While it’s true that most museums are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge in one area or another, there are some U.S. museums that take on truly strange topics. Across our nation there are galleries and exhibits devoted to bizarre subjects — like American folklore heroes, human hair art, dolls, clowns, miniature farm vehicles, and even mustard.
There are some museums that are considered strange due to their history, as well as some that are odd for being prehistoric excavation sites seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Though considered unusual, these “strange” museums are necessary because they enrich guests lives with tangible information that, yes, you could probably see on the internet — but it’s way cooler to see it first-hand.
The Daily Meal has rounded up the strangest, the oddest, and honestly some of the coolest museums in the U.S. that are worth visiting on any future road trips to off-the-beaten-path tourist locales.
The aptly named MOOseum is a place for children and adults to learn about Alabama’s beef cattle industry — but you know, in a fun way! Visitors will learn about protein, beef, cow pens, and the different breeds of cattle and horses in Alabama. Plus you can have your picture taken with a Texas Longhorn as a souvenir. Who needs a boring history museum when you can learn about beef?
Dolly’s House was formerly home to Dolly Arthur, the area’s most famous madam. Her home is the only still standing (but not operating) brothel in Ketchikan, and it has been preserved to keep its original appearance. Guests can see photos of Dolly, her original wallpaper, and the closet where she kept her Prohibition-era liquor. Neat!
The Walmart Museum/Yelp
The Walmart Museum is basically what you expect it to be: a museum dedicated to the Walton Family and their endeavors creating the super-store chain Walmart. Cool things include the original tiles from the first ever Walton’s store, Walton’s 5&10; artifacts; and the Spark Café Soda Fountain. We hope they have greeters!
Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski turned their California home into a museum of over 35,000 things “bunny.” There are nine original Rose Parade float bunnies, wooden egg bunny art, bunny-themed jewelry, antique bunny pendants and bones, bunny clocks, bunny cookie jars, plush bunnies, and even real rabbits to pet and play with.
Left: Kevin B./Yelp; Right: Trevor H./Yelp
Lee Maxwell has a collection of over 1,400 antique washing machines from all over the world, with the oldest dating back to 1840. His extensive collection earned him the Guinness World Record for world’s largest washing machine collection in 2000. He now stores his plethora of machines in a large building decorated like a vintage laundromat!
Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons
If you’re a fan of The Greatest Showman you’re going to want to visit the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the entertainer once served as mayor. The museum houses over 60,000 artifacts relation to P.T. Barnum’s life and work (so, circus stuff!) as well as memorabilia from nineteenth-century America. Barnum was a major supporter of museums — he once owned his own museum called the American Museum in New York, which housed oddities like taxidermied animals, fake artifacts like mermaid skeletons, and living exhibits until it burned to the ground in 1865. Two of the museum’s whales were boiled alive in their tanks during the fire, and there were rumors (later disproved) of an escaped lion stalking the streets of Manhattan. Barnum attempted to reopen that museum, but once again it burned to the ground; he remained dedicated to the museum idea, however, and he approved plans for the building that houses the current Barnum Museum just weeks before his death in 1891.
Marcus Qwertyus/Wikimedia Commons
The International Spy Museum is the largest collection of international espionage artifacts for public display and the only museum in the world exhibiting the spy profession from a global perspective. This is the perfect museum for conspiracy theorists and spy movie junkies.
This shipwreck artifact-filled museum contains the history and found items from 14 shipwrecks around the world going back all the way to 1622. One excited Trip Advisor reviewer wrote, “The Shipwreck Museum is definitely a place worth visiting. We thought it was going to be some rinky dink little thing, but WOW!!! We were blown away. It has actual treasures in it. The owner is a diver and has incredible stuff. AND it is totally FREE!!!!!”
This skeleton museum is family-owned and only one of two skeleton museums in America! Owner Jay Villemarette turned his passion for collecting animal skulls into an animal skull company that later evolved into a whole museum (and whole skeletons). There are currently two locations (one in Oklahoma and one in Florida) and both contain the real skeletons of hundreds of animals from around the world.
