I was looking through some old notes of a piece I planned to write about quirky museums, and I realized that I never did find a home for this info. Ah, the joy of blogging. So, looking back on more than a decade of roadside adventures, here's my top ten list of roadside museums.
Spam Museum - Austin, Minnesota
The best of the corporate museums: simultaneously fascinating and goofy. Wander a mammoth series of interactive displays, race with your friends to pack a can of Spam, and try the stuff for yourself. Free samples!
ILX Museum - Hermansville, Michigan
The quintessential small town museum. You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about the former Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, touring nineteenth century buildings with a docent who is dedicated and insightful. Near the Great Lakes, just getting there is a delightful drive. Be sure to sample a Pasty at a nearby restaurant to get a true taste of the region.
Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village - Dearborn, Michigan
If you've ever longed to visit a world's fair like they had in New York or Chicago, to see a vast accumulation of displays, performances, architecture, ethnographic exhibits, and hucksterism, visit this mammoth museum. You'll never see it all in one day. Don't even try.
Queens Museum of Art - Queens, New York
The best part of this museum is the 9,335 square foot panorama of the City of New York, featuring 895,000 structures. Stay for a nine-minute show that depicts day and night over the City That Never Sleeps. The museum art is pretty cool too.
Greyhound Bus Origin Museum - Hibbing, Minnesota
Virtually everyone can recall an experience "riding the dog," taking a Greyhound to some distant spot on the map. Singers from Simon and Garfunkel to John Mellencamp have turned some of these journeys into song. Head to Hibbing to see where it all began.
Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame - Seattle, Washington
Sci-fi geeks who debate the relative merits of Captain Kirk and Captain Picard, here's your mothership. Artifacts from classic films, a display that features "cities of the future," and a celebration of the authors that keep our eyes to the stars. Right under the Space Needle!
Prairie Village Museum - Rugby, North Dakota
Loved Little House on the Prairie? Learn about the real struggles and triumphs of early American life for settlers and pioneers who trudged beyond the safe confines of the nation's eastern cities. This museum offers a genuine prairie town with buildings and artifacts collected from the region. Best of all, it's easy to visit. This Museum sits at the Geographical Center of North America.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum - Boston, MA
A presidential museum? Only good only for a boring school trip, right? But the folks in Boston have created a genuinely immersive journey through the life of America's 35th president. Walk-through and video features on the Kennedy-Nixon race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the legacy of Jackie Kennedy place this site at the top of the presidential museum pantheon. Once you see this one, you may be inspired to see 'em all!
The Sixth Floor Museum - Dallas, Texas
The dark side of the Kennedy legacy: his assassination. Believe it or not, the Sixth Floor Museum handles this tragic event with taste and insight, reflecting on the formal events of November 22nd, 1963, as well as the many conspiracy theories that surround that tragic day. And, yes, you can look out the infamous corner window, from a distance.
Roadside America - Shartlesville, Pennsylvania
Not a museum, technically, but a collection of one man's lifelong pursuit to gather villages and towns, monuments and icons, from across the country into one place - all in miniature. The best of the roadside "tiny towns," a museum dedicated to the passion of all people who transform the road into a place worth visiting.