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What are the Most Unusual North American Reviews on WeekendNotes?

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Published October 31st 2013
The roads less travelled

It's a big, wide world and every day, WeekendNotes reviewers are out there, tirelessly test driving all the fun and exciting things to do and reporting back to you, the reader. It's a public service, really. You're welcome.

A few months ago I published a list of the most unusual attractions in Australia and I had so much fun investigating that I decided to broaden my search parameters. Follow me across the Pacific Ocean as we check out the most unusual WeekendNotes reviews from North America.

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne
Image by NASA via Wikipedia

Ah-Lang Korean Restaurant, Hawaii

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Ah Lang Angry Korean Lady Restaurant
Would you like a side of degredation with your bulgogi? (Image by Nate Steiner via Wikipedia)

Our figurative imagination-vehicle (mine is a spaceship) will make its first stop in Hawaii, for Korean at Ah-Lang Restaurant. What's so unusual about a Korean restaurant? Perhaps it will make sense if I refer to it by its more colloquial title, the Angry Korean Lady Restaurant.

You know the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld? (Yeah you do. Everyone knows the Soup Nazi). Similar concept. The restaurant is famous for its brusque (some might say rude) proprietor, the titular Angry Korean Lady. Dining at the Angry Korean Lady restaurant comes with a list of stipulations, which include:

BYOB! Bring me some or you there is a bottle fee. No Coors Light, it gives me a headache. No Yellowtail, it gives me a stomache.

If you ask for extra plate/fork/knife/etc., you must wash all your own dishes before you leave.

Any questions? Don't ask AKL, ask other customers.

I kind of love her.

The Angry Korean Lady Restaurant isn't for everyone; if you're not into being ordered around by the person you're ostensibly paying to order around, you should probably go somewhere else, princess. But in today's internet driven society, where most restaurants strive to provide exemplary customer service for fear of a bad online review, the idea of a restaurant where the customer is always in the wrong is intriguing enough to make this list.

Oh, and reviewer Pauline says the food was great.

Gas Works Park, Seattle

Next stop, Seattle, for a tour of a park that Julian Groneberg has dubbed 'North America's strangest'.

Close your eyes (but not just yet finish the sentence first) and picture a typical park. What do you see? Open green fields, a children's playground, maybe a barbeque or two? How about a honking great big abandoned factory?

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Gas Works Park
Image by Joe Mabel via Wikipedia

Gas Works Park is the site of the former Gas Works, which was constructed in 1906 to manufacture gas from coal, and shut down in the mid fifties. Upon acquiring the site in 1962, city officials (probably) said, "Well we can't do much with that big old building in the way. Hey, let's turn it into a park!"

And so they did, much to the delight of steam punks everywhere. The juxtaposition of rusting copper pipes and perfectly manicured lawns is quite striking, and possibly some kind of commentary on man's relationship with nature (or it's just a quirky-cool park that makes no statement whatsoever. That's not for me to decide).

Apparently adhering to a 'waste not want not' credo, the exhauster-compressor building has been converted to a children's play barn (because nothing says 'fresh air and exercise' like brightly coloured machinery) and the boiler house is now a picnic shelter with fire grills and tables. A man-made hill and sundial complete the Man vs Nature theme.

Heath Ledger fans (or Julia Stiles fans, or fans of contemporary Shakespearean remakes) might recognise the Gas Works from 10 Things I Hate About You it's where Kat (Stiles) and Patrick (Ledger) go for their paintball first date.

Neon Museum and Pinball Hall of Fame, Las Vegas

"But I wanna see some touristy stuff!" I can hear you cry. Hey, who's driving this imaginary spaceship? That's right. Also, our next stop is the bright lights of Las Vegas, baby!

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Las Vegas

More specifically, we're going to see where the bright lights go to die.

You see, the neon signs of Las Vegas are so iconic that they are venerated even in death. The Neon Museum is a non-profit organisation that collects and preserves the signs of Las Vegas for 'educational, historic and cultural enrichment'. More than 150 are kept in the Neon Museum Boneyard, which visitors can access through a guided tour.

"Well that's very interesting," you might be thinking at this point, "but you said we were going to see the lights, and there aren't any lights at a signage graveyard."

You have a point my friend. So how about we move on to a place with lots of flashing lights... and music... and ping ping ping pew pew pew!

Remember when you were a kid and you got the high score on The Simpsons pinball machine at Timezone? And you bragged to your cousin that you have been inducted into the Pinball Hall of Fame and he said that wasn't a real thing? Well now you can make your cousin eat his (or her) words, because the Pinball Hall of Fame is a real thing and it's right here in Vegas!

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Pinball Hall of Fame
Image by Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikipedia

To quote directly from the website, the Pinball Hall of Fame is 'an attempt by the members of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world's largest pinball collection, open to the public.' Forget the flashy interior of the games arcades you know this is a bare bones, 10 000 square foot warehouse filled with rows and rows of pinball machines.

