Yes, These 20 Weird and Wacky Museums Actually Exist

While The Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art are go-to destinations for history buffs and art aficionados, other museums have the market cornered on more unconventional niches that appeal to connoisseurs of the obscure. From canned meat collections to a gallery of glammed-up toilet seats, these must-see museums scattered across the country showcase the beauty of the bizarre in their atypical archives.

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Museum of Ice Cream in Los Angeles and San Francisco

The museumgoer with a sweet tooth will crave a visit to this interactive exhibition—an homage to America’s favorite frozen treat. Whether you’re in the sherbet room, the Popsicle room, or the indoor pool (filled with over 10 million plastic sprinkles), or standing in front of the holographic scratch-and-sniff banana wall, you’re in store for plenty of Instagrammable eye candy as well as samples of real ice cream to satisfy the hunger aroused by your visit.

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Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota via SPAM Museum

Austin, Texas, may lay claim to the motto “Keep Austin Weird,” but this oddball museum in Austin, Minnesota, could also have dibs on the catchphrase. A celebration of the now 80-year-old brand of Spam, the admission-free Spam Museum comprises a collection of curated meat exhibits that educate guests about the history, evolution, and influence of the famous canned meat. From the hub of the museum, “Can Central,” venture to the “World Market” for information about Spam advertising, walk through the war exhibit to learn about Spam’s role in the Second World War, and even practice assembling mock Spam cans in the “Spam Brand 101” exhibit.

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International Banana Museum in Mecca, California via International Banana Museum

The world’s largest collection of banana paraphernalia, the International Banana Museum boasts over 20,000 trinkets, from salt-and-pepper shakers to banana-shaped record players. Of course, it wouldn’t be a banana museum without real bananas, so the museum offers chocolate-covered bananas, banana splits, and four types of banana soda to munch or sip on while you’re exploring the halls.

Museum of Bad Art in Brookline and Somerville, Massachusetts

Think your artwork is amateurish? You might get a boost of confidence when you glimpse the comically flawed creations showcased at the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA). A commemoration of well-intentioned artistic achievements gone awry, the museum proudly curates and displays a selection of “Poor Traits,” “Unlikely Landscapes,” and other collections of underwhelming non-commercially produced artworks obtained from thrift or secondhand stores or yard sales.

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National Museum of Funeral History in Houston

National Museum of Funeral History

Though funerals are thought to be as old as humankind, there is much about this cultural ritual that remains obscure, a knowledge gap that this museum was founded to fill. The National Museum of Funeral History contains the largest collection of funeral items in the country, including authentic coffins and hearses of yesteryear alongside exhibits on the high-profile funerals of popes, presidents, and departed cultural icons.

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Umbrella Cover Museum in Portland, Maine and via Umbrella Cover Museum

For Nancy Hoffman, umbrella covers aren’t simply a sleeve for stashing an umbrella—they’re a celebration of the ordinary. To that end, she founded the first and only Umbrella Cover Museum, an establishment housing hundreds of umbrella cases that hang from the ceilings and walls. The cases hail from 44 countries and include donated umbrella cases as well as a number of Hoffman’s own. Visitors to the growing museum can now receive guided tours of the collection along with a memorable rendition of “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella.”

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Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas via meligrosa

While most artists scrawl their masterpieces on paper or canvas, Barney Smith prefers toilet seats. And instead of hanging in a museum, Smith’s artworks live in a roadside detached garage he opens every day to visitors from near and far. The artworks, exceeding 1,300 in total, are blinged-up renditions of ordinary toilet seats he has collected over a lifetime as a plumber. They run the gamut from Mardi Gras themes to troll-doll-inspired works, and everything in between. Although the inventive toilet toppers aren’t for sale, Smith offers tours of his extensive collection to any art lover willing to call in advance.

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Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut via Doug Kerr

Candy memorabilia collectors have amassed an abundance of Pez dispensers over time, but nowhere will you find a larger collection of the beloved mechanical candy shooters than at this multicolored museum. The venue features one of the largest collections of Pez dispensers and paraphernalia in the world, including basic and character dispensers ranging from Santa Claus to Tweety Bird.

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International UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico via International UFO Museum and Research Center

Roswell is a hotbed of UFO researchers and enthusiasts, many of whom flock to this museum to satisfy their curiosity about a flying object that was sighted in town in July 1947. The lack of information surrounding the event led Walter Haut to found the museum in 1991. It has since come to house a UFO research library and serve as a public educational resource on the unexplained incident of 1947 and UFO phenomena in general.

