Given the right amount of weird, the best part of a road trip can be the unexpected roadside attraction along the way to your final destination. But instead of leaving that enjoyable detour to chance, consider the possibilities if you made everything World Famous the purpose of the trip.
Here’s the ultimate American cross-country road trip put together by Mashable, featuring 26 weird museums, from an entire building devoted to bananas to the official Dolly Parton museum.
The route is as weird as the museums, and would cover almost the entire country from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. Even if you don’t have the time to make the whole trip (and not many of us do), the itinerary can be split up depending on time and starting point.
Part 1: Maine to Illinois
The first leg of this epic weird museum road trip covers 2,413 miles. Estimated driving time: 39 hours, 16 minutes.
1. International Cryptozoology Museum
First stop, the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, dedicated to documenting “unknown” animals. The issue, as you may have already realized, is that these animals are unknown.
If this museum is any indication, the best way to document something unknown is to create models and just start asking questions. “Do Giant Beavers still exist?” Did they ever? Do you suppose Indiana Jones ever fought them? For being about not-real things, the exhibits do not disappoint.
If you’re saying, ‘What about the Lobster Museum?’ I hear you. Lobstahs would have been the obvious choice in Maine, but if you stop at a shack for dinner after learning everything there is to know about Big Foot and the Abominable Snowman, you should be set.
Address: 11 Avon St. Portland, Maine 04101
2. New England Maple Museum
That lobster dinner will put you right to sleep, so rest up in Portland but get back on the road early to make it to Vermont for breakfast. Where else but Vermont would an entire museum be dedicated to maple syrup? The drive west to the New England Maple Museum, located in the foothills of the Green Mountains, will take a bit less than four hours.
The museum covers 200 years of maple sugaring history.
Also, you can buy syrup. (And pancake mix.)
Address: 4578 U.S. 7, Pittsford, Vermont 05763
3. Warren Anatomical Museum
From the Maple Museum, it’ll be a bit longer than three hours before you reach the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston.
Among the specimens is the “well-known” skull of Phineas Gage, the man who had an iron rod go through his skull in a railroad accident. He lived, amazingly, but his personality changed at least somewhat and he soon became immortalized by scientists and researchers.
John Collins Warren, a physician who lived from 1778 – 1856, donated his personal teaching and research collection to Harvard. Warren started collecting around 1799, and expanded his collection during his years of teaching. Over the years, the museum has added collections from other prominent physicians and researchers — the collection today boasts more than 15,000 artifacts. So far it just sounds educational, right? It gets weirder.
What’s even more odd than the skull is how Gage has become standard in teaching when relatively little is known about him.
Address: Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck St., Boston, Massachusetts 02115
4. The Mütter Museum
Time to get weirder. Five hours’ drive to the south is the Mütter Museum, which bills itself as “disturbingly informative.”
Where the Warren museum is odd, the Mütter museum is bizarre. This Philadelphia stop kicks the anatomical oddities up a few notches.
The museum is one of only two places where you can see parts of Albert Einstein’s brain. While there’s no evidence that looking at the mind of a genius will help your own frontal lobe, it can’t hurt.
We’ve got one more terrifyingly weird museum and then we’ll move on to some lighter-hearted destinations.
Address: 19 S. 22nd St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
5. The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe
The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, is dedicated to all things Poe, and is located at the oldest house still standing in the city. It was built in the 1700s, and Poe lived just a couple blocks away. The drive from Mütter to Poe will take four hours.
The museum has a gigantic collection of the author’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings. At the museum you’ll be able to “retreat into early nineteenth century Richmond where Poe lived and worked.”
Address: 1914-16 East Main St., Richmond, Virginia 23223
6. Warther Museum
It’s time to head west.
The Warther Museum seven hours to the west in Dover, Ohio, is home to the many, manywood carvings that Ernest “Mooney” Warther created in his lifetime. The carvings are elaborate:
As you might expect, behind every amazing wood-carving man, there is an even more amazing button-collecting woman.
Freida Warther, Mooney’s wife, collected more than 73,000 buttons. That’s right: seventy-three thousand buttons. The home is restored to reflect what it was like in the 1920s.
Address: 331 Karl Avenue, Dover, Ohio 44622
7. The Mystery Spot (Michigan Edition)
Next stop is a full seven and a half hours away, so additional diversions in Michigan are fair game if you see any on the way north to the Mystery Spot.
According to the St. Ignace Mystery Spot’s website, three “surveyors” from California happened upon this spot “where their surveying equipment didn’t seem to work properly” in the 1950s. The California attraction of the same name (We’ll get there, just wait.) was founded in 1941, so it would seem that Clarence, Fred and McCray (the surveyors) may have had some, shall we say, inspiration.
But no matter. You don’t have to be first to do something right, and if “right” means “completely weird,” then this spot is not wrong.
