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A Different Vacation Idea: Visiting Unique or Weird Museums

Updated on March 27, 2013

Coming to New York City?

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Museums to Visit Just For Fun

Most often museums are filled with art; this is especially true here in New York City (NYC). But as in other states there are many unknown museums that are worth a visit, are often much less crowded and a lot of good clean fun. This includes the very unique Louis Armstrong Museum as well as the Transit Museum both here in NYC.

Below is a list of unique and even weird museums you may want to add to your vacation plans.

New York City -

Louis Armstrong Museum (Corona, Queens, NYC) -

I love this place. Probably because it is the actual home of Louis Armstrong. Here we have one of the world's most famous jazz musicians but in 1943 he and his wife, Lucille, decided to buy a home in Corona, Queens (NYC) - and here they stayed. What makes the home so unique is that Lucille decorated it in such a timeless fashion - even that colorful kitchen! I loved walking through this private home - it was so calm and soothing. The garden (Japanese inspired) was not open when I visited some years ago but now it is. The guided tours are 40 minutes and yes, I loved this place.

New York Transit Museum (Downtown Brooklyn, NYC) -

The largest US museum dedicated to urban public transportation. The museum is in a historic 1936 IND subway stop in downtown Brooklyn Heights. Don't discount what little ones will love - I took my granddaughter here when she was two and she loved getting on these old trains.You'll find exhibitions, educational programs, tours and photo galleries of the 100 year old train system and a look at NYC's old buses and trolleys.

If you can't get out to Brooklyn there is an annex off the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan that offers changing exhibits.

Note: One of the surprisingly irresistible parts of the museum is their gift shop. Anything train related seems to be very popular. This includes items with train logos such as costume jewelry, umbrellas, ornaments, wooden trains, magnets and even trackworker costumes (hmmm - a Halloween costume idea). Prices are quite cheap.

Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, Queens, NYC) - This museum contains the nation's' largest collection of items pertaining to the history, art and technology of the moving image. It has about 130,000 artifacts from every stage of production, promotion and exhibitions of television, motion pictures and newer digital media. You'll see nineteenth century optical toys, photos, costumes, fan magazines, marketing material, movie theater furnishings and much more. On certain days they show films of current movies.

Museums Listed by State In Alphabetical Order:

California -

- California Surf Museum (Oceanside, CA) - See the evolution of about 55 surfboards. The oldest board was created in 1912 using sugar pine and weighing 100 lbs. The newest is made of fiberglass and weighs about four pounds. The latter one is owned by Lisa Anderson - a four-time world champion surfer. There are decals, surfing stickers, lots of photos and a real plus - vintage beachwear.

- GRAMMY Museum (Downtown Los Angeles) - This 30,000 square foot museum was opened in 2008 to celebrate the 50 year history of the GRAMMY Awards. Enjoy the celebration and exploration of the creative music making process. Featured are four floors of interactive exhibits that includes the recording process. Check ahead to see what lectures and performances are being offered during your vacation.

Connecticut (Essex) -

Connecticut River Museum - Take a tour through a working replica of the world's first submarine. Located on the Essex waterfront this museum offers interactive exhibits including schooner cruises and an exploration of steam power.

Where I ate when I was in Essex -

If you get hungry there is the historic Griswold Inn. My family ate here a number of years ago and this is in keeping with the theme of the museum in that it is a 1776 landmark building housing both a restaurant and an inn. The property is made up of 7 historic buildings in what is always described as being located in the storybook village of Essex.

Florida (Sarasota) -

The Circus Museum - Created in 1948, this was the first museum to document the history of the circus. Exhibits include massive posters, a private rail car, sequined costumes, colossal wagons as well as memorabilia, artifacts and the world's largest miniature circus. Exhibits change so call ahead and see what's upcoming.

Indiana (Auburn) -

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum - Housed in the original 1930's headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company, this National Historic Landmark has more than 120 antique, classic, vintage and other automobiles of interest on display.

As a bonus you can host your wedding and reception here as well as birthday parties and corporate events.

Kansas (La Crosse) -

Kansas Barbed Wire Museum - Laugh if you will but barbed wire was an absolute necessity in the region - especially when it came to containing animals. In fact there are more that 2,400 variations of barbed wire. Barbed wire is unofficially known as the Devil's Rope. Look for the Barbed Wire Hall of Fame.

Kentucky - (Paducah)

The National Quilt Museum - This museum has over 27,000 square feet of exhibit space and three galleries. Exhibits rotate throughout the year.The museum also exhibits stained glass art based on quilt designs. Look for the hand carved wood quilt!

