• Seattle, Washington: The Archie McPhee & Company

      It isn't every day that one can recommend a retail establishment as a must-see attraction, but then Archie McPhee and Co. isn't exactly your everyday store. Since 1983, this quirky emporium of toys, candies, party supplies and wide-ranging weirdness has reminded Seattle residents and visitors about the offbeat sense of humor that characterizes the city's culture.

      What began as a part-time home-based operation selling rubber chickens and such in Los Angeles soon mushroomed into a full-fledged novelty business in Seattle that has gone far beyond the usual inventory of disguise glasses with noses (though those are still available). Having expanded and changed locations several times over the years, the store is now based in an appropriately kitschy yellow and red building in the Wallingford district.

      New items are constantly being added, so it's hard to say just what you'll find in stock when you go, but certain things have become perennial staples. You'll almost certainly be able to buy absinthe mints, backward clocks, a model of the brain, giant ears, and action figures including Charles Dickens, Jesus, and the controversial librarian with shushing action. The McPhee gang also seem to have a particular fixation on bacon, offering bacon-flavored toothpicks, bacon bandages, bacon gumballs, bacon belts and even bacon air freshener. And where else can you obtain used traffic lights and unused body bags under one roof?

      You can order merchandise online in case you just can't wait for a personal visit to score some underwear for your squirrel. But the real joy is just being able to walk down the aisles browsing and wondering what you'll stumble on next. Archie McPhee bills itself as being 'slightly less disappointing than other companies'. What a tremendous understatement.

      WHEN TO VISIT: The store is closed for some holidays, so check their web site.
      IF YOU GO: Parking is free, be sure to look at the web site there’s a lot of quirky humor in the 'Info and Help' section.

      ADDRESS: 1300 N 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103
      JURISDICTION: Archie McPhee & Co,
      INFORMATION VERIFIED AS OF: September, 2010