“Where else can a tall person seem smaller by comparison or climb a wall and tilt precariously into the air but not fall?” the site asks. (*cough* California *cough*)
According to the website, visitors return to the spot “year after year to experience the unusual sensations that occur within its boundaries.” While the Mystery Spot isn’t technically a museum, it is full of history, so we’re including it.
Address: 150 Martin Lake Road, St. Ignace, Michigan 49781
8. National Mustard Museum
There must be a cheese curd museum, but just like lobster in Maine, cheese curds are easy to find in Wisconsin. That’s why we’re going with the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, six and a half hours southwest of St. Ignace. Whether you are a plain yellow or fancy brown mustard kind of person, the museum dedicated to the condiment has something for you.
The museum has more than 5,624 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. It also has a mustard vending machine.
The origin story of this museum is almost weirder than the idea of an entire museum dedicated to mustard. Barry Levenson founded the museum after his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, lost the World Series in 1986. Apparently this shook Levenson to the core, as he then sought out the meaning of life in a supermarket, heard the mustard talk to him (“If you collect us, they will come”). In 1992 he left his job with the State of Wisconsin and opened what is now “one of Wisconsin’s most popular attractions.”
None of that makes any sense but that almost makes it better.
Address: 7477 Hubbard Avenue, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562
9. Historic Auto Attractions
The Midwest is chock full of weird, and our next stop is only an hour away.
Historic Auto Attractions, on either coast, would probably have just been a car museum. In Roscoe, Illinois, however, it is so much more: Among the exhibits, the car used in the Batman television series and the paddywagon from Ghostbusters. Oh, you know, and this:
Source: HISTORIC AUTO ATTRACTIONS
Address: 13825 Metric Drive, Roscoe, Illinois 61073
Part 2: Indiana to Montana
Total distance covered in part deux is 4,130 miles, which will take about 62 hours and 38 minutes to drive.
10. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Monastery
Two hours south of Historic Auto Attractions, the Carmelite Fathers maintain a monastery in Munster, Indiana. Inside, there is a blacklight display fit for worship: The Ultraviolet Apocalypse.
This is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed, so we’ll leave it at that.
Address: 1628 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana 46321
11. Chasing Rainbows Museum
This museum is dedicated to all things Dolly Parton, including costumes from 9 to 5, Straight Talk and more, along with “lavishly sequined gowns worn during her countless concerts, award shows and special appearances.”
It’s a veritable shrine to this amazing woman, so of course it’s in Dollywood, about eight hours south in Tennessee. Theme park admission brings up the cost on this one, to make it much higher than the rest of the stops. But come on, it’s Dollywood.
Address: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd., Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 37863
Admission: $92 for entry to Dollywood
12. Musée Conti Historical Wax Museum
The museum tour includes all kinds of history of how New Orleans came to be the amazing place it is today.
They also host weddings, although it appears those take place in areas separate from where Napoleon is bathing.
Address: 917 Rue Conti New Orleans, Louisiana 70112
13. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
The pharmacy museum, also in New Orleans, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic building within Vieux Carre, has an extensive collection of the tools used for bloodletting, leeches and other questionable medical practices of the 19th century.
Entering the museum “feels like you are stepping back in time,” according to one reviewer on TripAdvisor. Considering the medical practices of that time, we’d prefer to stay in today’s hospitals, but the museum is cool.
Address: 514 Chartres St, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
14. Museum of the Weird
The next stop would be a lot closer if Texas weren’t so big. It’ll be about seven hours of Texas landscape before we reach Austin.
The exhibits are a mix of terrifying pranks and the kind of urban legend material we saw a glimpse of at the cryptozoology museum. No matter what the subject material, the emphasis is on “weird.”
Don’t miss the gift shop.
Address: 412 E. 6th St., Austin, Texas 78701
15. Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum
This is a place you “gotta go!” according to TripAdvisor. Barney Smith, the 93-year-old proprietor, is as much a reason to visit — if not more of one — than the toilet seats. Barney’s is about an hour southwest of Austin, in a suburb of San Antonio.
NATS, ROBERT KIMBERLY
The exhibit is set up in Smith’s garage which he opens to the public for free. Every year, he makes a new toilet seat art piece for his wife for their anniversary.
That is both sweet and weird, and so very Texas.
Address: 239 Abiso, Alamo Heights, Texas 78209
16. International UFO Museum
Taking about seven and a half hours to detour to New Mexico on the way to Kansas may sound a little crazy, but this is a required stop.
The International UFO Museum naturally raises a lot more questions about what happened in July 1947 than it answers. That was when something was seen in the sky above Roswell, New Mexico, leading to years of speculation about visitors from other planets, and a possible government coverup.
The exhibits in this museum will help you remember: They’re gray, not green.
Address: 114 North Main Street, Roswell, New Mexico 88203
17. OZ Museum
Kansas’ OZ Museum is about 11 hours north, right in the middle of the country.
