5 Real Places Plucked Straight Out of Fairy Tales

We recently brought you some examples of famous fictional locations that, much to everyone's surprise, you can actually visit for real.

So let's up the stakes a bit. The following are outright fantasy locations -- from fairy tales, comic books, movies and other fictional stories -- that are just plane tickets away. Like ...

#5. Superman's Fortress of Solitude (The Cave of the Crystals)

The Fantasy Location:

Superman's home away from home, constructed from the massive crystals that also made up his home planet of Krypton:

It's the only place on Earth isolated enough to hide the sound of his Superfarts.

The Real Thing:

National Geographic

That would be the Cueva de los Cristales in the Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico. And we dare say that it's actually more impressive than the comic book and movie locale.

It's true that there are lots of crystal caves in the world -- Steven Seagal started naming albums after them, after all. However, amid the countless ones that amount to little more than the Glitter Club Meeting Caves, there are a few that can grab you by the brain and gouge your eyes with furious wonder.

Cueva de los Cristales is every single one of them. On steroids. The sheer size of this thing is just stupid.

National Geographic

Reflections from Thailand
What strikes you first is the scale of these things. Then it strikes you again.

The quiet home to some of the largest selenite crystals in the world, Cuevo de los Cristales follows its "land of the flamboyant decorator giants" ethos all the way through -- not only does it make you seem like you are an inch tall, it also can kill you with the snap of its proverbial fingers.

The cave's breath is hot and moist: It is so close to an enormous underground magma chamber that air temperatures reach up to 136 degrees Fahrenheit. This, combined with constant humidity that hovers near 100 percent, renders much of the magnificent site unexplorable. As such, unless you are more resistant to the elements than the cockroach-sized vermin you are reduced to in this place, you should approach the site with caution.

On the plus side, though, the place does make for one hell of a spectacular tomb.

Fun Guerilla
It's No. 4 on Death magazine's "Top Places to Decompose."

Storm Chaser
"Alright, just move a little to the left. Now straighten up a little. Now die horribly in pain. OK, that's a wrap!"

#4. Alice's Looking-Glass Land (The Garden of Cosmic Speculation)

Stargate Rainbow

The Fantasy Location:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are two of the most beloved children's stories of all time, and by far the most perfect way anyone has ever managed to disguise math in screaming insanity. The world is full of twisting scenery following nonsense logic.

The Victorian Web

For more nonsense logic, huff some paint and watch a Ralph Bakshi movie.

Many rides and even whole amusement parks have tried to capture the peculiar feeling of Alice's adventures, but their otherworldly atmosphere is extremely hard to nail down, since the point is that it defies reality. It turns out it just takes some work, since Scotland has managed to recreate the Looking-Glass Land. The planning stage of their version must have involved a hell of a lot of acid.

The Real Thing:

The Guardian

Seconds after this picture was taken, that man was sucked into a wormhole.

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, by landscape architect Charles Jencks, offers a brief glimpse of what the world would look like if Mother Nature suddenly just stopped giving a shit. It's not just a lot of random acid trip landscaping; drawing inspiration from science and mathematics, every little feature in the area has been designed to incorporate mathematical shapes derived from, among other things, fractals and the physics of black holes.

Lost at E Minor
Believe us, you don't want to see the fish.

Echo Soundings
The source of endless misery for the world's unluckiest mailman.

The result does a fairly good job of capturing the essence of Carroll's worrisome landscapes while simultaneously managing to be one of the few places in the world that requires a higher education just to be properly confused by it.

And rest assured, you will be confused. Behold:

University of Wisconsin Whitewater
Snail mound.

University of Wisconsin Whitewater
The giant four-nostril nose.

University of Wisconsin Whitewater
The ... DNA ladder?

Paul D Macrae
Us, minutes after entering the garden.

In all honesty, though, the garden does look like a pretty good place for a tea party.

#3. A Real Ice Palace (The St. Paul Winter Carnival)

Winter Carnival Fan Club

The Fantasy Location:

Ice palaces litter the popular media, from various video games to that one James Bond movie with the invisible car to the residence of the White Witch of Narnia.

The AC is surprisingly shitty.

In reality, however, such structures are more or less impossible to build. The logistics of the process would be insane, and unless you live in a South Pole level climate you'd soon wake up to find that the leak in your roof is the roof.

The Real Thing:

St. Paul Almanac
If this were held in the Southwest, that entire thing would be made of crystal meth.

Wikipedia Commons
Try not to focus on the yellow spots.

Or, you could go to St. Paul, Minnesota, a city that builds a new ice palace every damned year.

While Minnesota serves an important role as the chamber pot that prevents Canada from spilling all over the U.S., you might think the state traditionally features fairly little to be impressed by. You'd be wrong. Every now and then, the proud people of St. Paul roll up their sleeves and produce the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, complete with a palace made of huge blocks of ice. Here are some awesome 360-degree panoramas of the project by photographer Ed Fink:

Big Eye in the Sky

The festival was started as a way of getting back at a reporter who described the city as "another Siberia, unfit for human habitation" in 1885. Therefore, it has its roots firmly set in the healthy, time-honored American tradition of right back at you, you bastard.

Wikipedia Commons
"This isn't a frozen hellscape. See? We have ice castles!"

Over the years, the town has built an elaborate mythology around the festival, complete with enough heroes, villains and magical happenstances to make most fantasy novels -- and some religions -- pale in comparison. The whole thing revolves around two elemental regents and their houses called the Royal Family (of ice) and the Vulcan Krewe (of fire). According to legend, the festival exists to appease them and thus enable the transition to summer.

Goodnight Gram
There were also some ice peasants, because of course.

And where there are kings, there must be castles. That is why, each and every year, the townspeople painstakingly construct an elaborate palace for their royalty to cavort in. The beautifully lit buildings are expertly put together from ice blocks from nearby lakes. When the palace is finished, it plays the central stage to the numerous ice-themed happenings throughout the festival. Oh, and they vary the design most every year, because it would just be too easy otherwise.

This thing is held together by the frozen corpses of ice serfs.

The festival has continued without interruption since 1946 and continues to house some of the most spectacular works of ice art and architecture the Canadian jet stream has to offer. And after it is over, the palace is dismantled, as if it had never been there. Until it's time to do it all over again.

Minnesota Historical Society
We're not sure if the guy in the middle is thrown in the air by the crowd or catapulted from the tower by the Winter King.

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