Looking for Something New to Do? Check Out These Unique Museums!

New York

You could spend days visiting all the museums in the Big Apple, and you probably have seen many of them already. Maybe, it’s time for something a little bit different. Like, truly unique.

How about the KGB Espionage Museum? You’ll uncover a collection of never-before-seen secret tools and techniques used by the infamous Russian police force you’ve been reading about in spy novels for years. Things like spy radios, secret recorders, and crypto/cypher machines. You can make it an interactive experience, too, depending on long you can take sitting in an “interrogation chair.” You can even test out a robot hand used for bomb disposals and an actual KGB prison bed (spoiler alert: not very comfortable). Be sure to check their website for current hours of operation, as well as any pandemic protocols you’ll be asked to obey. Nicely.

And, if your meeting runs late, only New York could offer you a 24/7 solution. The Mmuseumm is located inside an old freight elevator in an alley that runs between Broadway and Lafayette at Franklin (4 Cortlandt Alley). It’s often open till 6, but you can visit anytime by peering through viewing holes on the elevator door and calling a phone number to find out what you’re looking at. The collection rotates, but might include a single brown shoe. Why so famous? It was thrown at a former U. S. President by a foreign journalist. It’s truly unique!

Milwaukee

Most Milwaukee visitors with a few extra hours like to motor over to the huge Harley-Davidson Museum for a journey into the history of this all-American company. However, there’s another collection of unique machines in town that gets a lot of head nods. It’s the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.

With over 10,000 examples of these bouncy little figurines, the Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is clearly the world champ. As you would figure, a large portion of the collection is sports related (nearly every team from every sport is represented). But you’ll also find famous musicians, politicians, TV/film and advertising characters, and even infamous individuals, like Al Capone.

The collection is constantly updated, too. New this summer is Joey Chestnut, the hot dog eating champion from Coney Island. Who knows who else will be shaking their heads at you when you stop in for a quick visit? Get the latest schedule for their convenient downtown location at https://www.bobbleheadhall.com.

Cleveland

Headed to Cleveland for business? Chances are you’ve blocked out some time for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, like everyone else. What else does the city offer?

Well, you’re in luck, because Cleveland is also home to one of the few NASA outposts in the country. Yes, NASA, as in National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Welcome to the Great Lakes Science Visitor Center at the Glenn Research Center. (It’s actually located between the Rock and Roll HOF and the Cleveland Brown’s stadium, and closed on football game days.)

Start with a real moon rock from the Apollo 15 mission to begin your lunar experience.

There’s also the actual Skylab Apollo 3 Command Module from 1973, and spacesuits from Apollo and Skylab worthy of a selfie or two. Some of the interactive science exhibits will make your hair stand on end. You can even get a close look at the giant Mars airbag landing system, tested right there at the Glenn Research Center.

And you thought you were just going to Cleveland for business. (Once a month, the Center offers special tours of the research facility itself that require reservations. Check their website for more information.)

Baltimore

Anyone who’s ever been to Baltimore seems to wind up at the huge, redeveloped Inner Harbor, with its Historic Ships of Baltimore exhibit, including the submarine that fired the last torpedo of World War II. But there’s another museum of interesting historical items you should really check out.

Welcome to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum – Located just a few blocks away from the Inner Harbor in the historic Camden Station, it houses 250 years of pop culture. It can almost guarantee a smile on your face at least once during your visit. How? Well, think about all the comic books, cartoons, dolls, TV/film characters and games you’ve enjoyed in your life. Chances are, Geppi’s has some of them on display.

Take toys and TV/movie memorabilia, like the first ever teddy bear, a Howdy Doody doll, or some original sketches from Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. Plus two of the biggest mega hits in comic book history: the very first Superman issue and the first comic book that introduced Batman. It’s all there waiting for you… in Baltimore.

Las Vegas

If you’re looking for a museum to spend some extra time in Las Vegas, good luck. There aren’t many to choose from, and many of the listed ones are actually located out of town. Also, it seems most every casino has an art collection or botanic garden to satisfy a cultural hunger. What do you do if you’re looking for something truly unique and unusual?

Here’s an idea: There’s one thing Las Vegas is known for the world over that is being saved, refurbished and cared for by a group of volunteers trying to preserve a piece of Las Vegas history you can’t find anywhere else—the classic Las Vegas neon sign at The Neon Museum

A permanent site for the museum is still under development, but you can schedule a tour of their neon-sign boneyard or catch a view outside the fence anytime of the day. The main boneyard has over 200 unrestored gems that come to life at sunset. There’s also a self-guided walking tour available from their website that shows several already rejuvenated classic signs positioned around town as public art, including the famous Aladdin’s lamp, the old Hacienda Casino and Hotel horseback rider and the Silver Slipper. Only in Vegas!

Dallas

For people of a certain age, Dallas represents a sad day in American history, and there are several museums and exhibits that explore that time. There’s also the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum for presidential scholars. But, if you’re looking for something truly different—and uniquely western—you really must ride on over to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. (It’s actually located in next door Fort Worth, but worth the trip.)