The Center for Puppetry Arts houses a museum called the Worlds of Puppetry which features puppets and marionettes from around the world. There is currently an interactive Jim Henson exhibit being shown.
The Jaggar Museum focuses on the science of volcanology, but its main attraction is a stunning overlook into the mouth of one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Museum attendees can see ongoing gas eruptions, which include bursts of fire and smoke, while learning about volcanoes. Thrill seekers only!
An enormous baked potato with a pat of butter greets visitors at the entrance to Idaho’s Potato Museum. Although the museum provides history on Idaho’s famous spud and its cultivation, it’s a kitschy-cool experience where museumgoers can pose on potato sacks next to a potato sack-clad Marilyn Monroe.
The Super Museum is a museum dedicated to all things Superman. Located in Clark Kent’s hometown of Metropolis, Illinois, visitors will be wowed by the museum’s over 20,000 items from the collection of Jim Hambrick (owner of one of the largest Superman collections in the world) including every Superman toy ever produced as well as movie props and promotional materials from film and TV.
The Indiana Medical History Museum houses the oldest surviving pathology facility in the U.S.! Museumgoers can see all the old laboratories, the library, the reception room, the records room, and even the autopsy room full of preserved brains.
This is a museum filled with toy versions of farm equipment. Guests can see vehicles and apparatuses used on farms but in doll size. A truly excellent museum option for any small child that likes to play with tractors.
US Department of Education/Wikimedia Commons
Kansas really knows how to appreciate its teachers. The Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame is a must-see kitschy attraction for anyone who wants to show their admiration for the people who taught us to read, count, and spell. There is even a room in the museum devoted to school artifacts like old wooden desks, mimeograph machines, chalkboards, and a piano!
If you’re freaked out by dolls, maybe avoid this museum. The Great American Dollhouse Museum houses over 200 dollhouses, miniature buildings, room boxes, and dolls. There are fictional scenes, a fantasy land, neighborhoods, and timelines all displayed with intricate doll houses and dolls.
This historic building in New Orleans holds a massive collection of all things pertaining to Louisiana’s pharmacy industry and health care past and present. Visitors will find opium, voodoo potions, surgical instruments, and plaques describing questionable medical practices.
The Umbrella Cover Museum/Yelp
The Maine Umbrella Cover Museum is the only museum of its kind in the world. It is the collection of Maine resident Nancy Hoffman, who owns over 700 umbrella covers from around the world. According to Atlas Obscura, Hoffman conducts museum tours herself.
Babe Ruth’s childhood home is now a tour-able museum offerings a bunch of pictures, videos, and memorabilia from his life and career. “Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum is a must visit for any baseball fans,” wrote one enthusiastic Yelp reviewer. “After all, he is still the GREATEST baseball player of all time and his legacy simply cannot be denied.”
This museum is the oldest continuously operating public museum in the U.S. and houses artifacts that actually came on the Mayflower. Is it really that strange? No. But it is kind of crazy to think that these items were once owned by immigrants coming to America in search of a better life and that we have kept their belongings for so many years as a reminder that America as a concept is for all people looking for a new start.
Originally built as a summer home for cartoonist William Donahey, this two-story cottage was built to resemble an enormous pickle barrel based on Donahey’s characters. It is now a museum dedicated to the cartoonist and his work.
Hormel, the brand that makes Spam, is headquartered in Minnesota. There, they have a Spam museum that is everything a canned meat lover could ever want. Full of interactive exhibits, memorabilia, samples, and iconic spam history — this is one strange museum you do not want to miss.
Visitors can see the two-room house built by Elvis’ family in Tupelo, Mississippi, as well as his childhood church! The property of the Elvis Presley Museum includes an actual museum, his home, the actual building where he attended church services, and the park featuring statues of Elvis as a child playing guitar.
