The Strangest Museum in Every State
From disturbing oddities to "why-does-this-deserve-an-entire-museum?" subjects, these are the types of out-of-the-box attractions that make America what it is.
Alabama: Spear Hunting Museum
Make your way to Summerdale, Alabama, and you can take a stop by the Spear Hunting Museum, founded by and dedicated to the late Gene Morris, the self-proclaimed “greatest living spear hunter in the world” in his day. Most walls are covered with taxidermied animals, animal heads, and horns from his expeditions.
Alaska: Hammer Museum
The Hammer Museum in Haines is apparently “the world’s first museum dedicated to preserving the history of the hammer”—and it probably didn’t have too much competition reaching that title. Items on display include hammers used for crushing ice on planes in the ’70s and ’80s (back in the days when you could get free peanuts) and a hammer designed for 1950s cowboys. Find out about other crazy world records that have been broken in each state.
Arizona: The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
This is no ordinary history museum. The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures tells stories—historic, magical, and everything in between—through teeny tiny figurines. Take a sneak peek inside a Japanese farmhouse, a 19th-century German grocery store, and Santa’s elves hard at work.
Arkansas: Maxwell Blade’s Odditorium & Curiosities Museum
What would you expect from illusionist Maxwell Blade except a collection of the weird and wonderful? Fair warning: Maxwell Blade’s Odditorium & Curiosities Museum isn’t for the easily creeped-out. The museum is an extension of the Hot Springs theater where he performs, and it’s filled with some of the strangest artifacts you never knew you’d want to know about. Stop by before a show (or on any day) to catch a glimpse of more than 300 items of intrigue, like an accidentally mummified cat, preserved reptiles, and a model ship that uses human hair for its rigging.
California: International Banana Museum
There’s just something a-peel-ing about the International Banana Museum. As its website says, it holds all the “banana related items you can possibly think of and some you’ve never thought of.” Just a taste of its memorabilia includes banana record players, banana staplers, and banana slippers; jade bananas, alabaster bananas, and wooden bananas. We’re going bananas just thinking about it all.
Colorado: Lee Maxwell Washing Machine Museum
Just in case you wanted more laundry in your life, the Lee Maxwell Washing Machine Museum is home to all the washers you wanted and many, many more. One thing is for sure: After seeing the 1903 hand-operated washer, you’ll come home thankful for your newfangled Energy Star washer and dryer.
Connecticut: The Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum
Delaware: Zwaanendael Museum
A museum celebrating the history of Dutch colonists in Delaware wouldn’t seem so strange if it weren’t for one notable item featured in the Zwaanendael Museum: the Fiji Merman. Most family heirlooms include jewelry and china, but for a century, one family kept their hands on a grotesque imaginary creature made of a fish and a shrunken monkey head, thought to have been created in China in the mid-1800s.
Florida: The Waste Pro Garbage Truck Museum
The Waste Pro Garbage Truck Museum is an ode to the often-unthanked industry of garbage collection. You probably prefer to just toss out the trash and forget about it, but this collection of antique trucks will make you want to know more. Any car lover will want to take a closer look at the 1926 flatbed just like the one the Waste Pro CEO’s dad drove back in the day, and movie buffs should seek out the truck Denzel Washington rode in Fences.
Georgia: Vidalia Onion Museum
When there’s a bulb vegetable named after your town, you’d better believe you’ll be honoring it. The Vidalia Onion Museum goes through past and present, showing how the humble onion changed the economy and cooking. You can even see the onions in action—the tiniest registered Vidalia onion field is on the museum grounds. Find out the best state fair or food festival in your state.
Hawaii: Big Island Bees
Get the latest buzz on our pollinating friends at the Big Island Bees museum. You can learn all about how beehives function and how the insects find nectar, plus check out artifacts from the human side of beekeeping. Better yet, book a spot on a beekeeping tour to get up close and personal with the bees themselves, then get a literal taste of the action with a free honey samples. You won’t believe the strangest food laws from every state.
