This Mysterious Spot In The Midwest Is Home To 6,000 Santa Figurines And Endless Oddities

It's hard to put into words what the House on the Rock in rural Wisconsin actually is. A roadside attraction? Certainly. A passion project? Undoubtedly. A museum? In a way. But it's also so much more than that. Maybe the only appropriate designation for this house-turned-tourist-stop is that it's art, through and through. Once inside, you'll encounter a staggering collection of dolls, artwork, suits of armor, guns, musical instruments, antiques, and exhibits that let your imagination run wild. Christmas, in particular, is a special time of year, as you'll find 6,000-plus Santa figurines of all sizes around the museum, complete with Christmas music playing inside the halls.

As the story goes, it all started in the 1940s when a man named Alex Jordan came across Deer Shelter Rock, a 60-foot chimney rock in the rural scenery outside of Madison. It was his refuge for picnics and camping until his tent got blown away. From that moment on, he decided to build something concrete. In fact, it wasn't long before curious onlookers turned up to poke their heads inside. Pretty soon, Jordan started charging. By 1960, he had opened the house for public tours and kept adding on until its completion in 1989. Today, it bewilders visitors from all over the world.

What to expect at House on the Rock

The House on the Rock is divided into three sections. In section one, you'll learn about the creator and see the original 13 rooms. There's also the Infinity Room, a platform that juts 218 feet from the house and offers sweeping views of the valley. It's a feat of engineering, as Jordan was not an architect and the room is unsupported. And yes, it moves with the wind.

Stock up on tokens before visiting section two, where you'll have the chance to animate mechanical instruments. Nearby, the Streets of Yesterday features a replica of a 19th-century town with antiques aplenty. In the Heritage of the Sea, you'll find a 200-foot tall statue of a sea creature with a life-size boat in its mouth, along with a replica of a Titanic. Most dazzling of all is the world's largest indoor carousel, with 269 carved animals and 20,000 lights.

Section three has one of the world's largest collections of dollhouses, along with miniature circus displays and rare firearms. The Organ Room contains three massive theater organs, surrounded by countless walkways, bridges, and spiral staircases. At the very end, you'll exit the museum into a Japanese-inspired garden — a complete 180 from sensory overload to peace and calm. Words just can't do it justice.

Tickets and amenities

House on the Rock is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday through Monday. It's best to get there early so you have plenty of time to soak in all the oddities (not that you ever really could). Expect to spend at least three hours wandering through the exhibits. Tickets to all three sections cost $36 for adults, $20 for youth, and $6 for kids six and under. There is a senior and military discount for $33.

Though Jordan passed away in 1989, his legacy expanded into the House of the Rock Resort with a spa and golf course. A romantic one-night stay for two during the Christmas season costs $179 to $199, depending on your dates. The price includes two admission tickets to the museum. As for the "why" behind this whole thing, well, that remains the biggest mystery of all. It's up to your own interpretation. But as the creator himself put it, "One thing just sort of led to the other."