Lelia’s Hair Museum/Yelp
This Missouri museum claims to be the only hair museum in the world. Leila Cohoon, founder of Leila’s Hair Museum, displays 600 hair wreaths and over 2000 pieces of jewelry in her museum. All pieces are made from human hair as was popular in the Victorian era. The oldest piece in the museum is from 1680! Leila, a former hairdresser, also gives classes on hair art techniques.
Old Prison Museum/Yelp
This prison actually houses five different museums inside its walls: Old Montana Prison, Powell County Museum, Frontier Montana Museum, Yesterday's Playthings, and the Montana Auto Museum. The Old Montana Prison facility moved its final prisoners in 1979. Modern-day visitors can tour the cell blocks, the exercise yard, and even the maximum-security unit where prisoners spent their days during the more somber part of the building’s history.
Plainview Klown Doll Museum
Unless you love clowns, this museum may be your waking nightmare. Visitors are greeted by an 8-foot-tall wooden clown mascot named “Stumpy” at the entrance to the Klown (yes with a K) Doll Museum. Home to over 7,000 clown dolls, the museum is in the “Klown Kapital” of Nebraska.
This museum is a boneyard for some of the most famous signage in Las Vegas. Caesars Palace, Binion’s Horseshoe, and the Golden Nugget all have signs that have been laid to rest on these grounds. They even offer guided tours!
This museum is the home of America’s first credit union. “So much history and it all started right here in Manchester!” commented one Trip Advisor user. “Three floors of pictures and facts. A great experience for students and adults alike.”
Flickr/mriggen/CC BY 4.0
Known as “The Bugseum of New Jersey,” this museum is all about getting its visitors of all ages up close and personal with bugs. Insectropolis’ various exhibits full of creepy crawlies — including one called “Caterpillar Cafe,” which focuses on insects’ food habits — are a cool way to get a bug’s eye view of your museum experience.
As the welcome sign says, “Tinkertown was begun as a hobby in 1962. It was not intended as a public display until your interest helped build our museum.” Collected and constructed by Ross Ward, Tinkertown is a cacophony of eccentric Americana crafts and exhibits in New Mexico.
Museum of Sex/Yelp
New York’s Museum of Sex’s mission statement says it all: “advocating open discourse surrounding sex and sexuality as well as striving to present to the public the best in current scholarship unhindered by self-censorship.” Basically, it’s a great museum to visit if you’re tired of either the public taboos surrounding S-E-X or of Hollywood’s glossy imitation of the birds and the bees. Only in New York!
Cape Fear Museum/Yelp
The Cape Fear Museum houses the bones of a 20-foot-tall giant ground sloth and a scale model of the 1863 Wilmington waterfront. One Trip Advisor reviewer called the museum, “truly fascinating.”
In a super-cool building made out of rocks lives the Broste Rock Museum. "You will not find anything like this in the entire world," reads the museum’s website. Inside the museum are all the paintings, conceptual sculptures, illustrations, poems, philosophies, and (of course) the rock collection of the North Dakota farmer, artist, and visionary Paul Broste.
The Ohio home that was used as Ralphie’s house in the cult classic Christmas film A Christmas Story is open to the public as a museum featuring original props, costumes, and memorabilia. Guests can also spend the night in the museum in “Ralphie and Randy’s beds” in a private third-floor loft in the home.
No Man’s Land Historical Society
The founders of the No Man’s Land Museum, located in the town of Goodwell in the state’s panhandle, were pre-territorial pioneers who wanted to preserve the unique history of their community. Although the museum houses many artifacts from the ranchers and homesteaders of the era, exhibits also include dinosaur footprints, pre-historic mastodon and mammoth bones, and a two-headed calf.
Powerland Heritage Park/Yelp
This Oregon museum houses antique farm machinery and steam powered equipment. Every year the museum hosts The Great Oregon Steam-Up where all of the old farming equipment operates again and vintage tractors, trucks, and a sawmill operate for the public during certain hours.
