We're used to seeing the typical McDonald’s buildings along Main Streets and highways—red roof, single story, golden arches. But a handful of locations worldwide eschew the ordinary and give the fast food chain's patrons a whole new dining experience.
1. UFO // Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell, N.M. is the alleged 1947 alien crash site. While the U.S. military confirmed it was merely a downed weather balloon, skeptics believe it was a crashed flying saucer from outer space. Thousands of people flock to Roswell every year to investigate the tale, so it’s only fitting that businesses and restaurants around the area fashion their establishments to accommodate alien-seeking tourists.
Located at 720 North Main Street in downtown Roswell, there's a UFO-shaped McDonald’s with eye-catching nighttime fluorescent lights and a kid-friendly astronaut Ronald McDonald in its PlayPlace. Even the interior of the McDonald’s resembles a spaceship that is out of this world.
2. Train Car // Barstow, California
There’s a McDonald’s that sits on Historic Route 66 in Barstow Station in California that features three railroad passenger train cars that were converted into a dining area for the fast food restaurant. The location also features a bright red water tower with the Golden Arches on its side.
3. All Glass Restaurant // Batumi, Republic of Georgia
Architect Giorgi Khmaladze designed a very futuristic-looking McDonald's made mostly from glass panels and surrounded by a reflecting pool in the Republic of Georgia's port city of Batumi. The interior has an open-air patio with a large stretch of vegetation, and the location also features a fueling station behind the fast-food restaurant that is not visible from the customer dining area or patio.
The Georgian architect wanted to create a McDonald’s that was a quiet safe haven from the busy and loud outside world. According to Khmaladze, who received a Masters in Architecture from Harvard, the hardest part about designing the building was making it creatively interesting while still within McDonald’s standards and guidelines.
"All its operations are dependent on the correct planning of all required spaces, which McDonald's has optimized in its standard projects. But in our case, we had to incorporate their standards in such a way that it would not impact our design in a negative way. And secondly, we set ourself a goal to disconnect—at least visually—the dining from the gas station, but to do it in an architecturally interesting way."
4. Happy Meal Box // Dallas, Texas
Located at Montfort Drive and LBJ Freeway, there’s a McDonald’s in Dallas with a giant Happy Meal Box-shaped PlayPlace. Unsurprisingly, this location sells more Happy Meals than any other McDonald’s outpost in the world. The rest of the building's exterior features large fiberglass statues of Ronald McDonald, fries, Coca-Cola, and a Big Mac, but the dining room's decoration belies the inexpensive food they serve. The interior has Austrian crystal chandeliers, incandescent lighting, Ralph Lauren wallpaper, mahogany booths, and granite floors.
5. Inside of an Airplane // Taupo, New Zealand
Located In Taupo, New Zealand, this McDonald’s has a decommissioned Douglas DC-3 aircraft parked next to the building. The plane is not just for decoration though—it's also an area where customers can eat and relax in its 20-seat dine-in area. The engines of the DC-3 were taken out, but the iron propellers are still intact, along with its original cockpit.
"The site was previously part of a car dealership, the Aeroplane Car Company, and the owner bought a disused DC-3 plane, which sat alongside the building," McDonald’s restaurant owner Eileen Byrne told The Daily Mail. "And when McDonald's purchased the site in 1990, the aeroplane came with it. The plan was, and still is, to keep the appearance of the plane as original as possible."
6. McSki // Lindvallen, Sweden
McDonald’s built the first ski-thru fast food restaurant in Lindvallen, Sweden in 1996. "No need to take off your skis. You just ski up to the counter, order your food and ski off," a McDonald’s spokesman told Reuters. If you’re not in a hurry and want to get out of the cold, the restaurant can seat as many as 140 customers.
7. McFarm // Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
Located at 50 MacDonald Street in Moose Jaw, Canada, there’s a McDonald’s restaurant that is shaped like a barn with a bright red silo and corresponding farmhouse decor inside. The drive thru is even wide enough for those with tractors to zip through for breakfast in the morning before they have to go to work on the farm.
8. Art Deco // Melbourne, Australia
Originally, the Art Deco McDonald’s in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Australia used to be the site of United Kingdom Hotel, which architect James Hastie Wardrop designed in 1937. The city dubbed the building an historic landmark in the late '80s, and the fast food chain kept the retro-chic bricks and curvy balconies, but redesigned some of its interior to fit McDonald’s corporate standards.
9. 19th Century Town Hall // Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland
British politician and philanthropist Reginald Brabazon commissioned the tudor-style Bray Town Hall at the top of Main Street in Bray, Ireland in 1881. The Town Hall was meant to "do benefit for the town of Bray." While the upper level of the building still houses the chambers for the Bray Town Council, the lower level benefits the town’s hungry with a McDonald's restaurant, which opened in 1997.
10. Denton House // New Hyde Park, Long Island, New York
In 1985, McDonald's bought the property that housed the dilapidated Denton House, a Georgian-style mansion that dated back to 1795 when it used to be a farmhouse. The fast food chain wanted to tear down the mansion and build a new restaurant, but New Hyde Park designated the location as a historical landmark before McDonald’s brought in a wrecking crew. With a brand new renovation, McDonald’s converted Denton House into a two-floor restaurant. McDonald’s used an old photograph of the mansion from 1927 as a template for renovations before opening its doors in 1991.
"A copy of the photograph is in the lobby of the restaurant today," said McDonald’s franchisee Lawrence Anderer. "It turned out to be a win-win-win situation. A win for McDonald's because the business worked out very well, a win for the community because they were able to salvage a piece of their history, and a win for my wife and myself and our family because that’s how we have made our living for the last 20 years."
11. Sea Captain's House // Freeport, Maine
Much like Denton House in New Hyde Park, McDonald’s eyed an old sea captain’s house in Freeport, Maine for its location rather than the building itself. The chain planned to tear down the house, which dated back to the 1850s, and build a brand new restaurant. However, residents formed a group called the "Mac Attacks" to urge city officials to instate local building ordinances to prevent McDonald’s from demolishing the house. McDonald’s changed its design and renovated the sea captain’s house to accommodate residents. And, being that it is in Maine, this particular McDonald's offers lobster rolls (called McLobsters) on its menu.
12. The World's Classiest McDonald’s // Asheville, North Carolina
Located just outside of transportation titan George Washington Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina rests the self-proclaimed "World’s Classiest McDonald’s." Built in 2000, this McDonald’s used to be a standard-looking fast food restaurant until it was renovated to fit the local guidelines from the Biltmore Estate historic resources commission. The luxurious location features a baby grand piano, red oak tables, wrought iron railings, and a gold-leafed fireplace. Even the employees are required to dress with black vests and bow ties to add to the classy atmosphere.
"We were able to convince them (McDonald’s) they were really not going to be competing with other fast-food franchises but with Biltmore itself," said architect Robert Griffin. "And the more they looked like and felt like they were already on the grounds of the estate, the more they would be perceived as part of that whole period."
13. Mountain Side // Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China
China is increasingly becoming more open to Western influences and pop culture, so it’s fitting that America’s largest fast food chain found its way to Yangshuo in the Guangxi Province of southern China. Sitting between the small city’s mountain range and mirror-like lakes sits a very picturesque McDonald’s surrounded by Chinese pagodas and greenery. The McDonald’s was built for Yangshuo’s residents and the city's growing rock climbing and backpacking tourists.