Museums of Oddities

If you find museums to be boring, dull, dusty, and all together something you’d put on your to-do list right after organize your sock drawer and right before scrub the toilets, then it’s possible you’re visiting the wrong ones. In no particular order, here are a few real-life museums (I promise I’m not making these up) that just might pique your interest:

  • The Mob Museum in Las Vegas (full name: The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement). Everything you wanted to know about organized crime, but were afraid to ask (partially because that kind of browsing history can get you into trouble with the FBI). “Shadows and whispers. G-Men and Made Men. Whether you like it or not, this is American history. Real stories are brought to life with engaging, multi-sensory exhibits and unparalleled insights from those on the front lines of both sides of the battle,” says the website. Cops and robbers for grownups!
  • If that’s not macabre enough, try The Old Operating Theatre, the London Bridge. No, no, this isn’t a museum about how to operate the London Bridge. Think the other kind of operating … that’s right: Victorian-era surgical practices, back before anesthetics. Yikes! Located just south of London Bridge.
  • If fanciful and whimsical are more your thing, go by The Cryptozoology Museum, in Portland, Maine. What’s cryptozoology, you may ask? Why, it’s the study of hidden, obscure, and/or unknown animals, of course. Naturally, we’re all familiar with the “normal” sasquatches, yetis, Loch Ness monsters, abominable snowmen, etc., but what about the Dover Demon, the Montauk Monster, the Jersey Devil, the Thylacine, the Coelacanth, and the Napes/Skunk Apes?
  • The Neon Museum, again in Las Vegas, is a fun one to go see if you like your lights big and bright. They even have a “neon boneyard.”

Neon Boneyard, Mikayla Whitmore,

  • If magic is your thing, you’ll love visiting The Magic Circle, in London. Known as the most famous magicians’ club in the world, it’s no surprise that it’s not open for casual tours or walk-ins. But you can buy tickets for your group, or go see a show, or wait for one of their “open days.” It’s sure to leave you slack-jawed and baffled, in the best way possible!
  • Back to the disturbing, but strangely fascinating, is The Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Boasting a huge skull collection (parts of Einstein’s brain included), medical instruments, anatomical bodies, and *gulp* a whole “wet collection.” I’m not sure I want to know … and yet …


  • While not technically a museum, The Mystery Spot, in Michigan, is a fun go-to. This area was discovered by surveyors in the 1950s, when their equipment mysteriously stopped working correctly.  “Where else can a tall person seem smaller by comparison or climb a wall and tilt precariously into the air but not fall?” the website asks. Well, more than one place, oddly enough: there’s another mystery spot in Gold Hill, Oregon. The Oregon Vortex is “a glimpse of a strange world where the improbable is the commonplace and everyday physical facts are reversed. No matter your education or profession, you will find a challenge to all your accepted theories.”
  • In a suburb of San Antonio, you can go visit Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. Yep, you read that correctly. The only thing weirder than Barney’s exhibit of toilet-seat art (located in his garage), is that he adds a new piece of toilet seat art annually … for his wife … for their anniversary. According to his patrons, 93-year-old Barney and his beloved commode toppers are something you shouldn’t miss.

photo, Toilet Seat Art Museum

  • The UFO Museum is located … naturally … in Roswell, New Mexico, and if you’re murky on the details of little green men (ahem, they were gray, if you recall), this place should jog your memory … or probe it. Haha! Just a little UFO humor.
  • If you like your art on the ginormous side, stop by The Porter Sculpture Park, in South Dakota. With over 50 “larger than life” roadside sculptures (like the 60-foot bull below), it’s a must for the kiddos traveling with you: this one is hands-on! You an even take your pooch.


  • The International Banana Museum is in Mecca, CA. We don’t know exactly why this place exists, but bring your two scoops of vanilla, chocolate fudge sauce, and a cherry, just in case.
  • How about Gnomesville, A Place Where Everybody Feels at Gnome? Gnomesville, Australia, population 7,000. No one knows exactly how this outdoor museum began; some say it started with one lone gnome to watch over the area and people began adding more and more. Whatever the origin, Gnomesville has grown so much it had to be relocated to a larger plot of land.


  1. BB king says:

    What fun! And I used to think that the items listed in my favorite travel book ” Roadside America” were fun. I want to visit nearly of these. neato!

  2. Karlyne says:

    I don’t like the macabre, creepy ones, but how can you resist the toilet seat museum?!

  3. Krista says:

    I would love to visit the Magic Circle! Magic definitely draws me in. The Mystery Spot also sounds fascinating. I’ll remeber these and next time we travel I’ll see if one is near by.

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