The House on the Rock Wisconsin Attraction
Location: Spring Green, Wisconsin (5754 State Road 23)
When to visit: Hours change by season; generally open 9-5 daily (closed Tues & Wed from Oct-May)
Cost: $30 adults, $16 kids
Time needed: At least 2 hours
It took me a long time to figure out exactly what the House on the Rock attraction was. I had heard there was this weird place in Spring Green, Wisconsin with all these weird items in display in a bunch of different weird rooms, but details beyond that were sketchy.
It was only after checking out the House on the Rock brochure that things started to become clear. The brochure calls the house “An experience that will entertain, astound, and amaze!”
The brochure also explains, “Alex Jordan’s retreat built atop a chimney of rock opened to the public in 1960. The retreat was only the beginning.” It goes on to discuss the “eclectic, exotic, and whimsical exhibits” on display inside.
Ok, got it. Now things were finally starting to make sense!
So there are weird collections here. Including a whole bunch of toys. Toys and carousels and giant sculpted sea creatures and dolls and Rube Goldberg machines.
There’s such a wide variety of rooms at House on the Rock, focusing on everything from music to animals to technology to dolls. You’ll experience sensory overload as the music and sights of each room overwhelm you.
Are you planning a visit soon to see these whimsical displays? Keep reading to see House on the Rock pictures and to learn about the attraction’s cost, admission hours, and specific exhibits.
We’ll also discuss some of the frequently-asked questions about the House, including whether it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, whether the carousel is really the world’s largest, why Alex Jordan Jr. chose this particular site to build on, and what the House has to do with the book and tv show American Gods.
Admission Cost, Hours, Ticket Options
As of the 2021 season, daily hours run from 9 to 5. Additional evening hours are available on certain dates. The place is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from mid-September to mid-May. Give yourself at least 2 hours (maybe 3) to see the whole thing.
House on the Rock Current Hours:
Open at 9 am. Last admittance at 3 pm. Grounds close at 5 pm.
May 21 – Sept 14: Open Daily
Sept 15 – May 2021: Open Thursday through Monday, closed Tuesday & Wednesday
Admission price for the full tour in Spring Green is $30 for adults, $27 for seniors, and $16 for kids over age 3. Some in our group concluded that the mildly entertaining sights within the House didn’t necessarily justify the hefty price tag.
But you may feel differently, so take a look at our collection of photos from the House and decide whether you may be interested in visiting. Even if the place is slightly overpriced, it still qualifies as one of the coolest things to do in Wisconsin.
House on the Rock Ticket Options:
Option #1: The Ultimate Experience
Admission to all three main sections of the grounds
Adults $30, seniors & military $27, kids $16, toddlers age 3 and under free
Option #2: The Highlight Experience
Admission to sections 1 & 2 only
Adults $25, seniors & military $25, kids $14, toddlers age 3 and under free
Option #3: The Original House Experience
Admission to section 1 only
Adults $15, seniors & military $15, kids $9, toddlers age 3 and under free
You can see that there’s not much difference in cost between options 1 and 2, so I recommend going with the Ultimate Experience in order to see everything. Sales tax of 5.5% is already included in these prices. All experiences are self-guided tours.
The $15 ticket for the Original House Experience covers Section 1 only. That covers the main house, Gate House, Infinity Room, and a few others. But it doesn’t include the carousel and the other kooky and weird exhibits. Why come to the House on the Rock attraction if you’re not going to get the full experience?
Various Rooms at the House on the Rock
Here’s the rundown of the various rooms currently on display at the House on the Rock attraction.
Section 1: Sculpture Garden, Alex Jordan Jr. Center, Asian Garden, Original House, Gate House, Infinity Room
Section 2: Tribute to Nostalgia, Spirit of Aviation, Music of Yesterday, Streets of Yesterday, Mill House, Heritage of the Sea, World’s Largest Indoor Carousel
Section 3: Organ Room, Inspiration Point, Japanese Gardens, Doll House Room, Circus Room, Galleries, Doll Carousel Room
The musical instrument rooms might be my favorite part of the House on the Rock. There are a bunch of instruments that play on their own, thanks to machines.