Idaho: Idaho Potato Museum
When you’re passing through the “Potato Capital of the World,” it’s only appropriate to make a stop at the Idaho Potato Museum. You can learn all about that first spud planted in Idaho soil, the evolution of the farming process, potato nutrition facts, the world’s largest Pringle, and more. All that learning is bound to make you work up an appetite, so any visit should end with a trip to the cafe’s baked potato bar, with a potato cupcake as a sweet ending.
Illinois: American Toby Jug Museum
Toby jugs are shaped like people or famous faces, and there are more than 8,000 staring out from the shelves at the American Toby Jug Museum. Among its collection of real and fictional, famous and ordinary characters includes the world’s tallest toby jug (40 inches tall) and the smallest in the world (3/8 inches tall).
Indiana: RV/MH Hall of Fame
Visit for the hall of fame dedicated to the greats in recreational vehicles and motor homes, but stay for the RV Founders Hall museum. It’s the ultimate road trip down memory lane, showcasing icons like a 1931 Chevrolet housecar owned by actress Mae West and a 1985 Bounder that will look familiar to any Breaking Bad fan. RV aficionados will also want to know the best RV park in every state.
Iowa: Matchstick Marvels
Models made of matchsticks aren’t the most popular artistic medium, but that’s exactly what makes artist Pat Acton’s works all the more impressive. His intricate creations displayed at the Matchstick Marvels museum are as beautiful as they are mind-boggling—his Notre Dame cathedral model is made of 298,000 matchsticks, and the life-size sci-fi–inspired steam engine took more than one million of those tiny wooden sticks.
Kansas: Kansas Barbed Wire Museum
Bet you didn’t know there were more than a handful of types of barbed wire, let alone the 2,000 varieties displayed at the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum. But that’s not all this museum has in store. It’s also full of bottles of quack cures for barbed wire injuries, a life-size cowboy diorama, and—if you’re lucky enough to visit in May—a convention of buying and selling wires, and the world championship for barbed wire splicing.
Kentucky: Vent Haven Museum
Hard to believe there’s apparently only one ventriloquism museum in the world, the Vent Haven Museum. It features more than 900 dummies, including a group sitting in rows of chairs like their very own audience.
Louisiana: Abita Mystery House
You don’t have to go to New Orleans to be met with strange things in Louisiana when there are places like the Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs. You never know what you’ll find, but it’s easy to see why it’s considered the state’s most eccentric museum. Feast your eyes on a collection of combs (which don’t seem to have any special significance), a “dogigator” resembling a dog-alligator hybrid, and some admittedly cute paint-by-number artwork. Ghost lovers will want to check out the 22 most haunted places in America.
Maine: International Cryptozoology Museum
Cryptozoology, as the International Cryptozoology Museum explains, is the “study of hidden animals.” No, not shy or near-extinct animals, but ones that have never been seen by humans. Like, ever. Despite the lack of scientist-approved evidence of these, ahem, rare beasts, the museum is filled with evidence like “real” Yeti hair and footprints, plus models of creatures like the feline-serpent Tatzelwurm and the Beast of Bray Road. This is the strangest animal that can actually be found in each state.
Maryland: Havre de Grace Decoy Museum
Decoys may have first been made to lure ducks in for hunters, but at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, they attract humans too. Those who think duck decoys sound pretty blase will be impressed by the craftsmanship, not to mention the rich history of waterfowling in the region. There’s even an exhibit of master carver R. Madison Mitchell’s workshop (a replica, of course—this is a decoy museum, after all).
Massachusetts: The Museum of Bad Art
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Museum of Bad Art is here to remind you it’s OK to think some art is just not good. Its gallery is currently closed for renovations, but when it reopens, it’ll be back to featuring some of its 700 pieces, like an oil painting of a Red Sox player being eaten by a centaur-like fan, and a painting of an Aztec emperor who seems to be high-fiving a man in a turban. Despite the cheeky descriptions put together by the MOBA, some of the artists do have some undeniable talent.
