Hit me with your best simulacra
September 16, 2020 10:23 PM   Subscribe

I love a specific kind of kitsch: fake versions of other stuff. Think Vegas casinos made to look like Roman ruins under a false sky, or themed hotel rooms where you sleep in a UFO. Help me fantasy-travel by telling me about the faux real in your neck of the woods.

I am currently having my life absolutely ruined by the Roxbury Hotel, which was specifically designed to torment me personally with the fact that I can't live there, or even afford to stay there, or even travel anyway. The fake Italian Renaissance library! The fake Arthurian castle! DRACULA'S FANGS! I also love Vegas casinos that look like Venice or Paris, this underground house, the Streets of Yesterday at the House on the Rock, the suites at the Don Q Inn nearby, the Tree House at the Philadelphia Zoo (which may not exist anymore?), Hüttenpalast, and the fake countries at Epcot. I already know about City Museum and the Museum of Jurassic Technology, but stuff like small motels or local hidden gems like the Vegas underground house are harder to stumble on. Please help me torment myself further with fake exteriors, fiberglass trees, and other outrageous fantasy theme bullshit I might not know about yet! Ideally it's somewhere I could travel to if travel were a thing, but travel is not a thing, so private residences are fine too.
posted by babelfish to Travel & Transportation (50 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
The most ridiculous fake thing in the southwest: The Wigwam Motel. Which doesn't look like wigwams at all, but like teepees. Except that should be spelled tipi. And a tipi was traditionally not made out of concrete. And they were meant to be portable. And they were never used by the Native American tribes that were in what became Arizona in the first place.

Fakes all the way down.

Oh and it's kitsch style too.
posted by yohko at 11:03 PM on September 16, 2020 [3 favorites]

You said fiberglass trees. Have you heard of Supertree Grove in Gardens of the Bay in Singapore? They are 50 foot structures of manufactured trees that are beautiful and serve a variety of purposes for the gardens.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:06 PM on September 16, 2020

Maybe you already know about the Madonna Inn?
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:08 PM on September 16, 2020

Madonna Inn rooms & suites, San Luis Obispo, CA
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:10 PM on September 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's a whole industry of "educational" indoor parks with miniature cities that let kids play-act as grown-ups, with the various businesses sponsored by real companies. My elementary school class went to Enterprise Village, and there was a similar place called Wannado City, but the most popular incarnation nowadays is Kidzania, which has locations all over the world. (My heart lies with the dearly departed Safety Village).

If you like Epcot's World Showcase, you'll probably enjoy Window of the World in Shenzhen, which features dozens of replicas of global landmarks. It's also the main setting of a 2004 film called The World, which you can see on YouTube (no subtitles, though.)

Japan has a theme park called Huis Ten Bosch which is a loose replica of a traditional Dutch town, including canals and windmills; see also Sweden Hills in Hokkaido.

In Belgium, there's Bobbejaanland (which features a Wild West-inspired "Cowboy Town").

Six Flags St. Louis has a hub area themed after the original 1904 World's Fair.

Lastly, you should definitely check out this post on the Great American Pyramid in Memphis.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:06 AM on September 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

posted by jameaterblues at 12:14 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oregon has no shortage of ghost towns -- including the Short Bridge Ghost Town, a fake.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:32 AM on September 17, 2020

Fake Paris is Guangzhou is pretty wild.
I saw a really good video work shot by an Artist called Jesper Just that was shot in the city. Sadly couldn't find a decent version of the film online.
posted by multivalent at 1:33 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Anata no Warehouse: The Dystopian Arcade Just for Adults

An arcade in Tokyo, modeled on the walled city of Kowloon. Both are gone now.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:50 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

The wonderworks museums are designed to look like they were flipped upside down.
posted by condour75 at 4:02 AM on September 17, 2020

I love this stuff, too! It's my life's dream to go to Puy du Fou in France and Ba Na Hills in Vietnam.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:29 AM on September 17, 2020

We've got the Villa Zorayda, a tiny little ersatz Alhambra.
posted by saladin at 5:03 AM on September 17, 2020

You may enjoy this Twitter thread by a confused hiker who wandered into a fake Bavarian town in Washington State.
posted by myotahapea at 5:21 AM on September 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

