The weirdness and wonder of The House on the Rock

A few weeks ago I went to The House on the Rock with , who came from Canada to visit us. I tossed out several "would you like to see?" options for Iowa and the near midwest, and she leapt at the offer to drive her to southeastern Wisconsin and see The House on the Rock. And so we went.


The wikipedia entry gives good dirty dish. which is of course different than the party line at the main website, which speaks of Alex Jordan’s vision. All I know is that I’ve been there four times now, and each time I’m bowled over by the damn thing all over again. It’s almost impossible to describe and must be seen to be believed. Essentially it’s a weird house connected to a bunch of warehouses, all of which are filled with nickelodeons and lots and lots of random collections of both antiques and utterly random crap. It takes all day to tour, and you ache when you’re done. For both Cate and I the attraction this go-round was the immortalization of The House on the Rock by Neil Gaiman in American Gods. In that novel the characters visit it, an American roadside attraction and therefore place of great power, and after getting their fortunes read by Esmerelda in the Streets of Yesterday and viewing a few choice nickelodeons, they do the unthinkable and ride the World’s Largest Carosel, full of animals but no horses, the carosel no one has ever ridden, and doing so takes them off to some sort of conference with the gods in the sky. It was a pilgrimage that could not be missed.

What struck me most this time was how much the tour had changed. We’d come through ten years ago and things had seemed very worn down; we arrived now at the onset of the fiftieth anniversary, and boy had they spiffed up the place. An entirely new entrance greeted us, and now the tour is broken into three parts which guests are free to take a year to complete. We did them in a day and had the tired feet to prove it.

The place was as tacky as ever, and as weird, and as wonderful. It’s high kitch, no question, but at times it’s beautiful. And at other times it’s just so fucking weird you stand there amazed at how weird it is. I admit I miss the old school no-way-out-but-the-early-exit method, which I always toss out as a joke every time I’m in IKEA ("House on the Rock" by Swedes!), but it was a good time. We had as much fun driving there and doing the hotel pool thing in Dubuque as much as anything else. By the end I declared that since Cate had survived a vacation with us, she was truly family.

More of Cate’s visit and other news soon.

More photos too, behind the cut.

      

14 Comments on “The weirdness and wonder of The House on the Rock

  1. random kinship of strangers
    Here via friendsfriends.
    I was JUST there last week. And for just the same reason! I read about House on the Rock in American Gods years ago and had wanted to go ever since.
    Then, I met a man whose entire extended family lives in Milwaukee (we live in Arizona, where I have been my entire life) and we decided that the most efficient way to get married was to run off to Hawaii, and then have one party here in Arizona with my family and one party in Milwaukee with his.
    Well, there was no getting me all the way to Wisconsin and then skipping House on the Rock, even if my husband couldn’t understand what was so special about a house on top of a rock. So we went and were amazed and thrilled and entranced, and I’m so sorry we only had two and a half hours to see it all. We missed SO much even though we did go through the whole thing! But the next time we go out to Wisconsin, we’ll definitely be going back to House on the Rock and doing it properly!

    • Re: random kinship of strangers
      Wild! We were there Saturday the 7th. It was fun to view it as part of the American Gods experience. We’ve decided too that the way to go there is to bring people who haven’t seen it before. That’s half the fun.
      Nice to meet you. πŸ™‚

      • Re: random kinship of strangers
        We were there the following Thursday, just after going to Cave of the Mounds. I really wish my brother-in-law could have joined us, but he had golf reservations, so it should be fun next time to see someone else in awe of it.
        Nice to meet you, too! πŸ™‚

      • Re: random kinship of strangers
        We were there the following Thursday, just after going to Cave of the Mounds. I really wish my brother-in-law could have joined us, but he had golf reservations, so it should be fun next time to see someone else in awe of it.
        Nice to meet you, too! πŸ™‚

    • Re: random kinship of strangers
      Wild! We were there Saturday the 7th. It was fun to view it as part of the American Gods experience. We’ve decided too that the way to go there is to bring people who haven’t seen it before. That’s half the fun.
      Nice to meet you. πŸ™‚

  2. random kinship of strangers
    Here via friendsfriends.
    I was JUST there last week. And for just the same reason! I read about House on the Rock in American Gods years ago and had wanted to go ever since.
    Then, I met a man whose entire extended family lives in Milwaukee (we live in Arizona, where I have been my entire life) and we decided that the most efficient way to get married was to run off to Hawaii, and then have one party here in Arizona with my family and one party in Milwaukee with his.
    Well, there was no getting me all the way to Wisconsin and then skipping House on the Rock, even if my husband couldn’t understand what was so special about a house on top of a rock. So we went and were amazed and thrilled and entranced, and I’m so sorry we only had two and a half hours to see it all. We missed SO much even though we did go through the whole thing! But the next time we go out to Wisconsin, we’ll definitely be going back to House on the Rock and doing it properly!

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