Michigan: Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America
The Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America is dedicated to all things ice: ice picks, ice wagons, ice boxes, ice crushers, ice buckets, ice plows, ice … well, you get the idea. If you get your fill of those cool artifacts, rest easy knowing that while the founder was busying himself hunting down ice-related memorabilia, his wife had her own side project collecting dolls, and 300 of them are featured in the museum.
Minnesota: SPAM Museum
Love it or hate it, you’re bound to learn something new at the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota. It’s a quirky, punny space where you can hear all about the canned meat’s role in World War II, race to produce your own faux SPAM, and of course, taste a “spam”ple of the product.
Mississippi: The Apron Museum
The Apron Museum in Ioka, Mississippi, is a hands-on experience. Items aren’t hidden away in glass cases but are out in the open, ready to be touched and tried on in a grown-up game of dress-up. It’s not all about gingham smocks, but the 3,500 aprons come from different decades and countries, telling stories through their style and craftsmanship.
Missouri: Leila’s Hair Museum
Leila’s Hair Museum boasts that it’s the only hair museum in the world, though we can’t imagine why no other exhibit space would want to feature so many artworks made of human hair. And how is the human hair used, you may ask? Well, it can be woven into jewelry or wreaths (popular in Victorian times), or pulverized into powder to be mixed in with paint. Creepy? Perhaps. Impressively intricate? Most definitely.
Montana: Dumas Brothel
As the longest-running brothel in the United States, the Dumas Brothel managed to stay up and running for almost a century, from 1890 to 1982. The historic building later operated as a museum revealing some of the ill-reputed activities of yesteryear in the mining town. It’s currently closed for renovations after changing hands to new owners, but it’s expected to reopen in spring 2019.
Nebraska: Klown Doll Museum
Stay far, far away from Plainview, Nebraska, if clowns or dolls give you the creeps. For everyone else, the Klown Doll Museum is a quirky collection that’s been around since the Plainview Klown Band started playing oom-pah-pah music back in the ’50s. Say “hello” to Stumpy the eight-foot clown before stepping inside to take in the thousands of clown dolls that have been donated to the museum over the years. Check out these other 50 American small towns known for the strangest things.
Nevada: Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum
When a TV and film special-effects makeup artist lets audiences get up close and personal with his mask creations, you get Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum. Horror fans will get chills (in a good way) coming face-to-face with Frankenstein, mummies, and other spooky monsters.
New Hampshire: New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum
Winter sports fanatics will be in paradise with a visit to the New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum in Allenstown (which, interestingly, isn’t the only museum of its kind in the state, thanks to Crane’s Snowmobile Museum in Lancaster). To some, it might look like a garage full of old machines, but to members, it’s the preservation of a mode of transportation that made rural life possible in the snowy North.
New Jersey: Silverball Museum Arcade
If museums tend to leave your family yawning, the Silverball Museum Arcade in Asbury Park, New Jersey, is the place for you. You can get hands-on experience (read: play) with vintage pinball machines, plus other old-school arcade favorites like Pac-Man and Galaga. Best of all? You can leave your quarters at home because the entry fee includes all the play time you want.
New Mexico: International UFO Museum and Research Center
In 1947, southeastern New Mexico became the site of the “Roswell Incident” alleged flying saucer sighting, and the city is now home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Visitors can learn all about that mysterious event from 70 years ago, plus freshen up on the latest and “most qualified” information on recent UFO evidence.
New York: Mmuseumm
The smallest museum in New York City sums its vision up pretty well: “Now is always weird. Now must have been weird for the Neanderthals. Now was certainly weird during the Middle Ages. And now is definitely weird now.” The one-room Mmuseumm showcases objects that highlight just how weird the ordinary can be. There are bread clips, anti-snore devices, selfie sticks, toilet plungers and more, paired with earnest descriptions that make you laugh…and think.
North Carolina: Elsewhere
Elsewhere bills itself as a museum, but the title doesn’t quite capture the heart of this creative playground. After the owner of an old thrift store passed away, her grandson declared “nothing for sale!” and reopened the old shop as a museum/artist residency. Now visitors can hunt through the frozen-in-time collection of toys, typewriters, clothes, and more, plus get a sneak peek at the artists’ recent creations.
