From artwork done by serial killers to a museum filled with over 20,000 banana artifacts, there is no doubt that America has the coolest museums in the world. Forget the traditional Picasso’s and the normality you’ve seen time and time again–these museums offer a touch of surprise and unsurpassable fun. Grab a good friend with a good sense of humor and set out for a touch of unforgettable coolness.
1. Museum of Death, Los Angeles
Rid your fear of death here at this extraordinary Hollywood museum. Since first opening in 1995, the 45-minute self-guided tour now begins with serial killer artwork (the world’s largest collection) and memorabilia, including a vomit-stained shirt one killer wore when he was electrocuted. Also check out Marilyn Monroe’s morgue photo, a Heaven’s Gate mass suicide exhibit, Liberace’s taxidermied cat, replicas of execution devices, and the real severed head of a serial killer! There is no age limit, but it is recommended for mature audiences only. Admission is $15.
2. Museum of Bad Art, Somerville, MA
Head right outside of Boston to discover MOBA, the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all of its forms. It all started in the basement of a private home and has since grown to nearly 600 pieces of the best of the worst art around. This collection of art that is “too bad to be ignored” now has an online presence with a virtual gallery and 3 permanent locations at the Dedham Community Theater, the 1927 historic Somerville Theatre and Brookline Access Television. Admission is free, though donations are accepted–yes, even donations of an old art project gone wrong.
3. Museum of S*x, New York City, NY
We all do it, so why not embrace it? Whether you’re a d*rty old man or a curious teenager, this museum is sure to leave you feeling a little d*rty. Despite its provocat*ve title, it offers a historical look at the history of s*x in our culture, featuring over 20 exhibitions and installations. Current exhibits include “The S*x Life of Animals,” sharing everything from same s*x pairings to dolphin blowhole s*x and panda p*rn. Sorry p*rverted kids, you have to be 18 or older. Admission is $17.50 for adults and $15.25 for students and seniors.
4. Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA
Since first opening in 1858, this museum–dubbed as “America’s finest museum of medical history”–contains oddities, anatomical and pathological specimen, wax models, and strange equipment. Famous exhibits include the Hyrtl Skull collection, a skeleton belonging to a 7’6″ giant man, and the brain of the guy who assassinated President Garfield. See jars filled with floating creatures that are supposed to be human but look more alien, alongside photos of victims of the most unusual and unpleasant diseases and deformities. Also view the nine-foot-long human colon which was packed with over 40 pounds of fecal matter when it was removed from its owner. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children, and $13 for seniors.
5. The Voodoo Museum, New Orleans, LA
Come get acquainted with the history and culture of voodoo here in the heart of the French Quarter. Since opening in 1972, this museum has accumulated objects from all over the globe, plus some articles that allegedly belonged to the legendary Marie Laveau. There is generally a voodoo priest or priestess on-site, giving readings and making personal gris-gris bags. The Voodoo Museum offers walking tours to the nearby St. Louis Cemetery and the tomb of Marie Laveau. General admission is $7, $3.50 for children, and $5.50 for seniors.
6. International Spy Museum, Washington, DC
The the first and only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on this all-but-invisible profession, this museum houses 68,000-square-feet of space devoted to espionage and teaches you about the tricks and trades of spies, both historic and fictitious, with plenty of hands-on and interactive exhibits. Trick equipment includes a shoe transmitter used by Soviets as a listening device and a single-shot pistol disguised as a lipstick tube. From seeing a video of individuals being made up for disguise to actually getting down on your knees and crawling through ductwork in the ceiling, there truly is something for everyone. Keep in mind that neither the main museum nor its special features are recommended for children 11 and under. General admission is $20.95 for adults, $14.95 for children, and $15.95 for seniors.
7. Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA
Come learn about the life and art of Andy Warhol here at this ever-changing museum. See 900 paintings, 100 sculptures, 2,000 works on paper, 1,000 prints, 4,000 photographs, 60 feature films, and 4,000 videos covering the full scope of Warhol’s career. Favorites include 1960s Pop paintings of consumer products, such as the world famous Campbell’s Soup Cans, along with celebrities such as Liz, Jackie, Marilyn, and Elvis, Disasters and Electric Chairs, portrait paintings by Mao, Skull paintings and the abstract Oxidations from the 1970s, and works from the 1980s, such as The Last Supper, by Raphael. General admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Admission is half-price on Fridays from 5pm-10pm.
8. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, OH
Rock and Roll fans unite here at the world’s only museum devoted to the celebration and preservation of rock and roll music. The 150,000 square-foot museum features seven floors, four theaters for films, special events and free public programs and a wide variety of ever-changing exhibits. See Junior Walker’s saxophone, a smashed guitar from Paul Simonton of the Clash, James Brown’s tuxedo coat, Neil Young’s fringed leather jacket, John Lennon’s report card, and Joe Walsh’s high-school football jersey! Cleveland is the town where DJ Alan Freed first coined the term rock ‘n’ roll and where Chuck Berry played his first public gig. It’s also the hometown of musicians from Phil Ochs to Chrissie Hynde to Trent Reznor. Admission is $22 for adults, $13 for children, and $17 for seniors.
9. The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City, CA
Located right outside of Los Angeles, this museum is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic. See a beautiful tea and garden area on the roof with birds and fountains, along with an odd collection of items pertaining to this era. They also have an entire gallery devoted to early-20th-century communications sent to astronomers at the Mount Wilson Observatory near Pasadena. You’ll also see a scale model of Noah’s Ark, a microscope that has supposedly accidentally shattered a specimen dish, a fruit pit carved with an image of the Crucifixion, and strangest of all, you’ll come across a horn said to have grown from the back of a woman’s head! Now that’s my kind of museum! Suggested admission is $8 for adults, free for children, and $5 for seniors.
10. National Toy Hall of Fame, Rochester, NY
Established in 1998, this museum recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period. Each year, they induct new honorees and showcase both new and historic versions of classic toys beloved by generations. They house the world’s largest and most comprehensive assemblage of toys, dolls, board games, electronic games, books, photographs, documents, and other historical materials related to play. Kids will enjoy dressing up like Mr. Potato Head, playing with hula hoops, LEGOs, Checkers, and even watching an elaborate Lionel train display as it swerves around the tracks. General admission is $13.50.
11. The SPAM Museum, Austin, MN
Come visit the M.O.M.A.–the Museum Of Meat-Themed Awesomeness! This museum is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts, with 16,500 square feet of SPAM history. SPAM is the king of mystery meats and this is where 44,000 cans of SPAM roll out of the factory each hour. Features include a towering wall of SPAM, made of 3,390 cans, which rises to the ceiling in the lobby. “SPAMburger Alley,” features a ceiling slung with a SPAM patty 4800 times larger than life-size. They kill about 20,000 hogs a day! Admission is free of charge.
12. The World of Coke, Atlanta, GA
Learn more about the world’s most popular soft drink at this 75,000-square-foot facility downtown, right beside the Georgia Aquarium. You’ll see a massive collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, along with numerous interactive displays, high-tech exhibits, an art gallery, video presentations, and my favorite, Taste It!–where visitors can have free samples of more than 60 soft drink products from around the world. The Hub is where visitors have an opportunity to meet the Coca-Cola polar bear and have their photo taken with him. The Bottle Works exhibit is a working bottling line that allows visitors to stand in the midst of the process. Watch for the small glass bottles to be filled and then be sure to pick up one as your free souvenir before leaving. Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with the Group Marketing Manager at The World of Coke. General admission is $16 for adults, $12 for children, and $14 for seniors.
13. Bigfoot Discovery Museum, Felton, CA
Located about 1.5 hours outside of San Francisco, come hear Yeti tales (Or Sasquatch or Bigfoot tales if you prefer) and see video footage, audiotapes, and a local map with pushpins marking over 150 sightings. See exhibits of local history, tied in with local Bigfoot sightings, popular culture as it relates to the public view of Bigfoot, and actual evidence in the form of plaster foot and hand prints along with detailed exhibit on the film. There are exhibits inside the main building as well as in the rear, a nocturnal diorama featuring Bigfoot, and an audio-video outside “cafe” area where you can see Bigfoot documentaries of your choosing. Admission is free of charge.
