Fun facts: McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast food chain, with more than 35,000 restaurants spread across 119 countries. Sixty-eight million hungry customers pass through its doors each day.
That’s a lot of restaurants (and Big Macs) since the original McDonald’s was opened as a drive-through barbecue restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif., by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald. They turned that family business into a hamburger stand that mass-produced burgers and fries, until the company was bought by businessman Ray Kroc in 1955. Kroc is responsible for the first set of huge golden arches out in front of the first McDonald’s as we all know and love it, in Des Moines, Iowa.
While those golden arches can be found in almost every major city across the world, there are some restaurant locations that are, well, McCrazy. From a McDonald’s owned by the queen of England (really) to one in a plane, here are the coolest McDonald’s on earth.
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Surrounded by barbed wire and just a short distance from the infamous Gitmo detention camp (home to some of the world’s most infamous terror suspects), the Guantanamo Bay McDonald’s is the only one in Cuba. It is accessible only by U.S. military personnel who live on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. However, with the recent changes in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., it would be no surprise to see McDonald’s popping up all over the island very soon.
Negev Desert, Israel
When driving through the Israeli desert, you might assume that the sight of golden arches would be a mirage. Yet 100 miles into the Nagev Desert sits one of the remotest McDonald’s restaurants on earth. The 100-percent-kosher location is situated alongside the main road from Tel Aviv to Eilat—the thoroughfare city dwellers use when heading south to the resorts on the banks of the Red Sea. The perfect location to grab a McShawarma (Yes, that’s a real thing!), consisting of turkey meat, pickles, and tahini. Yum!
Windsor Castle, England
In 2008, the Crown Estate (the official title for the queen of England’s property portfolio) purchased a retail park on the periphery of Windsor Castle—Her Majesty’s secondary residence, located in the southern county of Berkshire. Part of the deal included the deed to a McDonald’s restaurant, which is still open today, meaning that, technically, the queen of England owns a McDonald’s drive-through. The restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the royal residence, but no word on whether Elizabeth II is a fan of the Big Mac.
The picturesque village of Yangshuo, in the Guangxi Province, has become one of China’s most popular tourist locales, largely due to its striking scenery—dramatic mountain-scapes enveloped in lush greenery are interwoven with lazy, meandering rivers dotted with traditional pagodas and historic temples. Yet amid all this exotic beauty sits the unusually jarring sight of the red, white, and yellow McDonald’s frontage. And so no tourist ever has to miss an opportunity to eat a Big Mac, the restaurant is open 24 hours a day.
Taupo, New Zealand
Forget the drive-through: How about a fly-through? For more than 25 years, the McDonald’s in Taupo, New Zealand, had a decommissioned DC-3 plane parked beside it. But last year the grounded passenger plane, originally built in 1943, got a special refurbishment, including the installation of seating for 20 and a new red-and-silver paint job. Hungry visitors can now enjoy their fries onboard before taking a tour of the cockpit, which is still in its original state.
Roswell, New Mexico
In 1947, an alleged UFO crash-landed in the desert on the outskirts of Roswell, N.M., and almost 60 years later the remote town is the world’s number one destination for hunters of the extraterrestrial. Taking advantage of the millions of ET-seeking visitors who descend on the town each year, McDonald’s has fashioned its local restaurant in the form of a spaceship. So you can chow down on your McNuggets while feeling one step nearer to a close encounter.
Due to the nature of the business, many McDonald’s restaurant locations are built from scratch. But not in Maine. The fast food company bought this 19th-century sea captain’s home in Freeport with the idea of tearing it down. But a local group called the Mac Attacks protested the plans and persuaded the company to leave the Colonial-style house intact. The only signs that it is even a McDonald’s are the subtle golden arches visible in one of the upstairs windows and a small sign on the lawn. This beautiful venue also has another distinguishing quality: It is one of the only McDonald’s outlets to sell lobster rolls…of course.
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Built in 1897, this beautiful Romanesque structure was once a bank where locals deposited cash and received loans. But in more recent times, the impressive building became home to the town’s McDonald’s franchise. Sadly, the dramatic columned frontage is not in use, despite the large McDonald’s sign above the door, and visitors are required to use a side entrance.
The city of Barstow in Southern California is almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and has long been a major hub for rail traffic along the Union Pacific Railroad. Barstow Station is a collection of disused railcars that have been turned into fast food restaurants. Originally, beginning in 1975, McDonald’s took up all the cars, making it the chain’s largest branch at the time, but it has since been downsized to just one car. Diners can take their seats to eat in the refurbished wagons while working freight trains trundle past on the line behind the restaurant.
Planes, trains, automobiles, and…skis? That’s right, aside from bringing the world the wonders of Ikea, Sweden has the world’s first-ever McDonald’s “ski-through”, where snow sports enthusiasts can indulge in some apres ski burgers and shakes. Known affectionately as McSki, the Lindvallen McDonald’s has been open since 1996 and is still the only one of its kind.
This article was originally published by Yahoo! Travel under the headline Fries With What? The 10 Craziest McDonald’s in the World. It is reprinted here with permission.
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(Photo: Jaafar Alnasser via flickr/CC Attribution)