The self-playing instruments make great, old-timey music. This one is a banjo that plays when the little metal bars on the side pluck its strings:
There are a few giant rooms with mechanical orchestras that operate on their own. These human statues are life-size. It is literally a full-sized orchestra playing music just for you as you walk past.
One huge room is dedicated to stories of the sea. It features a 200-foot long sea creature sculpture. The jaws are scary. I wouldn’t want to ever run into something like this in the ocean!
It’s almost too big to photograph, but for scale you can see people on the ground floor walking beneath the creature:
The Streets of Yesterday room was built in 1971 and modeled after an exhibit from the Milwaukee Public Museum. The Music of Yesterday room opened three years later.
The most recent silly room added to the House was Heritage of the Sea, which debuted in 1990. In 2008, two additional buildings were opened: The Alex Jordan Jr. Center, and the Welcome Center.
The wide variety of rooms is what makes visiting this place so interesting.
The House on the Rock Infinity Room
This is one of the most popular sections of the House, called the Infinity Room. It’s a long hallway that narrows to a point. It juts out 218 feet from the main house.
There are no supports holding up the Infinity Room. It’s just suspended above the ground. From the outside, the room is visible from quite a distance away.
There are more than 3000 windows in here! Don’t try to count them all.
In the Jordan Center, there’s a poem attributed to designer Alex Jordan that explains the purpose of the Infinity Room:
One long thin room will hang in space
And at the end there’ll be a place
For a kindly saint as a figurehead
To turn away the thin heights dread
And to keep all fearful things away
The Infinity Room has a floor window where guests can look down and see the forest valley beneath them:
You definitely haven’t seen any structure like this before! The Infinity Room is super popular and everyone is trying to take photos here. So be patient and spend several minutes here if you’re trying to get Instagram-worthy shots of your own.
The World’s Largest Carousel: Can You Ride It?
This is supposedly the world’s largest carousel. Can you ride the carousel at the House of the Rock attraction? Nope, sorry. Visitors can’t ride it, so the amount of enjoyment it provides is limited.
You can stand and marvel at the carousel and listen to the music. It was cool, but after a short time standing here, I was ready to move on to the next room.
Characters on the show American Gods, which filmed here, did actually get to ride the carousel. A plot line had four characters sneaking aboard the carousel and mounting different animals as it continued to spin.
Fun fact: There are supposedly zero horses among the 269 animals on the carousel. Yet, if you look at photos, you can see what appear to be several horses. It turns out, those are unicorns, or other animals like cattle that were placed in horse-like poses.
Here’s a sign with some facts about the carousel. It’s 40 years old now, having premiered in 1981. And there are more than 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers on this thing!
The giant carousel is part of Section 2, meaning that it’s part of all the tours except for the Original House Experience.
No, Frank Lloyd Wright Did Not Design House on the Rock
Many people wonder whether famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright might have designed the House on the Rock or the Infinity Room. That confusion is understandable, given that there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center right in Spring Green, only six miles from House on the Rock!
Also, the House on the Rock gardens between rooms are nicely maintained, and give off a bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright vibe. It’s not a stretch to think that the man who designed Fallingwater might also have created these grounds:
But no, Frank Lloyd Wright did not design House on the Rock, or the Infinity Room, or any part of this property at all. (He did, however, design this cool-looking visitor center in the Rocky Mountains!)
The reason Wright has a Visitor Center in Wisconsin is because he had an estate there known as Taliesin. He designed the home there after leaving Oak Park, Illinois. From Taliesin, Wright designed some of his most famous works, including Fallingwater.
So we recommend stopping by the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center while you’re in Wisconsin. Just don’t confuse his work with the House on the Rock attraction!
About Designer Alex Jordan
Let’s talk about Alex Jordan, the real designer of House on the Rock. Alex Jordan Jr. lived from 1914 to 1989 and was a private and reclusive figure. Surprisingly little is known about him personally, despite the existence of three biographies that came out after his passing.
Alex Jordan lived his whole life in and around Madison, attending St. Norbert’s High School in DePere, Wisconsin. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin as a pre-med major, but dropped out after a year because he was restless. (Just try to imagine that guy who created this kooky attraction as a doctor!)
