Roadside Attractions in Chicagoland: A Chicago Road Trip
Illinois

Roadside Attractions in Chicagoland: A Chicago Road Trip

This summer I took a road trip around “Illinois” (believe me, you’ll hear all about it in the coming months). If you are from around here you know that “Illinois” and “Chicago” are two very different things. Last weekend my friend Emily and I decided to take a “Chicagoland” road trip. OK, OK. So I don’t know if it really counts as a “road trip” if you are gone for less than twelve hours and travel no further than forty-five miles from where you live…but it was still an awesome time and found so many Chicago roadside attractions! Here was our super duper schedule:


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You should feel free to recreate the day. Although I recommend doing it in summer (when the McDonald’s Museum is actually open) and on any day but Sunday (a few things are closed on Sunday…) But fear not, Silly America, for all the wonders we did not get to thoroughly explore, we will definitely return to in the future. Here’s a quick recap of the sites:

Mr. Bendo
Our first stop was about a mile west of Humboldt Park on Grand and Pulaski: Mr. Bendo. This trip was all about the Muffler Man as we saw a few of these babies. This one was curious to me because his one arm was down instead of both being (as tradition dictates) out in front.

Mr. Bendo Muffler Man in Chicago, Illinois

Giant Wagon
We then took off down Grand further into Elmwood Park to find the Radio Flyer Factory and a frickin huge wagon! It was huge! Being Sunday it was, unfortunately, closed and gated off, but we parked in the strip mall across the street to take pics.

Giant Radio Flyer Wagon in Elmwood Park, Illinois

Leaning Tower of Niles
Then it was on to Italy…errr…I mean Niles…for the Leaning Tower of Niles! This replica of Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa is roughly half-sized (94 feet vs. 177 feet) and leans about 7’4″ off plum (Pisa has a 15 foot tilt) and sits in front of a YMCA. Being holiday season the tower was decked out for Christmas in garland and bows. Purdy. Considering I was too food poisoned to want to take a train ride to the real thing last summer, this made a nice substitution.

Leaning Tower of Niles in Niles, Illinois

Trout Fisherman
Of all the things I didn’t expect to find, this was it. This large statue was left over from an old mini golf course that used to be on the property. Now they are building condos around it, so who knows if it will still be there for long…but it looks pretty safe and sound for now!

Trout Fisherman Roadside Attraction

Wadlow’s Shoe?
Square Deal Shoe Store in Des Plaines supposedly has a pair of Robert Wadlow’s shoes on display…Robert Wadlow was the world’s tallest man and so he had some very big shoes. The shoe store was closed but they had a giant shoe in the window. It looked a little new to be Wadlow’s though, but I am not sure…we will return to investigate some other time.

Big Shoe

McDonald’s Museum and Store No. 1
Des Plaines is also home to the first McDonald’s! While the restaurant no longer sells food, it’s been restored to its original glory and houses a museum…which, unfortunately, is only open during the summer :-( We forwent eating at the working regular ole McDonald’s across the street and instead ate at…

McDonald's Museum and Store No. 1 in Des Plaines, Illinois

Choo Choo Restaurant
The choo choo is a tiny little diner. What makes this stop road trip worthy? Going through the kitchen and all around the counter is a toy choo choo train that delivers your food. How rocking is that? Em and I secured spots right at the counter so we could watch it in action. They had a really yummy chocolate shake and a good cheeseburger. And a train! And I even saw the train almost catch fire once! Awesome.

Meals delivered by train at Choo Choo Restaurant

Ferris Bueller Garage
Does this garage look familiar?

Ferris Bueller Garage in Highland Park, Illinois

If you have ever seen a small independent art film called ” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ” it should. This is the garage where they kept and crashed the fancy car. It is on someone’s house in Highland Park. Because it is November and there are no leaves it made it easy to see. Finally, one point for the chosen day!

Muffler Man and Bessie the Cow
Another muffler man AND a cow statue! This one is at Lamb’s Farm in Libertyville. We were a little confusled at first because we say the cow, but not the muffler man. Turns out that the cow is even bigger than the man. We didn’t get too close because they were kind of closed. But I’m sure I will return some day.

Muffler Man and Bessie the Cow in Libertyville, Illinois

Golden Pyramid House
“The largest 24-karat gold-plated object ever created” is the private home of a rich Armenian garage builder and his family. Seriously, this is someone’s house. And right next to it on either side are normal looking houses. The place looks kind of run down and like it is maybe under construction…I don’t know when it was built, but I know it was a while ago. It also started snowing while we were here. Who expects there to be snow when visiting the pyramids?

Golden Pyramid House

30-ft Tall Cigar Store Indian
After the Pyramid we hopped on the highway back to pick up my workaholic friend Matt, who was seriously working on a Sunday (now that is a silly American thing to do…). It was about an hour drive, which was the longest stretch between places. We probably could have spaced it out better, but we definitely wanted to be in Des Plaines for lunchtime. With Matt in tow, we then hopped back in the car for more adventure. The next stop was a big ole Cigar Store Indian in Oak Lawn.

30-ft Tall Cigar Store Indian in Oak Lawn, Illinois

Muffler Man – Bunyan
This muffler man in Evergreen Park was very very shiny. That is because he was painted in Du Pont Chroma base auto paint after having a weather-related accident.

Evergreen Park, Illinois

63rd Street Indian
Imagine the scene: you are on the south side of Chicago…in the lane going straight…look up…notice that the Indian you are looking for is on that corner…so you slide into the turn lane…end up turning as it’s going to red…pull over into an unpaid metered space, partially in a tow zone…get out to snap a bunch of pics…and then notice the cop car on the corner who then turns and slows down next to your car…as MK put it “they just gave me a look like I’m the guy forced to hold his girlfriends purse and smiled like they understood.” hehe. Anyways. So this Indian was creepy. Mostly because he had big white eyes that made him look blind…all while advertising a vision correction center :-)

63rd Street Indian in Chicago, Illinois

Large Kielbasa Sandwich
This was just a Kielbasa on a fast food sign. Not too exciting because it is neither freakishly large nor edible. Next.

Large Kielbasa Sandwich

The Spindle
I’ve seen the Spindle a million and a half times. But it is a true American icon. And they are trying to take it away from me and build a Walgreens which is just blasphemous, so I try to go and pay my respects as often as possible. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that.

The Spindle is probably better known as “cars on a spike” or the “car-ca-bob”. It’s at Cermak Plaza in Berwyn and had a starring role in the movie Wayne’s World. It also rocks. I will miss the Spindle terribly when it is gone.

The Spindle - Cars on a Spike - in Berwyn , Illinois

So that, in a nutshell, is Chicagoland. Of course, there is much much more silly American sites to see, but it was a good way to spend the day, and we managed to soak in a lot in less than twelve hours.

Date: October 28, 2007

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Silly America

Silly America is a roadside attractions blog designed to help travelers find unique stops for their next road trip. The website is a tribute to the great American road trip, devoted to all that is odd in America: roadside attractions, tourist traps, peculiar destinations, bizarre events, road food, fun festivals, and more! It’s a travel website and trip planner for those seeking an offbeat road trip.

About Silly America

Silly America is a roadside attractions blog designed to help travelers find unique stops for their next road trip. The website is a tribute to the great American road trip, devoted to all that is odd in America: roadside attractions, tourist traps, peculiar destinations, bizarre events, road food, fun festivals, and more! It’s a travel website and trip planner for those seeking an offbeat road trip. Read more.