North Dakota: Paul Broste Rock Museum
Overlooking the Great Plains of North Dakota is the state’s very own “acropolis on a hill”: the Paul Broste Rock Museum. It all started when its namesake’s founder built up a rock collection in the ’20s and ’30s, then built a museum in the ’60s that’s rocky from the outside in. This rock collection is far beyond anything you started as a kid (no offense) and has rare, priceless pieces that can only be found in more big-time museums—and sometimes, not even in those.
Ohio: Pencil Sharpener Museum
Put down your phone and remind yourself of the good ol’ days when all you needed was a paper and pencil—and, of course, something to sharpen that writing utensil. The Pencil Sharpener Museum is said to be the largest collection of its kind in the country, boasting more than 3,400 items. These aren’t your basic pencil-case goodies, but mini works of art in themselves, shaped like grandfather clocks, racecars, typewriters (ironically), and more.
Oklahoma: American Banjo Museum
The banjo doesn’t get as much attention as guitars and synths these days, but it has deep roots in American history. The American Banjo Museum explores the past and present of the instrument, starting with American slaves in the 1600s and spanning through ’20s jazz, ’40s bluegrass, ’60s folk, and beyond. You can even try your own hand plucking away at a real banjo’s strings.
Oregon: Freakybuttrue Peculiarium
Enter the Peculiarium…if you dare. Fair warning: This isn’t an attraction for the faint of heart. Spooky music sets the mood as you look over your shoulder to see a larger-than-life-size Bigfoot staring back. Photo ops include a face-in-hole–style scene of aliens disemboweling visitors, and you can peek inside a “haunted” dollhouse featuring a gruesome massacre scene. Pro tip: Guests with “decent costumes” can get in for free. If you thought the Peculiarium was weird, you’ll laugh out loud at the 50 dumbest laws from every state.
Pennsylvania: Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum
“Mister Ed” Gotwalt received one elephant as a wedding gift and gradually bought or was gifted more and more until “it just got out of hand” and grew into what’s now Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum. The 12,000-strong collection is a herd of circus souvenirs, toys, and figurines from around the world. Visitors shouldn’t miss a taste of fudge from the candy emporium on the premises either.
Rhode Island: Musée Patamécanique
Don’t feel bad if you have trouble wrapping your brain around what Musée Patamécanique is all about; this cabinet of curiosities is dedicated to “patamechanics” and pataphysics, a study of what lies beyond metaphysics (as if metaphysics weren’t hard enough!). It’s only open for private tours, which have to be set up in advance. The museum stays purposely secretive, but rest assured it will be an experience like no other.
South Carolina: Tea-rific Teapot Museum
Everything is quaint and cozy in the Tea-rific Teapot Museum, from the moment you step through the teapot-shaped entryway. Not only do visitors get to take in more than 5,000 teapots, but they can get their afternoon fix with a cup of tea and a little something sweet to go with it.
South Carolina: The Kazoo Factory
The main attraction at The Kazoo Factory is, well, the kazoo factory, but casual visitors can skip the $7 guided tour and browse the free museum instead. It’s fun for all ages, but parents be warned: Your child will want a factory-fresh kazoo, which you will hear for the rest of the day.
South Dakota: International Vinegar Museum
It’s a staple in every household, but vinegar hardly gets the time of day in most family discussions. You’ll look at that all-purpose salad-dressing/DIY-cleaner/pickling liquid in an all-new light when you hear about its history as far back as the ancient Egyptians at the International Vinegar Museum. A vinegar tasting is an eye-opening (er, tastebud-opening) experience, as are the 100-plus ways you can use vinegar and the paper and ceramics made from none other than the good stuff. Who says you can’t attract flies with vinegar? For some more cool history, learn the strangest fact about every U.S. state.