Last year the museum had more than 30,000 visitors. There are more than 2,000 pieces on display, from the first edition book of The Wizard of Oz printed in 1900, to props from 1978’s The Wiz.
The museum’s most prized items, according to gift shop coordinator Austin Hibbs, are two flying monkeys that were used in the film.
Address: 511 Lincoln, Wamego, Kansas 66547
18. Porter Sculpture Park
Wayne Porter created this impressive sculpture park in Montrose, South Dakota, about six hours to the north.
Address: 25700 451st Ave, Montrose, South Dakota 57048
Part 3: Montana to Oregon
Still with us? The third and final leg of our journey covers 2,666 miles of road for another 40 hours and 21 minutes of driving. There is so much more weird to be experienced.
19. American Computer & Robotics Museum
The American Computer & Robotics Museum, seven hours to the west of the sculpture park, covers all kinds of technology, from the first televisions to the many ways we’ve imagined our technological future in science fiction.
The museum is a nonprofit, so even though admission is free, you may want to consider chipping in a few bucks if you enjoy seeing the relics of bygone technology.
Address: 2023 Stadium Dr., Bozeman, Montana 59715
20. Idaho Potato Museum
Fried potatoes, french fries, baked potatoes, au gratin — there are so many amazing kinds of potato dishes no wonder there is an entire museum dedicated to the crop called Solanum tuberosum L. The drive from Montana to Idaho’s potato mecca is about four hours long.
The Idaho Potato Museum will also educate you about the history of farming potatoes.
Don’t miss the spud signed by former VP Dan Quayle.
Address: 130 NW Main St, Blackfoot, Idaho, 83221
21. Museum of Western Colorado: Dinosaur Journey
Two words: animatronic dinosaurs.
Drive six and a half hours south through northern Colorado and you’ll be at one of the best dinosaur museums in the country. While the fossil exhibits and pre-historic records are more “cool” than “weird,” the animatronic dinosaurs eating each other are memorably odd.
Address: 550 Jurassic Court, Fruita, Colorado 81521
22. St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site
The Dinosaur Discovery Site in St. George, Utah, includes more on how dinosaur bones are excavated from the earth, and it’s a relatively short five-hour drive from Dinosaur Journey.
Address: 2180 East Riverside Dr, St. George, Utah 84790
23. The Neon Museum
Las Vegas is notorious for its lights, but it is also a city where the even slightly faded is quickly replaced with the new. Neon signs are no different, and when they’re done on the strip, they head to the Neon Museum neon graveyard.
This isn’t the weirdest thing in Vegas — we’re not sure what atrocity would take that award — but it’s pretty amazing. It’ll take less than two hours to drive here from Utah.
It’s cheaper to go in the day time, but the extra $7 is worth seeing this place lit up at night.
Address: 770 Las Vegas Blvd North, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Admission: $18 day tour/$25 night tour
24. International Banana Museum
Ask yourself this: How have you lived this long without visiting the International Banana Museum?
The desert vistas from Vegas to Salton Sea are straight out of a western film. The area around the sea in southern California has many strange things in it, and the banana museum is no exception. The website says it’s very “apeeling” and that it’s a great place to “go bananas.”
Address: 98775 State Hwy 111, Mecca, California 92254
Admission: Free, but you will probably need to purchase some kind of banana memorabilia
25. Mystery Spot (California Edition)
Seven and a half hours north, through mostly agricultural California, is this tourist attraction that opened in 1941. Although the owners claim that the laws of physics do not apply to this little piece of land in California, the reality is a bit more mundane: Everything is built on a slant.
Source: MYSTERY SPOT
Even without “gravitational anomalies,” these outdoor funhouses (see: Michigan Edition) are great for giving you a new perspective on the world.
Address: 465 Mystery Spot Rd, Santa Cruz, California 95065
26. The Faux Museum
This is it, the last stop. Give yourself plenty of time to take in all the views on the ten and a half hour drive north to Oregon to our final destination in our whirlwind tour of weirdness. We started in Portland, Maine, and we’re winding down in Portland, Oregon, at something of a meta-museum.
It would be difficult to describe this place better than it describes itself:
“The Faux Museum: Gallery & Store [FM: GaS] is a museum that houses exhibits. We also have a gift store in front and lots of other interesting things like a photo booth and the world’s only remaining woolly ant.”
Got that? It’s a museum with exhibits.
Basically it’s the ultimate hipster museum.
Address: 139 NW 2nd, Portland, Oregon 97209
About the Trip
Driving times for each segment were estimated with Google Maps. The entire trip is 9,209 miles, which would take about 142 hours and 15 minutes. Factoring in some time at each museum, and rest stops and sleeping, you could make the entire trip in three to four weeks.
There are more direct routes if you skipped some of the outliers, but what’s the fun in that? Share this road trip adventure with others.