14. The McDonald’s Museum, Des Plaines, IL
Comes see the recreation of the first McDonalds restaurant, which was opened by Ray Kroc in 1955. It’s located just 30 minutes outside of Chicago. The original red and white tiled restaurant building featuring the Golden Arches was actually torn down in 1984, yet the current facility was built according to the original blueprints. However, the iconic “Speedee” road sign out front is original. An operating McDonald’s restaurant is located across the street from the museum. Tours are available by appointment and feature exhibits with original fry vats and grills, attended to by a crew of male mannequins in 1950s uniforms. In the basement is a collection of vintage ads, photos, and a video about McDonald’s history. While it’s called “the original McDonald’s,” it is not the first McDonald’s restaurant but the ninth; the first was opened by Dick and Mac McDonald in San Bernardino, California, in 1940, while the oldest McDonald’s still in operation is the third one built, in Downey, CA, which opened in 1953. Admission is free of charge.
15. National Museum of Funeral History, Houston, TX
This museum houses the country’s largest collection of funeral service artifacts and features renowned exhibits on one of man’s oldest cultural customs. Come discover the mourning rituals of ancient civilizations and explore the rich heritage of the industry which cares for the dead. See John Paul II’s bulletproof Popemobile and an exact reproduction of his triple-nested coffin. Also see a coffin embedded with hundreds of dollars of U.S. coins and currency, Snow White’s clear glass casket, and a coffin made of the same greenish glass used in old Coke bottles. The “casket for three” was made in the 1930s for a married couple who intended to kill themselves after their baby died, but never did. Also see the largest collection of custom-designed Ghanaian coffins outside of Africa. The official state funeral hearses of Presidents Ford and Reagan are also on display. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children, and $9 for seniors.
16. Museum of the Weird, Austin, TX
Dubbed as “America’s Strangest Attraction,” the Museum of the Weird houses oddities to ogle like shrunken heads, one-eyed pigs, a Fiji mermaid, the Minnesota Iceman, a hand of glory (supposedly the dried and pickled hand of a man who has been hanged), live tarantulas, a two-headed chicken, and mummies. More recent additions come from 1960s and 70s camp horror films, such as a full-sized figures of Frankenstein and other classic monsters. The Lucky Lizard novelty shop sells bizarre trinkets from X-ray glasses to zombie dolls. General admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
17. Circus World Museum, Baraboo, WI
Come visit America’s favorite circus attraction! It was once the site of the Ringling Bros. Circus winter quarters from 1884 to 1918. Circus World pays homage to the original Ringlingville and the art of the performance. See shows under the Big Top and a collection of historic circus wagons, and learn about the story of the circus and its impact on American culture with exhibits of old circus advertisements, artifacts, sideshow banners and costumes. See the world’s largest collection of parade wagons, enjoy elephant and pony rides, and chow down on cotton candy and ice cream! Admission is $9.95 for adults, $4.95 for children, and $8.95 for seniors.
18. The Museum, New York City, NY
Currently featuring 15 new exhibitions, this museum is located within a freight elevator in a building on a TriBeCa side street. This 60-square-foot space has a collection of everyday and esoteric items, these include plastic vomit, the shoe hurled at President George W. Bush, toothpaste tubes, Disney bulletproof children’s backpacks, and even objects made by prisoners! Current exhibits include “The Rocks and Tools from Tom Sach’s Mars expedition, Tip Jars collected by Jim Walrod, and Surf and Turf Potato Chips!” The Museum has been open since early 2013 on weekends only, but a glass peephole allows a look inside 24/7. Free but donations are gladly accepted.
19. The National Museum of Roller Skating, Lincoln, NE
Housing the world’s largest collection of roller skates, this museum pays tribute to shoes that move and the sports they spawned. The oldest pair dates back to 1819, but perhaps the most memorable is the 1956 pair of gas-powered roller skates. With a 19-pound gasoline motor strapped on the back, it allowed some brave soul to roll up to 40 miles an hour. Permanent exhibits dedicated to inline, figure, hockey, speed, and roller derby sports feature photographs, costumes, and video footage. 1,500 archival books and periodicals on skating are here for your perusal. Admission is free of charge.
