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12 of the U.S.A.'s Most Unusual & Interesting Museums

Millions of people -- at least 865 million, according to the American Association of Museums (AAM) -- visit the nation's museums each year, and with good reason; they're home to some of the most treasured artifacts, historical tributes and links to the past, all nicely displayed for the world to see.

Adirondack Museum

The Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York

In the United States, there are a lot of museums. No one knows for sure how many, but the most recent estimate by the AAM puts the number right around 17,500. There are museums for just about everything, from children to maritime activities to railways, and here we've highlighted just the very tip of the iceberg with 12 of the most unique U.S. museums you can find.

1. The Adirondack Museum
Blue Mountain Lake, New York

The museum is set on 6 million acres of Adirondack Park, overlooking Blue Mountain Lake, and exhibits focus on telling the social and geographical history of the region's people, culture and recreation since the 1800s.

It has 20 buildings on 32 acres of grounds and gardens where you can learn about the Adirondack people, logging, mining, boating and outdoor recreation and even the famous Adirondack rustic furniture and architecture. You can also visit the Adirondack Museum Library, which ahs more printed material about the Adirondacks than any other single location.

2. American Hop Museum
Toppenish, Washington

Located in the heart of the Yakima Valley's hop fields, the American Hop Museum is the only one of its kind in the nation. It chronicles the American hop industry from the New England colonies to its expansion into California and the Pacific Northwest, and includes historical equipment, photos and artifacts that pay tribute to hops, the perennial vine that is still an integral part of the brewing industry.

3. Kenneth G. Fiske Museum of Musical Instruments
Claremont Colleges, California

One of the most diverse collections of musical instruments in the United States, this museum is home to over 1,400 American, European and ethnic instruments from the 17th-20th centuries.

Selections from Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and Australia are also part of the collections, and include keyboards, brass, woodwind, stringed, percussion, mechanical and electronic instruments. Other highlights are rare pieces from the violin and viol families, reed organs and instruments from the Orient and Tibet.

Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum

The Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, Galveston, Texas

4. Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum
Galveston, Texas

Visitors actually step on board a retired jackup drilling rig to experience what it's like in a day of offshore drilling and production. The museum has three floors of models and interactive displays telling the story of offshore oil and gas from seismic technology to exploration and productions.

There are scale models of production platforms, actual drill bits and remotely operated vehicles, along with other exhibits focused on the drilling industry.

5. Old Salem Museum and Gardens
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Old Salem is an authentic restoration and "living history" of the Moravian community started in 1766. You can stroll through a restored town with authentic buildings, gardens and costumed interpreters, view the Tannenberg organ -- the largest surviving pipe organ built by David Tannenberg -- or visit one of their four museums, each devoted to a unique aspect of Moravian history and culture:

  • Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

  • Old Salem Children's Museum

  • Old Salem Toy Museum

6. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)
Scottsdale, Arizona

SMoCA is Arizona's only museum devoted to global art, architecture and design of today. The museum itself was designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder and is a minimalist renovation of a movie theater. The museum has five galleries showcasing some permanent and some changing exhibits, along with an outdoor sculpture garden.

The Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Massachusetts

The Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Massachusetts

7. Seashore Trolley Museum
Kennebunkport, Maine

This is the oldest and largest electric railway museum in the world. The Seashore Trolley Museum contains over 250 transit vehicles, mostly trolleys, from the United States, Canada and abroad. Visitors can even take a trip along the Maine countryside aboard a restored early-1900s electric streetcar.

Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, the museum was founded in 1939 with one open trolley car, No. 31 from the Biddeford & Saco Railroad Company, and has been expanding its collection since.

8. Salem Witch Museum
Salem, Massachusetts

Royal Kohl Tube

A Royal Kohl Tube, the ancient Egyptian equivalent of a mascara tube, from the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium, San Jose, California.

The Salem Witch Museum brings you back to Salem 1692 for a dramatic overview of the Witch Trials, including stage sets with life-size figures, lighting and a narration.

9. Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center
Woodland Park, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center houses dinosaurs, marine reptiles, flying reptiles and fish of North America's Late Cretaceous period. They have the world's largest Daspletosaurus on display, the world's only Pachycephalosaurus, and the world's first 3-D giant Xiphactinus.

The exhibits also include lots of information on geologic life, paleogeography, life of Colorado dinosaurs, including eggs, babies and dinosaur parenting, extinctions, dinosaurs in film and art and controversial theories.

10. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium
San Jose, California

The museum is architecturally inspired by the Temple of Amon at Karnak and holds the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in the western United States -- including objects from pre-dynastic times through Egypt's early Islamic era. There are over 4,000 authentic ancient Egyptian artifacts in the museum's collection, including four real mummies on display.

11. DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum
Fenwick Island, Delaware

The DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum has one of the largest collections of shipwreck and recovered artifacts in the Mid-Atlantic. It contains about 10,000 artifacts from local and worldwide locations, including an intact blown-glass hourglass from a 200-year-old shipwreck (the world's deepest wooden wreck) at the heart of the Bermuda Triangle.

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

A 200-year-old hourglass recovered intact from a shipwreck in the Bermuda Triangle, located at the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum in Fenwick Island, Delaware.

12. Money Museum
Colorado Springs, Colorado

This is America's largest museum dedicated to numismatics (the study of collecting coins and metals). Their collection contains over 250,000 items from the earliest invention of money to modern day, with items including paper money, coins, tokens, medals, and traditional money from all over the world. Highlights include the 1804 dollar, the 1913 V Nickel, the 1866 no motto series, a comprehensive collection of American gold coins, and experimental pattern coins and paper money.

Recommended Reading

Six of the World's Grimmest Tourist Destinations

Save Big on Airfare: 8 Top Tips to Reduce the Cost of Your Airline Tickets


American Association of Museums

Museums in the USA

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