Have you seen the Parthenon in Nashville?
posted by Candleman at 5:48 AM on September 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Someone beat me to Huis Ten Bosch (in 2016 I went to the top of Domkerk tower in two countries; one involved a 30-minute climb up winding stairs, the other a 30 second elevator ride). But you may be interested in Japanese Love Hotels which often have super-kitchy, unique interiors.
posted by Gortuk at 6:14 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

This house in our area went up for sale recently and everyone was commenting on the replica town in the basement.
posted by brilliantine at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2020

United Memorial Gardens, a weird cemetery in Plymouth, Michigan, has some things you'd like. There's a lifesize replica of the Tabernacle of Moses and the Ark of the Covenant.

What's really strange, though, and maybe not quite what you're looking for, is the "Facts of Life" section of the cemetery. This consists of a large number of fake tombstones, each with a rhyme cautioning young people against what was considered bad behavior, so smoking, drinking, having sex. (Heavy sex can cause you trouble/Can make you look just like a bubble.)

There are some photographs here as well.
posted by FencingGal at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2020

Portmeirion village in Wales is absolutely trippy.
posted by argonauta at 7:04 AM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You've probably seen it, but if not there's a show called Amazing Interiors on Netflix that features a lot of this stuff. There's always one enormous crazed build in progress for the main feature interlaced with a bunch of little one-off spotlighted things. Standouts for me were Paolo's apartment in... I don't know but maybe Paris? He did it all up rococo and it was like living in a wedding cake topper: madness. He only got about five minutes, which is a crime. The guy who knocked holes in his walls and ran a habitrail for his forty+ cats through every room of his multistory dwelling. Pink apartment (EVERYTHING pink). More people than I thought likely spend planet-sized piles of money and endless effort to create living spaces that will allow them to sleep with their cars. You have to be ready with the fast foward button because there are a lot of basements devoted to exactly recreating the clubhouse for sportsteam X and the bunkers and shipping containers and houseboats you'd expect. And an enormous number of people living among their huge collections of movie props.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:05 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Lawrence, Kansas also has a 50-foot concrete tipi.

Does Carhenge count?
posted by FencingGal at 7:06 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

China has many Sphinx replicas.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:16 AM on September 17, 2020

Epic's campus is delightfully absurd (scroll past the mundane historical stuff). I went to a conference there just before everything and it was so fun.
posted by teremala at 7:21 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Solvang, nearish the Madonna Inn, is a fake Danish town.

Every Fry's electronics
has an absurd and overdone theme. I grew up going to one shaped like an Egyptian pyramid and full of Tutamania kitsch and another shaped themed after a Mayan temple that was like an Indiana Jones nightmare.
posted by assenav at 7:44 AM on September 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Brighton Pavilion is quite something.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2020

The fake Paris that multivalent mentioned is featured in this music video if you want more of a look at it.

In Orlando, the same host runs this Harry Potter-themed AirBNB and this Star Wars-themed one.
posted by yankeefog at 8:42 AM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

The 94th Aero Squadron in Van Nuys, CA is a restaurant and event space designed to look like a WWII-era bombed-out French farmhouse, complete with a large partially-demolished building. Their official website tries to downplay the weirdness but it’s an undeniably bizarre spot. You too can hold your wedding at a site designed to look like the aftermath of war aggression!
posted by corey flood at 9:13 AM on September 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you're ever in the Denver area, Casa Bonita is a real place (everything from the South Park episode is 100% true!) and a must visit for kitsch. My stepsiblings and I used to play hide and seek here for hours while our parents would steal away to secluded corners for alone time.

Pro tip: eat before you go, as the food is famously terrible, except for the sopapillas.
posted by Fuego at 9:21 AM on September 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Leavenworth, WA is a town about a 2-hour drive east of Seattle that decided sometime in the 1960s to remodel itself as a Bavarian village. They were apparently inspired by the aforementioned Danish simulacrum of Solvang, CA. I haven't been there myself but it's a popular Christmastime destination.
posted by mhum at 9:26 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a replica Starship Enterprise which is also the tourism bureau in Vulcan, Alberta.
posted by unstrungharp at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2020

West Edmonton Mall has a hotel with theme rooms: including a truck room
posted by PinkMoose at 10:03 AM on September 17, 2020

