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The House On The Rock - a hidden gem in the Midwest
While on a tour of attractions in Wisconsin, one of the places that made my list was "The House On The Rock".
The House On The Rock is the vision of architect Alex Jordan Jr. Apparently, Mr Jordan had a dream of creating a house for himself, nestled away in the Wyoming Valley in Wisconsin. As the house progressed, people started to visit his house, and while it was never intended to be a tourist attraction, so many people wanted to see the amazing architecture, that Jordan started asking for 50 cent donations.
Before I arrived at the House, I had tried to do some research, checking out their official website, and reading reviews. But nothing I found online prepared me for what I encountered when I arrived. The House On The Rock is an absolutely astounding place, and in my opinion an attraction everyone should visit at least once.
The tour begins in the recently constructed welcome center, which has bits of Frank Lloyd Wright inspiration. In it, you'll find the ticket desk, a gift shop and a small cafeteria.
Even as we made our way to the first part of the tour, I hadn't the faintest idea what to expect. As it turns out, part 1 is the house on the rock itself - the residence of Alex Jordan.
The house is insane - carpet on the walls (and ceiling), packed full with Japanese artifacts, art, robotic musical instruments, plants and peculiar heating elements hidden away which were apparently put there to prepare food.
There isn't a corner in the cramped house left untouched - every single bit of wall has something decorating it.
The final room in the house is the "Infinity Room". This is where you begin to realize that the house on the rock is something very, very special. The Infinity Room is 300 feet long, 220 feet of which hangs unsupported over the valley. The "room" has over 3000 windows, and once you get to the end, you can look down through a window in the floor. The view is quite simply spectacular.
After the Infinity Room, you are directed through other portions of the house, up over a deck on the roof, to the end of the first portion of the tour. It was a this point where I started chatting with one of the tour guides, who told me "I ain't seen nothing yet". Oh how right he was.
The inside of the bathrooms - as I said, every single corner of this place has something decorative.
The second portion of the tour led us through the "streets of yesterday", a recreation of a 19th century street, complete with fire station, sheriffs office and stores. The amount of antique stuff in this portion is staggering, every single store and office is filled with priceless artifacts from the past.
The next room was the one that impressed me most - the Heritage of the Sea is jawdropping. Inside this massive building is a 200 feet tall whale, and the spiraling walkway takes you around a tour of 100's of antique boat models.
Face to face with a 200 feet whale - between the size of the whale, and the height of the building, you can't help feel amazed at the detail put into the exhibit.
On the ground floor of this exhibit is where you'll find a massive automatronic orchestra playing Octopus's Garden, and doing quite a good job of it too.
At every single turn there is another collection of something - most of it seemingly completely random, displaying things like a Christmas plate collection and Fabergé eggs.
One of those completely random exhibits - a car with a heart shaped spa tub, towing a pyramid filled with elephants.
One of the final portions of the tour takes you through "the music of yesterday", featuring multiple rooms with music machines. As with most of the machines on the tour, you'll need one or two tokens to activate the music. Token machines take $1 and $5 bills and are found at random points throughout the tour.
By now, I was mentally exhausted - there is only so much a person can take in on a single tour, and the amount of exhibits really was beginning to become too much. The final exhibit at the House of the Rock, is the largest carousel in the world. And my, what a massive carousel it is. With over 20,000 lights, 269 carousel animals and 182 chandeliers, this thing is so big, that you can't really grasp its size. One word of warning though - the carousel is for viewing only, kids (or adults) can not ride it.
Despite the cold temperatures outside, the massive amount of lamps on the carousel made this room uncomfortably warm.
As with all other parts of the tour, every single corner of this attraction is decorated with something - the ceiling and walls all display carousel animals and ornaments and in the corner is a working carousel power plant.
Everything about the House on the Rock is impressive - from the sheer number of different collections, to the wacky and confusing design. One thing that I liked was the way the tour is setup - there are no tour guides, and very few signs telling you what you are looking at. The obvious purpose of all the exhibits is to just relax, and enjoy the sights and sounds instead of trying to cram 100's of years of trivia into a few hours.
The tour I took included portions one and two of the exhibit, parts of portion three were closed, and won't be open till the summer season begins.
The House on the Rock is located in Spring Green, WI. Spring Green is about 40 miles from Madison, WI and about 200 miles from Chicago. The region is also home to the famous "Cave of the mounds" and Frank Lloyd Wrights "Taliesin".
Admission to the House on the Rock is $28.50, which includes access to all portions of the tour. Unused tour segments are valid for a year. Children under 3 are free. Opening hours are 9am-6pm during the summer season (May 1st - September 6th) and 9am-5pm during the autumn season (September 7th - November 1st).
If you plan to visit the House on the Rock, and need more than a day, you can spend the night at the House on the Rock resort or inn, each located a couple of miles from the attraction.