It’s the only museum in the world that honors the women of the West. Honorees include Sacajawea, Georgia O’Keefe, Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and over 200 more women important to the history of our country. You’ll also be able to digitally design your very own boot and shirt, as well as try your hand at bronc-riding, amid real rodeo footage for a visual memento.

Check out some of Annie Oakley’s personal items, such as her wedding ring or one of the shotguns she used traveling around in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.

By the way, there’s also the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame  located in Fort Worth also. And, if you really don’t want to leave Dallas proper, there’s always the Museum of Illusions.

Seattle

Seattle is tricky. If you’re looking for an oddball, unique museum excursion, you have several to choose from. There’s the Center for Wooden Boats and, of course, the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop (One and Too), which is like a shop-slash-museum, with mummies, shrunken heads, and walrus skulls interspersed between, above and around thousands of “curiosities” for sale.

Yet, a truly unique Seattle venue would have to be the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, now located in the Museum of Pop Culture, or MOPOP . The Hall of Fame explores the lives and legacies of the greatest names in science fiction history, and includes over 30 artifacts, like Luke Skywalker’s severed hand, Issac Asimov’s typewriter and the Staff of Ra headpiece from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Some honorees featured are Margaret Atwood, Jim Henson, Terry Gilliam, George Orwell and Ray Harryhausen, of Jason and the Argonauts fame, plus many, many more. Everyone who’s anyone in the world of science fiction is represented in this huge interactive exhibit. Check out who and what’s currently highlighted.

You’re also in luck, because the Hall of Fame is located inside the Museum of Pop Culture, which is a whole other unusual experience ready for you.

Denver

So many people head straight for the mountains when they visit Denver, it’s easy to overlook the museums in town. That’s understandable. But for seekers of the unique, off-beat and unusual, Denver offers a fair share of decent choices.

You could start with the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Toys and Dolls. It’s technically not in Denver, but nearby Lakewood, and it is filled with lots and lots of basically miniature toys and dolls. Perhaps, you have bigger ideas?

Two spots in town to think about are the National Ballpark Museum (one block away from Coors Field) and the Molly Brown House Museum, where you’ll learn everything there is to know about “Unsinkable Molly Brown” (a survivor from the Titanic).

The National Ballpark Museum is home to one of the largest collections of baseball park memorabilia in the world. The core of the museum is a display of seats, bricks and models of all of the original 14 U.S. ballparks. There are sections from the Green Monster at Fenway and the Wrigley Field scoreboard. You can selfie your way through every display; take photos of anything and everything.

The Margaret “Molly” Brown House has been meticulously restored to its Victorian splendor. Ms. Brown was a local hero, not only for surviving the Titanic, but heavily involved in social issues and workers’ rights up through the early 1930s. The restoration includes several collections of fashions, furniture, art, china and glassware. Many personal items are coordinated with real events to give you a sense of “being there” that is truly unique.

Chicago

Chicago is known for its French Impressionist paintings and large-scale museums, planetarium and aquarium. You’ve probably “been there/done that” with all of them. It’s time for a second choice in the Second City.

Consider the International Museum of Surgical Science. If you’re doing business in the downtown area, you’ll find the museum easy to find. It’s housed in a glorious old mansion in the middle of Chicago’s Gold Coast just north of the Loop right on Lake Shore Drive. Once inside, you’ll have four floors of exhibits, illustrations, paintings, photos and examples of the many milestones and mysteries of surgical science. Special exhibits have included things like Napoleon’s death mask, early surgical tools, spinal surgery equipment and the history of ophthalmology.

After viewing all the greats in the Hall of Mortals and the Hall of Murals, don’t forget the museum gift shop. You’ve never seen a larger collection of medically-oriented options, from classic get well cards to various microbe dolls and even a brain-cell key chain.

And because Chicago is a fairly long city (25 miles hugging Lake Michigan), your business trip might take you to one of its northern suburbs. You can still get a taste of the unique and unusual at the American Toby Jug Museum in Evanston. Tours are by appointment only, but admission is free. Inside are displayed over 8,000 beautiful examples of this distinctive pottery art jug that takes human form. The Toby jugs appear in 97 glass cabinets, some as old as 250 years.

Atlanta

Atlanta is hot right now. For lots of reasons: a growing TV/movie production scene, the largest Hindu temple in the U.S., not to mention the home of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) with its very own museum.

But if you’d like to march through Atlanta to a different tune, you’ll have to check out the Center for Puppetry Arts. You’ll find puppets from nearly every culture on the planet, and maybe some from outer space. Foremost would be an entire gallery containing the largest display of Jim Henson artifacts and puppets anywhere, along with a behind the scenes look at the puppet creative process.

The permanent collection has over 5,000 items, including the “Madame,” a gorgeous, over-the-top, outrageous, diamond-clad beauty made famous on Hollywood Squares and Laugh In. And the live shows, exhibits and events will certainly bring out the kid in you…no strings attached.

 

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