While most McDonald’s restaurant designs are as formulaic as the recipe for a Big Mac, the fast food giant has more than a dozen uniquely cool spots around the U.S. that add a side of ambiance to the chain’s meals.
We’ve already taken a look at the craziest, strangest, and most extravagant McDonald’s locations around the globe, and now we present a super-size U.S. edition of the most unique McDonald’s restaurants in America.
From a train to a UFO to a giant Happy Meal, we’re lovin’ that McDonald’s has some of the most impressive fast-food structures. But the restaurants weren’t always so flashy. Founded in 1948 by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, California, the first McDonald’s was a self-service drive-in restaurant serving 15-cent hamburgers, potato chips, and soft drinks.
Whether you’re enjoying cool ice cream from the world’s largest entertainment McDonald’s in Orlando, Florida, or opening a Happy Meal inside — what else? — a jumbo Happy Meal, we’re sure you’ll be lovin’ these Most Unique McDonald’s in America as much as we do.
Chicago’s River North neighborhood used to boast a two-story “Rock ‘n’ Roll” McDonald’s, but that has given way to a futuristic, single-story, 19,000-square-foot, eco-friendly McDonald’s at 600 North Clark Street. The new glass, timber, and steel structure opened this year and has apple trees atop the kitchen, a solar panel array to collect energy, and a “floating glass garden” of ferns that hovers over where customers place their orders.
This McDonald’s in lower Manhattan at 160 Broadway was once known for the baby grand piano it had in the mezzanine of the dining room. The baby grand piano has now been swapped for a DJ booth.
While nearly all 37,000 McDonald’s locations around the world feature the company’s signature golden arches, the “turquoise McDonald’s” as locals have dubbed it, features turquoise arches. The city felt that the famous “golden arches” would be an eyesore and would clash with the natural coloring of the area. McDonald’s offered to swap out the yellow with turquoise to blend in with the local color palette.
While its exterior may at first appear typical for the South, it’s the inside that makes this one of the coolest McDonald’s around. When it opened in 2005, this was the first ‘green’ McDonald’s (meaning it attained LEED certification), and it features large windows, which light 75 percent of the interior (reducing the need for electric lighting and heating), waterless urinals, and a cistern that harvests rainwater for irrigation. Outside, there is preferred parking for hybrid cars and bike racks.
A gorgeous Georgian mansion that dates back to 1795 houses one of the most beautiful McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. McDonald’s originally purchased the house with the intent of tearing it down and building a standard restaurant, but the citizens of New Hyde Park managed to wrangle landmark status for the residence (phwew!). This resulted in one of the most elegant restaurants in the McDonald's franchise, complete with a glassed-in veranda seating area and a grand staircase.
Roswell has had its fair share of strange UFO sightings since the first supposed alien crash landing in 1947, and this one might rank high on that list. Downtown Roswell’s “Unofficial Crash Site” McDonald’s location boasts a UFO-shaped exterior complete with fluorescent lights. The restaurant also features flying rockets with Ronald McDonalds in the playroom.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and for one McDonald’s, that is decidedly true. Driving down Montfort Drive, you’ll see the world’s biggest Happy Meal. The inside of the restaurant features Austrian crystal chandeliers, Ralph Lauren wallpaper, granite floors, mahogany booths, and a playroom. Fancy digs for burgers and fries!
Dubbed “the world’s largest entertainment McDonald’s,” this 18,716-square-foot McDonald’s, constructed in Orlando a couple years ago near the site of the previous largest McDonald’s, is a sight to behold. It stands 48 feet tall; has a massive 22-foot-tall play structure, and a 2,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art arcade; a 30-foot-tall Ronald McDonald; a singing animatronic Mac Tonight; and a unique menu with offerings including omelets, waffles, wraps, pizzas, and pastas (albeit ones that aren't as tasty as these).
While it’s not the first McDonald’s (the original location in San Bernardino, California, is no longer standing), it is the oldest one. Opened in 1953, the McDonald’s is a throwback to the 1950s, complete with the retired McDonald’s mascot “Speedee” sitting atop the restaurant’s sign. There is a small museum inside, and a sign on the counter compares prices from 1955 to today. For many years, this location was not franchised, so it didn’t have to adopt the aesthetics other franchise locations did; hence, the distinct old-school look and the fact customers can get deep-fried apple pies here (the rest of the McDonald’s chain bakes their apple pies). In another nostalgic nod to the past, employees here wear 1950s-style uniforms that include accessories like paper hats.
Earlier this year, McDonald’s demolished its museum in Des Plaines, Illinois, moved its headquarters from Oak Brook, Illinois, to Chicago’s Fulton Market district, and opened its new headquarters in a nine-story, 490,000-square-foot office that occupies an entire city block in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The brick warehouse-style building at 110 North Carpenter Street includes displays of Happy Meal toys, vintage memorabilia, and a tribute wall highlighting people who were instrumental to the company during its milestones. The building also hosts Hamburger University (the training center for the company’s employees), a Work Café on the sixth floor for McDonald’s employees only, and a one-of-a-kind McDonald’s on the ground floor that serves menu items from six countries and rotates the selections every two months. The McDonald’s, which is open to the public, also incorporates most of McDonald’s current “Experience of the Future” initiatives like self-order kiosks, table service, “enhanced hospitality,” mobile order and payment, and McDelivery with Uber Eats.
So black you could miss it on a dark night, the McDonald's at 262 Canal Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown is about as inconspicuous as it gets, yet it stands out due to its black, century-plus-old cast iron exterior.
This Greek Revival-style mansion from the 1850s is home to one of the fanciest McDonald’s restaurants ever. The space in a residential area was the former Gore House, owned by merchant William Gore, and it became the town’s only McDonald’s in 1984. The location also sells the McLobster, a lobster roll.
Pulling up to the McDonald’s in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, is akin to taking a walk down memory lane thanks to the kitschy touches, from the retro neon arches to the old-timey sign.
The two-story McDonald’s at 6201 Brecksville Road is housed in a colonial-style building replete with grand pillars on the outside and fancy chandeliers and a self-playing piano inside.
Located on iconic Route 66, the Barstow Station is home to a variety of fast-food restaurants, including a McDonald’s, which has seating inside refurbished train cars. The bathroom is in the caboose. A bonus for travelers who stop at this train station McDonald’s: The drive-thru is open 24/7. If your coolest McDonald’s bucket list needs more destinations, check out our list of the Craziest McDonald’s Restaurants Around the World.
More From The Daily Meal: