When it comes to event settings that are really out of the ordinary, few ballrooms can compete with a haunted mansion, a subterranean cavern with a waterfall or a prairie palace topped with minarets and covered with corn-made murals.
Here are some of the oddest—and most enjoyable—venues around for groups to explore and discover.
Architecture Gone Wild
Mitchell Corn Palace
Drawing up to a half-million visitors a year to the South Dakota prairie town of Mitchell, the Mitchell Corn Palace is a fascinating amalgam of Russian-style onion domes, Moorish minarets and intricate murals composed of thousands of kernels of locally grown corn. Originally built in 1892 to showcase the fertility of the surrounding farmland and encourage settlement, the building was recently outfitted with a new lobby and its domes were equipped with LED lighting.
The Corn Palace is a versatile venue that hosts headliner concerts, basketball games, festivals, exhibitions and private events for up to 800 people, says former director Dan Sabers.
“We have great areas where groups can enjoy seated events with food and live entertainment—we recently had a large party that brought in dueling pianos,” he says.
Many visitors choose to experience the Corn Palace during the frequent daily tours that showcase the corn murals, which are created by local artists and changed each year to reflect a different theme.
“People are really amazed by the murals,” Sabers says. “When you stand back, you can’t tell they’re made of corn. They look like real pictures.”
Housed in the former International Shoe Company factory in downtown St. Louis, the City Museum is a veritable funhouse of architectural relics and salvaged objects that intrigue visitors at every turn.
On the ground floor, an aquarium of exotic sea creatures is set among floors and columns laid with mosaic tiles and ceilings hung with fiberglass icicles. The center core of the 10-floor museum is devoted to the Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts, spiral paths fashioned out of the original factory shafts that feature multi-story slides, creepy creatures and a musical background emitted from a 1924 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. Rooms throughout the museum showcase vintage opera posters, antique doorknobs, pinball machines and thousands of other items. On the rooftop are such diversions as a vintage Ferris wheel, grain silo and a yellow school bus extending halfway over the roof’s edge.