McDonald’s has been a staple in pop culture throughout most of our lifetimes. Other than perhaps Coca-Cola, no other company is more identified with American culture.
Throughout my travels, I’ve had the chance to visit some unique McDonald’s museums, as well as various international locations.
The Original McDonald’s Museum
The very first restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, California by Maurice and Richard McDonald. They ran the popular fast food joint with a clever way of preparing food quickly, called the Speedee Service System.
The brothers signed over the rights and ownership to Ray Kroc, in order to franchise and expand the restaurant. There is considerable debate about whether or not the brothers were treated fairly, and this was the basis of the 2016 film The Founder.
The original restaurant is long gone, but a building on that site is now home to an unofficial McDonald’s Museum. Ironically, it’s owned and operated by the Juan Pollo restaurant chain.
McDonald’s Number One
The McDonald’s corporation recognizes Ray Kroc’s first franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, just outside Chicago. The original restaurant was actually demolished in the 1980s, but the chain rebuilt a replica and turned it into a small museum.
Due to repeated flooding, McDonald’s decided to close the museum and demolish the replica. The site was fenced off but still standing when I visited in 2018. However Google Maps now shows the area has been cleared.
Across the street from the site is a typical modern McDonald’s. It has several displays honouring the site, so it might still be worth a visit if you are in the area.
The Oldest Operating McDonald’s
If you are looking for an authentic historical experience, the Oldest Operating McDonald’s can be found in Downey, California, in the Los Angeles area. This location was the third McDonald’s, and is still operating in the same fashion, with walk-up windows.
The architecture features the original building flanked by a golden arch at each end. The back of the building has been modified to have a drive-thru. It also features a classic McDonald’s sign by the road.
As the restaurant had no seating, a separate building was constructed at the side. It has a large covered seating area, washrooms, and a number of displays of the company’s history.
The Big Mac Museum
In 1967, the owner of a Unionville, PA franchise invented the Big Mac, which quickly became a flagship burger for the entire company. To honour this, in 2007 the owner, Michael Delligatti, opened a Big Mac Museum. Oddly, instead of doing this at the Unionville location, he chose one of his other locations, in North Huntington, PA.
The location is just your average McDonald’s, but there are some displays about the history of the Big Mac spread about the seating area. There is also a giant Big Mac in the play area.
Around The World
If you enjoy traveling like I do, you’ve probably visited McDonald’s for a quick bite. There aren’t many places in the world that don’t have a McDonald’s.
I always advocate for trying local foods and restaurants while traveling. It’s always good to try the local cuisine while helping support local businesses. That being said, sometimes you need a quick bite, or you might be craving a taste of home. You can order a hamburger, fries, and a coke and it will generally taste just like it does at home.
The other fun thing about visiting McDonald’s while traveling is that many locations featuring unique items, often catering to local tastes.
Here in Canada, our McDonald’s offer our national craving, Poutine. It is also here that the McFlurry was invented, and soon went worldwide.
When I visited McDonald’s in Egypt, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Chicken Big Mac on the menu. I generally prefer chicken over beef, so it was a great find!
One location in the US where McDonald’s allows their franchises to offer local dishes is Hawaii. One dish in particular is the local breakfast platter, which features scrambled eggs, fried spam, and rice.
When I visited McDonald’s in Hong Kong, the breakfast options were pretty similar to North America. However I was shocked to discover how small the orange juice is.
New York City, USA
Surfers Paradise, Australia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Barbados is one country where McDonald’s actually failed miserably. When I was there, I actually saw a former McDonald’s locations, which has been painted and turned into an used car sales office.