bird, a modern rendition of a Native American painting first recorded in immigrant history in 1673 by explorer Jacques Marquette. The original painting was destroyed by quarrying. The current mural was painted in the 20th-century partly based on 19th-century sketches. The story told is of a creature that attacked and devoured people in nearby villages before being killed with poison darts by the local chief. The legend is considered of dubious authenticity, but who doesn’t enjoy a mythical man-eating bird-dragon?