I feel like the Epic electronic health record main campus in Wisconsin will scratch your itch.
posted by House of Leaves of Grass at 10:12 AM on September 17, 2020

You might enjoy Miniature Golf by John Margolies (sadly out-of-print), as well as his roadside America photos.
posted by biersquirrel at 10:32 AM on September 17, 2020

corey flood, there's a 94th Aero Squadron restaurant in San Diego, only this one's a replica of an intact World War I French farmhouse. What a weird concept for a chain, and I say this as someone familiar with Big Barry's Grub ’n’ Firewater "Wild West" restaurants.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:18 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The website / YouTube channel "A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour" has a lot of these!
posted by beyond_pink at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think you might enjoy the 10 gates of Hell, which is only one part of Singapore's delightful Haw Par Villa.

In this cave, there are statues of folks getting punished, with thorough descriptions of what they did in life to deserve it. It was built in the 1930's by an Asian tycoon as kind-of a "scared straight" program.
posted by tinymegalo at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2020

This isn't quite what you're looking for, maybe, but I am obsessed with the Panorama of the City of New York.
posted by sparkling at 12:16 PM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you do a Google Image Search for "pocono resort champagne glass tub" you will see an example of what you're talking about (I think). The Pocono mountains are north of Philadelphia.
posted by forthright at 1:18 PM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Beau-ti-ful Mount Airy Lodge underwent a renovation, but The Heart Shaped Tub Still Exists in the Poconos
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:45 PM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I did not know about Sweden Hills in Japan, but I did know about British Hills.
posted by corvine at 1:49 PM on September 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you would be interested in follies, those delightful fake ruins.
posted by bq at 7:24 PM on September 17, 2020

Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey.
posted by gudrun at 7:33 PM on September 17, 2020

MiniMundus in southern Austria has tiny models of famous buildings from all over the world.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:26 PM on September 17, 2020

Response by poster: You guys are great! I'm marking a few best but you are actually all the best. Rhaomi's kids' museums reminded me that the old Capital Children's Museum in DC is surely part of the source of this fascination, and I'm now bingeing Amazing Interiors off Don Pepino's suggestion (how come half of them are great and half are upsetting???). And gudrun, they were briefly letting people Airbnb the elephant and my dad (unsuccessfully) tried to get me a night for my birthday so you clearly nailed it as well.

Weirdly, there also used to be a 94th Aero Squadron (intact style) in College Park or maybe Greenbelt, MD, fully the other coast—some of my friends worked there. Are they all related?? A mystery for another Ask.

Anyway, keep 'em coming if you got 'em!
posted by babelfish at 8:44 PM on September 17, 2020

Burj al Babas, Turkey: an (abandoned) luxury housing development consisting in 300 Disney-style medieval castles.
posted by elgilito at 12:29 AM on September 18, 2020

I am obsessed with the Panorama of the City of New York.

Ah, that reminds me of a different kind of panorama, Panorama Mesdag in The Hague, one of the few remaining 19th-century panoramas. You climb a spiral staircase in a busy 21st-century city centre and emerge amongst the sand dunes of an 1880s fishing village. You're in a circular room with a painting running all the way round the walls; the painting captures the perspective perfectly, fooling your eyes into relaxing as if they look into the distance; there's sand between where you stand and your view of sea and dunes; you can hear the cries of the gulls. The roof over your head is translucent, so the light changes with the weather. It's a perfect illusion.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 1:32 AM on September 18, 2020

The Tonga Room at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel is the most amazing tiki bar you could imagine. Waterfalls, a boat in the middle of a pool you can reserve, etc.

Check out the author-themed rooms at the historic Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach Oregon. Sadly, it looks like the Edgar Allen Poe room with a taxidermy raven and a giant blade hanging over the bed seems to no longer exist.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:36 AM on September 18, 2020

The House On The Rock for a very tourist-kitsch version of this.
posted by augustimagination at 11:23 AM on September 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

A friend just tipped me off to the Star Trek Room at the Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, OR.

Havent been, but if COVID ever ends, I'll beam up immediately.
posted by fillsthepews at 12:51 PM on September 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Hallstatt housing development in China is a copy of a whole town in the Austrian alps. (The Austrian one was once a major Celtic site, see Hallstatt culture.)
posted by meijusa at 10:31 AM on September 22, 2020

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