Jordan worked odd jobs like driving a taxi. He also worked for his father in construction – skills that would come to use years later as he put together House on the Rock.
The House on the Rock began as a picnic spot and art studio in 1944. Jordan would take a tent there and camp out on what was called Deer Shelter Rock. Eventually, he had the idea to build a permanent structure there overlooking the Wyoming Valley.
We know that Jordan was an eccentric figure who modeled much of the grounds on the “fusion with nature” style that Frank Lloyd Wright popularized, hence its similarities.
Alex Jordan had a vision to build a house that would be as awe-inspiring inside as the great outdoor scenic views from the house’s location on the rock. So over the years, he began accumulating the collections of random stuff that now thrill visitors.
He started by renting the land around the rock, eventually buying the 240-acre property with help from his parents. Alex Jordan Jr. built most of the original house himself, using materials he personally carried up the 60-foot rock hill.
Jordan finally opened the House to visitors in 1960, charging 50 cents admission. Over time, the Wisconsin attraction has grown to receive more than a million visitors annually.
Fun fact: Alex Jordan spent only four nights of his life living in the House. He maintained a separate residence in Madison, living in a modest apartment next door to his lifelong companion, Jennie Olson.
There’s a legend that Jordan built House on the Rock to spite Frank Lloyd Wright after Wright refused to work with him, but that has been debunked by the folks who run the House. They point out that Alex was much younger than Frank, and that the two never even met.
Alex Jordan isn’t mentioned much on the House’s website or its brochures. The folks running the place now seem content to let the House speak for itself, which is logical since Jordan never personally wanted to be the focus of attention.
Those who are interested in the man should spend extra time in the Alex Jordan Jr. Center, one of the section 1 rooms that all visitors to the site can access.
More House on the Rock Pictures
Policies: Are Photography, Pets, and Outside Food Permitted?
The short answers are yes, no, and no. Personal photography is very much allowed at the House on the Rock. That’s how I got all these cool shots! Tripods and drones are not permitted, however. Commercial photography requires written permission.
Pets are not permitted, so make sure to leave the doggie at home! Only service animals are allowed. The attraction does not consider comfort or emotional support animals to be service animals, so they are not allowed inside the houses.
Outside food is not allowed. Guests are encouraged to sit and eat at the picnic tables in the parking lot if they bring their own food. There are restaurants on the grounds that serve food until 3:30 pm.
The facility is non-smoking, except for a few designated outdoor areas.
Things To Know About Driving to the House on the Rock Wisconsin
The attraction cautions visitors that its location in Spring Green is rural, and therefore cell phone service may be limited in the area. Make sure you prepare for this by downloading your GPS maps with driving directions in advance.
And don’t expect to be able to use your phone inside the house, because there’s a good chance you won’t have service!
Is the House on the Rock Wisconsin attraction a place you should travel great distances to visit? No, probably not. But definitely stop by if you’re in the area on a road trip.
If you’re in Madison (40 miles away), the Wisconsin Dells (60 miles away), Milwaukee (125 miles away), or Kenosha (160 miles away), it might be worth taking a half-day jaunt over to check it out. Spring Green is close enough to take a day trip from Chicago as well.
There’s a sizable parking lot, so you’ll be able to find easy parking unless you come on a very busy day.
Seasonal and Holiday Experiences at House on the Rock
In addition to its regular admissions, the House on the Rock offers special “After Hours” nighttime experiences from time to time. And they have lots of special presentations during holidays!
At Halloween, there’s a “Dark Side” theme for several days. They turn down the lights and allow guests to visit from 6:30 to 9:30 pm, giving them a darker view of the attraction. The House promises “Your nightmares will become real.”
The Dark Side costs $20 for adults and $12 for kids. The House notes that many of the regular exhibits are not visible during this program, which accounts for the reduced cost. There are strobe lights, fog, and other special effects to enhance the Halloween vibe.
Meanwhile, at Christmas, sections 1 & 2 are decked out in holiday decorations. Section 3 is closed, however. The special Christmas program runs from November 19 through January 3. During that time, the House is still closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and all holidays.