Here's a fun pinball fact. Between the 1940's and the 1970's, pinball machines were illegal in New York as they were considered a form of gambling; Mayor La Guardia claimed that they 'robbed the pockets of school children in the form of nickels and dimes given them as lunch money'. But if you were planning to use the Pinball Hall of Fame as your children's gateway to the slot machines of Vegas, you're out of luck there are no prizes (or 'kiddie casinos') here. Also, all revenues go to charity. So don't feel bad about wasting a day here.

Thanks to Jan Easton for the hot tips. Why don't you go show her some love? Leave a comment or two - without comments, we internet writers whither and die.

The Cave of the Winds, Colorado

Righto, I think you've spent enough time inside a dark space enjoying fun activities. You're going to ruin your eyes, you know that? It's time we head outdoors... to another dark space... that also has fun activities.

The Cave of the Winds might sound like a Kenneth Grahame title, but it's not. It's actually a '500 million year old underground rock formation, filled with hidden treasures in zero-degree chill'. You could say it's pretty cool. You could, but you wouldn't be entirely correct because, as Katie Thompson explains, 'you will also find yourself working up a sweat climbing its multitude of naturally-formed stairs'.

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Cave of the Winds
Image by Chris Lott via Wikipedia

There are two different guided tours through the caverns. Before choosing, ask yourself, are you feeling mild or wild? If it's the former, you'll enjoy the family friendly Discovery Tour, which will take you through colourfully named landmarks such as the Bridal Chamber, Fat Man's Misery, and the Giant's Bleeding Heart. But if you're a real wild child, just outta school, real real cool, you'll have to join the Lantern Tour, which traverses passages so deep and rugged that you will need a handheld lantern. Will you encounter troglofaunal humanoids that have developed a taste for human flesh? Probably not. Does that sound less frightening than the Spider's Den cavern? Yes, absolutely.

Cave of the Winds is also home to ManBearPig; the 2006 South Park episode of the same name was set here.

If that's not enough adventure, for an extra twenty bucks you can take a 1200 foot round trip flight across the canyons on the Bat-a-Pult, or navigate an obstacle course 600 feet in the air with the Wind Walker Challenge Course.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

Now we're going to play a game called Fact or Fiction? I'll describe something and you tell me if it's from real life or a work of fiction.

The year is 1962, and government officials in a small American Everytown decide to clear a landfill located in an abandoned pit mine by setting in on fire (in violation of state law). Things go horribly wrong when the fire enters an unsealed opening and ignites the underground coal mines.

Star wipe; Twenty Years Later.

Little Todd Domboski is playing in the backyard with his cousin when a sinkhole opens beneath his feet. A suspenseful rescue scene ensues and (cue the music) his cousin pulls him to safety. When the smoke billowing from the sinkhole is investigated, lethal amounts of carbon monoxide are discovered. The residents of this town don't know what they've done to anger the dark lords of the underworld, and they're not going to stick around to find out. A mass exodus ensures.

Today the region is a virtual ghost town a spooky, carbon monoxide chocked industrial wasteland.

Real or video game? Whatever your answer, you're wrong because it was a trick question. It's both! The town I've just described is Centralia, Pennsylvania, which was the inspiration for Silent Hill, the American town in the video game of the same name. Anthony Gabb explores the similarities here.

According to the 2010 census Centralia still has 10 residents, which means that it can't be a total death trap, right? That said, the air is poison and the underground fires make the ground unstable, so it's probably not the best choice for your company's team building weekend.

And then there's this:

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Centralia Silent Hill
This is where I run in the opposite direction. (Image by Craven570 via Wikipedia)

No trick question this time - that is an actual photo from actual real life Centralia, and this is the point in the movie where the stupid teenagers ignore the warning and disappear into the night.

Maybe we'll just admire from afar.

Saskatoon, Canada

Hope you brought your passports, because we're going to cross the border into Canada, eh?

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Canada
Thanks for the syrup guys! (Image by Danielle Scott via Wikipedia)

Saskatoon. A perfectly ordinary city in the agricultural province of Saskatchewan. The 2011 Canadian census put the population at around 260 000, a figure that would have been slightly higher if they'd included all the ghosts stinking up the place.

According to Lisa Gulak, Saskatoon has at least four haunted sites. We'll begin with the cemeteries, which are more like ghost nightclubs you can't take two steps without tripping over one. The early settlers hang out at Nutana Pioneer Cemetery, while Woodlawn Cemetery is said to be home to a malevolent presence with a long, dark ponytail and glowing eyes (perhaps he's upset because ponytails on men haven't been cool since for several decades).

You'd expect a cemetery to be haunted, but Saskatoon also has its own haunted house. The Marr Residence, an early colonial building that was used as a hospital to treat soldiers during the North West Rebellion, is said to be haunted by a man who sits in the basement sulking. Worst houseguest ever.

And then there's the Bessborough Hotel, which looks like something from a Stephen King movie so naturally it has a history of violence and ghostly activity:

Most Unusual Reviews North America Reviews Carly Ogborne Saskatoon Canada Bessborough Hotel
Image by Drm310 via Wikipedia

A large crack in the marble foyer is said to have been caused when an employee was thrown to his death, while a man in a grey suit and fedora may have checked out, but he can never leave.

Have you seen one I've missed? Share your favourite quirky North American reviews in our comments section.
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