Tennessee: The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
You’ve seen plenty of quirky salt and pepper shakers, but you’ve never seen so many in one place as in the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. An archaeologist turned her collection hobby into a full-fledged museum, which now showcases more than 20,000(!) pairs set up in cute little scenes, separated by 1,500 pepper mills. These aren’t all just kitschy thrift store finds either—you’ll learn all about how they’ve changed from ancient times to the 16th century to now.
Texas: Dr Pepper Museum
The original Dr Pepper bottling plant is in Waco, Texas, and now it houses the Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute. It’s not actually owned by Keurig Dr Pepper, but it is the home to more than 100,000 soda-related artifacts, from old bottles and ads to a go-cart and bottling equipment. Oh, and of course you get a free Dr Pepper with your ticket.
Utah: Museum of Natural Curiosity
The Thanksgiving Point Museum of Natural Curiosity isn’t so much “weird” as it is “totally awesome.” Let your adventurous spirit out on a 40-foot-high ropes course,
Vermont: Bread and Puppet Theater
What do bread and puppets have in common? Both food and theater are necessary for the body and soul—and thus one theater company’s idea of a piece of bread with every puppet show was born in 1963. The Bread and Puppet Theater Museum is a collection of the company’s old puppets and props, filling a 150-year-old Vermont farm to the brim. Instead of trying to preserve decades-old puppets for generations to come, the museum is all about accepting that decay is just part of life, so you’ll want to visit before the best pieces have withered away.
Virginia: Shenandoah Caverns (parade floats)
The underground marvels of stalactites and stalagmites in the Shenandoah Caverns are breathtaking enough, but visitors also shouldn’t miss a stop by the museum of parade floats. Those creations you see on the small screen or from the sidewalk during parades? They all have to go somewhere, and giant pieces from the 1949 inauguration of President Truman, Miss America pageants, the Rose Parade, and more have all found a home in Shenandoah Caverns.
Washington: Nutcracker Museum
Don’t save them for the holidays—nutcrackers are a year-round feature at the Nutcracker Museum. The star of the show is Karl, a German-created six-foot-tall nutcracker, with a moving mouth and all. Not that the other 7,000 pieces on display are exactly living in his shadow. With some coming from as far back as Roman times, they’re equally impressive.
West Virginia: Mothman Museum
Do you believe in the supernatural? In 1966, a flying, red-eyed monster is said to have terrorized Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and the Mothman Museum explores the spooky legend. Read newspaper clippings about the strange events, take a look at the original police reports, and peek at props from the movie The Mothman Prophecies. Those who believe should plan a visit around the annual Mothman Festival, happening this year in late September. Don’t miss the strangest unsolved mystery from every state.
Wisconsin: National Mustard Museum
As the story goes, the National Mustard Museum was created after founder Barry Levenson was wandering the grocery store, feeling lost in the world since the Boston Red Sox had lost the 1986 World Series. Inspiration struck in the mustard aisle, and he started stocking up on mustard then and there. Six years later he opened his collection to the public, and it now showcases more than 6,000 mustards from around the world. Work up an appetite wandering through the mustards and memorabilia so you have room for the free tastings—you can’t find mustard flavors like chocolate or tequila many other places.
Wyoming: Medicine Bow Museum, fossil house
The Medicine Bow Museum is a fairly run-of-the-mill local history museum (which certainly isn’t a bad thing), covering the area’s railroad, historic Virginian Hotel, Native Americans, and more. But it’s now working on a noteworthy addition, the Fossil Cabin. The house has been sitting outside the town for less than 90 years but is dubbed the “world’s oldest building” thanks to its unique construction material: dinosaur bones. The nearby Como Bluffs used to be a “dinosaur graveyard,” so Wyoming resident Thomas Boylan used about 5,800 pieces from incomplete skeletons to build a cabin sure to attract people to his gas station. It certainly became a talking point for a roadside attraction off Highway 30 for decades, though the Medicine Bow Museum is moving it onsite so it can get the recognition (and renovations) it deserves. Next, get more strange-but-real travel inspiration from the strangest roadside attraction in every state.