The House boasts that during its Christmas show, more than 6000 collectible Santas will be on display, so brace yourself!
Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” House on the Rock Connection
Interestingly, the House on the Rock has some connections to popular culture. Author Neil Gaiman included the House in the plot of his cult favorite book American Gods, a fantasy novel from 2001.
Gaiman had lived part-time in Menomonie, Wisconsin. He wrote American Gods while staying in a cabin about 20 minutes from there. Gaiman said he actually had to make the House on the Rock less bizarre in his book in order to make it realistic.
“A lot of people think I made it up, but I didn’t,” Gaiman said. “But what I did wind up doing in the book was tone it down a bit so people would believe it.”
“I started leaving things out,” Gaiman continued. “Like the hundred-person artificial orchestra and the giant carousel that’s 50-foot-high on which ancient Victorian dolls just go round and round staring balefully. I think I did mention the four horsemen of the apocalypse hanging from the ceiling in that room. But it’s kind of impossible to describe and it does have the biggest carousel in the world. And you are not allowed to ride on the biggest carousel in the world… except they let me.”
“No photos can prepare you for the utter bugf–k weirdness of the House on the Rock,” Gaiman told EW. “So filming there was astonishing. There’s something about actually looking at a bunch of actors who are allowed to ride the biggest carousel in the world that nobody is allowed to ride, but there they are, on it.”
American Gods was turned into a tv series in 2017, and much of season 2 was filmed at the House on the Rock in May 2018. Gaiman and the cast showed up to the Wisconsin attraction to shoot numerous scenes for the show.
Actor Ricky Whittle, who plays Shadow Moon, told RadioTimes, “The carousel is a focal point of the story, and I tried not to see it until we actually were going for a take. And so when you see Shadow’s look of awe, that is literally my look of awe – because it was so huge. To run that carousel, I have no idea what their electricity bill is, but it is up there.”
Season 3 of American Gods is expected to air in 2021.
The 10,000 Maniacs Video Filmed at the House on the Rock
The band 10,000 Maniacs filmed their 1997 music video for “More Than This” at the House on the Rock Wisconsin. Scenes from the video show the self-playing piano and, of course, the big carousel.
“More Than This” was the group’s final Top 40 hit. It was their biggest hit with singer Mary Ramsey, who replaced the group’s iconic singer Natalie Merchant.
The House on the Rock Resort & Inn
What began as a basic house has now turned into a full complex. The House on the Rock Inn is a popular place for families to stay while visiting the House.
The Inn has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, an indoor whirlpool, and a 45-foot submarine on the kids’ play pool. Rooms range from double queen rooms to executive whirlpool suites.
Need something fancier? Try the House on the Rock Resort, which offers 80 two-room suites. The Resort has a 27-hole golf course, a spa, and the 400 Springs restaurant.
More Places to Stay Near House on the Rock
If staying at the House on the Rock Resort or Inn are not in your budget, you can always find more affordable lodging nearby. In fact the handful of hotels in the Spring Green, Wisconsin area all offer rooms from around $50-70 per night. Very cheap for tourists who are passing through!
Consider these hotels within short driving distance of House on the Rock Wisconsin:
Spring Valley Inn. This is one of the nicer hotels in the immediate Spring Green area. You’ll get a comfortable room with free wifi, parking, and breakfast. There’s also a fitness center, sauna, and hot tub.
Don Q Inn. Here’s a hotel that’s almost as quirky as House on the Rock! Located in Dodgeville, the Don Q Inn is a 2-star facility that offers a continental breakfast, fitness center, and free wifi. They have themed rooms where you can spend the night in a cave or a hot air balloon. And on the hotel lawn, for no apparent reason, they have a full-size airplane that dates back to the 1950s.
Hyatt Place Madison/Verona. Folks who’d prefer to stay near the bigger city of Madison should consider Hyatt Place Verona. It’s 30 minutes from Madison’s Dane County Airport and 50 minutes from House on the Rock Wisconsin. You’ll get the usual Hyatt service here, with luggage storage, shuttle service, free wifi, and breakfast.
Would you visit the House on the Rock in Wisconsin?