Michigan (Detroit) -

The Henry Ford Museum - In over 200 acres you will find 26 million artifacts. You can spend the whole day here and make stops at:

- The Rosa Parks Bus

- Kennedy's Limo

- Thomas Edison Laboratory

- The Tour - Known as The Legendary Ford Rouge Factory Tour

Hitsville USA Museum

Also in Detroit, you may have heard of this place referred to as the Motown Museum. As a teenager of the 60s I loved this music - everything was Motown and this museum is dedicated to that music.The Motown Sound was created by Berry Gordy in 1959 and introduced us to Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes,The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and many more. At the museum you will learn how Gordy started it all with an $800 loan from his family. Visited by tens of thousands annually, the draw is standing in Studio A where our favorite artists recorded their music.

Upstairs is the restored flat where Mr. Gordy and family lived during those early days. You'll see rare photos, other memorabilia, examples of promotional items as well as the high style clothes the artists wore.

Events change so check dates before you go.

Trivia - Earlier performances were listed as the Motortown Revue. Detroit is the Motor City or Motor Town because of its automobile industry. Motown is a shortened version of Motortown.

Missouri -

- (Kansas City) - Toy and Miniature Museum - This museum may be worth the trip just to see the two fully dressed fleas that are viewed under a microscope. Also under the microscope is a fully operable pair of dueling pistols that measure one-inch.

- (Independence) - Leila's Hair Museum - Showcased are over 2,000 pieces of jewelry made from human hair. Also included are hair from Abraham Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe.

- (St. Joseph) - Glore Psychiatric Museum - Considered one of the most unusual museums in the US, prepare yourself to see how mental illness was treated. On display are artifacts that include cages, straight-jackets and dousing tanks. Also included are full-sized replicas, and interactive and audio visual displays.

- (St. Joseph) - Patee House Museum - The museum is housed in the headquarters of the Pony Express of 1860 and contains a 1,050-pound ball of string. As far as American History and memorabilia you can feast your eyes on a 1920's gas station, an 1880's general store and the dentist office of the father of Walter Cronkite.

New Mexico (Roswell) -

UFO Museum and Research Center - Here you will find memorabilia from the hotly debated flying-saucer crash in 1947 along with the alleged government cover-up. Join the debate here. Also included is information about more otherworldly phenomena.

Ohio (Cincinnati) -

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center - The mission here is to educate, motivate and inspire all who are willing to take action on behalf of others whose human rights and basic freedoms are constrained by poverty, racism, slavery, tyranny, hunger, illiteracy and genocide. The gift shop offers fair trade products and an extensive collection of scholarly publications.

The Fees -

Most museums do charge a fee so check ahead. There are usually discounts for seniors and children under 12.


Are there any free museums?

Yes! Especially in Washington, D.C.

Many museums charge a fee but to stay within your budget the Smithsonian museums usually do not charge a fee. One of my favorites is in NYC (Manhattan). It's the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

The NMAI is in lower Manhattan in the old Custom's House. I have been many times. It is a calm, peaceful and rather soothing place to walk through. It has always lowered my stress level. This is a place to find the history of the earliest people on the North American continent.

Smithsonian museums are part of the Smithsonian Institution - the world's largest museum complex and research organization. Part of it is the 17 museums in DC and the two in NYC. These museums are open 364 days a year and 24/7 online. Admission is free to all the museums in DC and the American Indian Museum Heye Center (the NMAI) here in NYC. A fee is charged at the Copper-Hewitt National Design Museum (NYC).

Most are art museums but the price is right if you are visiting DC anyway. One of the most popular is the:

- National Air and Space Museum

There is also:

- The National Postal Museum


Need More Travel Ideas? See links below:

Visiting Museums

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    • prasadjain profile image


      4 years ago from Tumkur

      This is a very informative hub on New york museums.It briefly mentions why a perticular museum in NYC should be visited. It helps to choose.

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks so much Peter Geekie! Lucky you to be able to cruise and get in some good relaxing time on the seas. So many of us are staying closer to home and surprisingly don't think about taking the children to the many museums - which they all seem to love.

      Next time I am in Chicago I will visit the Shedd Aquarium. When I visit family in England I get to visit all the London Museums. Great stuff.

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear bkcreative,

      Thank you for an interesting guide to museums and places of interest.i used to visit the USA and Canada quite frequently but since retiring have been spending more time in cruising the Baltic and Arctic areas.

      I do, however, remember the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago which was a massive and fascinating place.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

      Kind regards Peter


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