20. International Banana Museum, Mecca, CA
Come see the world’s largest collection of a single fruit here in Mecca! Since the early ’70s, the owners of this healthy joint have accumulated more than 19,000 items of bananabilia, from a banana-shaped putter to a seven-foot-tall banana popular for photo ops. Enjoy banana smoothies from a waiter decked out in banana-themed clothing at the nonalcoholic banana bar! They have the Guiness world record for the largest collection devoted to any one fruit, with objects that range from a gold-sequined Michael Jackson banana to the world’s only petrified banana. They offer banana flavored treats, shakes, sodas and drinks. Banana related gifts and T shirts are available for purchase also. A nominal admission charge is just $1, or free with a merchandise purchase.
21. Leila’s Hair Museum, Independence, MO
Visit the world’s only hair museum! Don’t expect to find prehistoric curling irons or Dolly’s wig collection in this joint. What you will see here in Independence, which is right outside of Kansas City, is real hair fashioned into the coolest art around! Leila Cohoon, a retired hairdresser, has lovingly collected 600 hair wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of human hair jewelry, some of which date back to the 18th century. One pair of wreaths features strands from two sisters whose heads were shaved upon entering a convent. Michael Jackson, Queen Victoria, and four presidents have also made contributions to this beloved museum. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.
22. Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum, McLean, TX
Barbed wire has been used to keep people out since the mid-1880s. But at Devil’s Rope, they’ve got an entire museum devoted to this wire, as visitors are welcomed in to learn about one of the most useful inventions for the pioneering American landowner. Housed in a former bra factory just off historic Route 66, the museum’s exhibits include patent information (there are more than 450 on the books), collections from private wire collectors, and warfare wire. Free of charge.
23. Burlingame Pez Museum, Burlingane, CA
Candy lover or not, you’re sure to fall in love with this quirky collection of vintage Pez dispensers, here at the Burlingame Pez Museum, which is just 10 miles south of San Francisco’s airport. Come see how you measure up next to the World’s Largest Pez Dispenser, a behemoth snowman measuring in at 7 feet, 20 inches tall–over 20 times bigger than a typical Pez dispenser. A nominal admission is charged at $3 for adults and $1 for children and seniors.
24. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, LA
Those who won’t be visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras will want to be sure to head here. They make more than three-quarters of the floats used by the various krewes every Carnival season and they offer tours of their collection of float sculptures and its studios, where you can see floats being made year-round. Visitors may see sculptors at work, making small “sketches” of the figures or the enormous sculptures that adorn the floats. You can even try on some heavily jewels and costumes! In addition to seeing the floats, tours also include King Cake and coffee. Admission is $19.95 for adults, $12.95 for children, and $15.95 for seniors.
25. Museum of Transportation, St.Louis
With the “largest and best collections of transportation vehicles in the world,” this museum (founded in 1944) includes one of the two first man made railroad tunnels west of the Mississippi River. This unique museum features more than 70 locomotives, it boasts one of the most complete collections of American rail power anywhere, including an 1858 wood-burning locomotive, a Big Boy (the world’s largest steam locomotive), and a 1920s Pullman sleeping car. Automobiles on display range from a 1915 Ford Model T to Bobby Darin’s 1960 dream car. Other highlights include a miniature passenger train and a trolley circulating the museum’s 129 acres. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
26. Toilet Seat Museum, San Antonio, TX
Come see toilet seat art set up in someones private garage! It has a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor! The owner is well into his nineties, yet still works hard on his toilet seat art. He has over 1,000 on display, though none are for sale. Visitors are welcome to bring their own toilet seat lids and the owner will gladly engrave their name into the seat to give them credit. When the owner passes on, he would like for one of his daughters to take over the collection. Though, he claims that the world’s largest manufacturer of the toilet seats, wants to move the museum to its headquarters in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin–but not as long as Barney is alive. Admission is free.
27. Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, Gatlinburg, TN
Come see the world’s only salt and pepper shaker museum! In search of the perfect pepper mill, Andrea Ludden discovered a new hobby. Fast-forward about 30 years, and she’s accumulated 80,000 shakers and mills, half of which can be found in this museum near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the others occupy a new, sister museum in Guadalest, Spain. To the Ludden family, it’s more than just a novelty. They believe that the condiment containers are petite pieces of art that reflect societal shifts and are worth your time of day! A $3 admission fee goes towards any shaker purchased in the gift shop.
What’s the coolest museum you’ve ever visited? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.