Please Touch Museum/Yelp
Yes, this is a children’s museum, but what makes it strange and interesting is that it was developed by a Montessori educator who founded it as a project within Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences (where they house dinosaur skeletons and woolly mammoths that are certainly not for touching). Cool things you can touch at this museum include: the Statue of Liberty’s arm made entirely from toys and a restored carousel from 1908.
Step into the Victorian Era at Clouds Hill Victorian House Museum. This former home and current museum has belonged to four generations of women. According to the museum website, “Visitors from around the world have found this house to be one of the best examples of Victoriana, ‘surpassing even the Bellevue Avenue manors in terms of authenticity of its contents.’” Also on site is the fire engine of the first female fire chief in the world, Anne “Nancy” Allen Holst, whose lineage can be traced back to the family that owns the estate.
It’s a Kazoo factory and museum. The museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of kazoos, and the gift shop offers the musical instrument in a myriad of colors. Plus you can tour the kazoo factory and see how they’re made!
Jeff the quiet/Wikimedia Commons
What’s cool about this museum is that it is also an active paleontological excavation site, meaning that new things like mammoth remains are being discovered all the time! Currently 61 mammoths have been excavated on the site, and visitors can even sign up to dig for more should they choose!
You’ve probably heard of Alcatraz in San Francisco, but have you heard of Alcatraz East? This museum designed to look like a combination of Tennessee’s first state prison and Alcatraz’s lighthouse houses tons of crime-related artifacts from all over U.S. history (not just the history of Alcatraz).
This is an entire museum dedicated to the funeral services industry and funeral cultural rituals. The permanent exhibits feature things like “the history of embalming,” “day of the dead,” and “celebrating the lives and deaths of the popes,” plus many more can’t-miss exhibitions. This museum is perfect for the coffin-, casket-, and hearse-obsessed goth in your life as well as the everyday curious.
Thanksgiving Point houses quite a few museums, but none so curiosity-inducing as The Museum of Ancient Life. No, it’s not a museum about Thanksgiving or Pilgrims. The museum houses 60 complete dinosaur skeletons, a paleontology lab, and a fossil drilling-site.
Flickr/alans1948/CC BY 4.0
The Bread and Puppet Theater, named for the sourdough rye bread they offer at puppet shows, is also home to a museum with one of the largest collections of puppets and masks in the world. According to their website, “Over the years, the collection has expanded to fill two floors in the barn and now spills out into the woodshed, the Cheap Art bus across the road, and onto the walls of the Paper-Mache Cathedral behind the barn.”
The Edgar Allan Poe Museum is about all things Edgar Allan Poe and features a garden (as described in his poem “To One in Paradise”), a shrine to Poe, and two black cats in honor of the author, who was a devoted cat-man.
Calling all fans of the film Blackfish: The Whale Museum is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the stewardship of whales through education and research. That means visitors can learn everything about whales and how to save and protect them while wandering through this museum.
The world’s only Mothman museum is home to the largest collection of props and memorabilia from the movie The Mothman Prophecies. Even more exciting, its located in the West Virginian town where actual Mothman sightings have occurred. Never heard of Mothman? This museum has got you covered. Inside the museum visitors can view rare press clippings and photographs about the legend.
Flickr/BobbbyLight/CC BY 4.0
There are more than 5,500 mustards on display at the National Mustard Museum from over 70 countries. The museum features mustard ads, mustard jars, and even a Great Wall of Mustard. Plus there are hundreds of mustards for tasting, so when you’re sick of the Mars Cheese Castle, this should be your next Wisco stop!
Buffalo Bill Center of the West/Yelp
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is focused on the life of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, American folklore icon, guide, scout, actor, and entrepreneur. “This museum is incredible!” said one reviewer. “Do not just drive past this place. You could spend two days scouring through the alluring exhibits of a bygone era.” Staying in Wyoming? Here’s all the best places to eat and drink.