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Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Missouri via Andy Nystrom

Some people collect antiques, others stamps, and a rare few, vacuums. Tom Gasko opened the first-of-its-kind Vacuum Cleaner Museum after decades spent collecting dust-busters of all sizes, shapes, colors, and varieties. The culmination of his life’s hobby, the museum today displays over 800 working vacuum cleaners, from vintage upright models dating to the early 1900s to a futuristic vacuum that hovers.

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The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson, Arizona and via The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures

What began as Patricia Arnell’s penchant for collecting small-scale three-dimensional objects led to the founding of this 15,000-square-foot museum of miniatures. Dubbed “The Mini Time Machine,” the museum transports visitors to other time periods through antique and contemporary miniature exhibits that depict life on different continents and in eras spanning 250 years of history.

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The Kazoo Museum in Beaufort, South Carolina via bobistraveling

Located in the Kazoobie Kazoos Factory, The Kazoo Museum commemorates the history and manufacture of the humble musical instrument by hosting one of the largest kazoo collections in the world. The 200 buzz-worthy pieces housed in glass at the museum include kazoo music sheets, recordings, and, of course, kazoos, including one featured in “The Partridge Family.” If a visit puts you in the mood to spit out a tune on your own kazoo, the museum will even show you how to make a kazoo to take home.

The Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska via akgypsy37

A hit with DIYers, The Hammer Museum is the world’s first museum dedicated to the history of the hammer. Exploring the 2,000 diverse hammers on display in the 15-year-old art and history museum will give you an in-depth lesson on how the humble hammer has evolved from a sugar-sculpting implement of ancient civilizations to a can’t-live-without construction tool for the modern man (or woman). If you’re driving down Main Street in Haines, you can’t miss the museum—a giant hammer rises up from the lawn!

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Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, California via Elizabeth K. Joseph

Is Bigfoot real or a hoax? The Bigfoot Discovery Museum asks you to be the judge. Exhibits range from a three-dimensional model of the elusive primate to a consideration of public perceptions of Bigfoot. While you won’t spot the legendary creature at the museum, one exhibit highlights the Patterson-Gimlin footage dating to 1967 that supposedly captures Bigfoot in action. Whether you’re a Bigfoot believer or a Sasquatch skeptic, you can leave the museum with your pick of souvenirs from the gift shop.

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Beer Can Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts

Drinks are on the house at the Beer Can Museum—literally. The 42-year-old museum boasts a collection of 4,000 cold ones that are either suspended from the ceilings or stacked on high shelves. The beers originate from the collection of the museum’s founder and former owner, Al Drew, and range from vintage steel flat-top and cone-top cans produced between 1935 and 1960, to novelties such as Billy Beer, made by former President Jimmy Carter’s brother.

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Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, California via Daderot

While toy fads have come and gone with time, the yo-yo has remained an object of obsession for the young and the young at heart. Dedicated to preserving the popularity of the humble toy on a string, the Yo-Yo Museum features the largest display of yo-yos in the world. The largest, dubbed “Big-Yo,” earned a place in the 1982 “Guinness Book of World Records” as the “World’s Biggest Working Yo-Yo.” As you might expect, maneuvering the 256-pound yo-yo is no easy feat—the museum uses a giant crane to lift and lower the wooden disc along the string.

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International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

In true spy fashion, the International Spy Museum goes undetected by many visitors to D.C. Observant spycraft enthusiasts, however, know that it houses the largest collection of real-world and Hollywood espionage artifacts in the world. Popular exhibits include “School for Spies,” which spills the secrets of the stealthy profession, and “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains,” a collection of artifacts from James Bond films that examines the connection between Bond and the ruthless adversaries who tested his spycraft skills.

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Musée Mécanique in San Francisco via Anthony Rue, Geof Wilson, and Jamie

Coin-operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines may not seem to be in favor with kids today, but you’d never know it from the well-preserved collection of more than 300 of these and other nostalgic artifacts housed at Musée Mécanique. Whether you’re in search of a coin-operated piano or an orchestrion, a single instrument that sounds like an entire orchestra, you can spot one in working order in founder Edward Zelinsky’s unsurpassed collection—a lifelong labor of love.

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National Museum of Mathematics in New York City via Justin Grimes

Math theory plus interactive games equals a whole lotta fun at this museum, which aims to boost public awareness of the field of mathematics. The 30 playful exhibits that fill the museum, ranging from the “Square-Wheeled Trike” to “The Mathenaeum,” an exercise in transforming basic shapes into three-dimensional models, give even the arithmetically averse a newfound appreciation for numbers.

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Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa via J. Stephen Conn

Dedicated to dispelling myths about and highlighting the contributions of hobos, this museum, which the local hobo community converted from an old movie theater, features a collection of books, poetry, clothing, music, and crafts created by hobos, an often misunderstood fraternity of traveling folk that occupies a permanent place in Americana.

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