10 Unique Museums Worth Traveling For

February 19, 2024

Much like restaurants, national parks, and quirky roadside attractions, museums are optimal map-markers for any journey. Found in cities large and small, in all manner of shapes and sizes, museums offer a deeper dive into a region and its lore, be it a neon homage in the desert or a quirky glimpse at UFOs and old-school action figures. Art and history museums are all well and good, but when you’re looking to add a little more eccentricity to your travels, check out these ten unique museums worth visiting in the U.S. and Canada.

Looking for a Unique Museum for Your Next Road Trip? Try These 10 Unique Museums

Vintage neon signs sit under a blue sky at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas.

1. Neon Museum in Las Vegas

It doesn’t get much more Vegas than a museum dedicated to vintage neon signs. The Neon Museum harkens to a luminous yesteryear in a city that’s equally famed and infamous for its bright, flashing lights. Located off the Strip, in historic Downtown Las Vegas, the museum is a vibrant ode to a singular American city, where flashy casinos have long been a harbinger of entertainment, revelry, and hospitality. The non-profit museum is a vast collection of vintage signs and ephemera, including a particularly striking selection in the outdoor gallery known as the Neon Boneyard, where routine light shows are set to music and designed to make it seem like the dusty signs are back to life. The museum also partners with Papillon Helicopters to offer guided, neon-lit night tours of the city.

Nearby KOAs
Las Vegas / KOA Journey at Sam’s Town

An A-7E Corsair II aircraft on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

2. National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola

In terms of iconic things that fly over North America, the Blue Angels are right up there with bald eagles. In their home city of Pensacola, the patriotic jets are anchored — and honored — at the National Naval Aviation Museum, a sprawling collection of aircraft, history, figures, and displays that tell the rocketing story of this quintessential squadron. The world’s largest naval aviation museum contains more than 150 aircraft, across 350,000-sq.-ft. of exhibition space and 37 acres of land. In addition to galleries, the museum contains a massive theater, flight simulators, and cockpit trainers, while visitors are welcome to come witness the Blue Angels in action on select practice days throughout the year.

Nearby KOAs
Gulf Shores / Pensacola West KOA Holiday
Milton / Gulf Pines KOA Holiday

Ventriloquist puppets on display at the Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky.

3. Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky

Located just outside of Covington, Kentucky, and just over the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, the humble-looking Vent Haven Museum is truly one-of-a-kind. Here, in a house along a mostly residential street, you’ll find the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. After an extended closure and extensive renovations, the recently reopened museum is a multi-room facility with a dizzying assortment of dummies from numerous eras in American history. Some rooms focus on the complicated past of ventriloquism and racist stereotypes, while others spotlight show business, talk show characters, and familiar favorites, like Lamb Chop. There are more than 1,000 rotating dummies at Vent Haven, comprising an experience that’s equally funny, odd, and uniquely illuminating.

Nearby KOAs:
Lebanon / Cincinnati NE KOA Holiday
Batesville KOA Journey

A display with aliens and UFO replica at the International UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.

4. International UFO Museum in Roswell

In 1947, a mysterious crash took place near Roswell, leading to decades of speculation, intrigue, and conspiracy theories. The crash, whatever it may be, has long been described as the Roswell UFO Incident, and it’s the catalyst for the International UFO Museum that serves as the main attraction in the small New Mexico desert city of Roswell. Downtown, it seems the entire city is alien-themed, from alien-shaped lamp posts and alien-inspired cafes to the only McDonald’s in the world that’s UFO-shaped. At the museum, believers and naysayers alike will find plenty to talk about, including near-endless amounts of newspaper clips, documentation, imagery, videos, interviews, and everything in between. The museum goes well beyond the Roswell Incident, but with local lore as a through line, the facility offers a fascinating look at the possibilities of the great unknown.

Nearby KOAs:
Carlsbad KOA Holiday

A wall-to-wall collection of action figures and toys at the Toy & Action Figure Museum.

5. The Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma

It’s Americana nostalgia overload at The Toy & Action Figure Museum in the sleepy town of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, about an hour south of Oklahoma City. Here, in a town without a lot of action, you’ll find an unexpected epicenter of action figures, toys, and all sorts of other kitschy features, from cereal boxes, PEZ Dispensers, and much more. Different rooms and sections are dedicated to different specialties, with exhibits dedicated to the likes of Super-Man, Star Wars, The Simpsons, and Barbie. The whole experience is an all-consuming blast from the past, featuring a stunning collection of rotating collectibles from owner/collector/toy designer Kevin Stark

Nearby KOAs:
Oklahoma City East KOA Holiday

A gallery of vintage movie posters at the Academy Museum of Motion Picture Arts

6. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles

A stone’s throw from the Hollywood Hills, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is hallowed ground for all things American cinema. Officially — and finally — opened in 2021, the long-gestating project is a vast, immaculate love letter to film-making and the inherent culture it inspires. With more than 13 million pieces of art, artifacts, images, and videos, the movie museum features rotating exhibits dedicated to the likes of John Waters, queer cinema, Casablanca, and beyond. Meanwhile, the core exhibition is called Stories of Cinema and contains multiple galleries across three floors. There’s also a restaurant, a store, tours, screenings, and other cinematic events throughout the year.

Nearby KOAs:
Ventura Ranch KOA Holiday

A view of an elaborate, multi-story staircase at the Sazerac House.

7. The Sazerac House in New Orleans

In New Orleans, food and drink are a particularly essential part of the local culture. Many recipes originated in this ever-hungry town, and dishes like gumbo and beignets are as quintessential as jazz and architecture. Among the boozier traditions, The Sazerac House is a temple to New Orleans’ most storied cocktail innovation — a Cognac-based tipple splashed with bitters, sweetened with a cube of sugar, and splashed with absinthe. While found on menus all over town, the drink is celebrated in all its glory at The Sazerac House, where guests can sip their way through potable history. Different entry options allow visitors to attend Sazerac classes and tastings, partake in tours, or simply peruse the various floors and exhibits that spotlight the drink, along with other New Orleans classics. Naturally, there’s a huge selection of merchandise and bottles to take home, so come thirsty.

Nearby KOAs:
New Orleans KOA Holiday

An outside street-view of the Peculiarium in Portland, Oregon.

8. Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum in Portland, Oregon

In a city proudly known for its weirdness, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium and Museum is a zany institution befitting its address. The (mostly) satirical gallery and mini-museum feels more like a not-so-scary humorous haunted house, outfitted with oddities and fictions that boggle the mind. One room contains a larger-than-life Krampus display, while another spotlights alien conspiracies, and yet another is an almost-believable explanation of spontaneous combustion. Throughout, the interactive and immersive museum offers a hilarious look at American mythos, through the lens of satire. There’s a trigger warning for young visitors, since some of the exhibits can be a bit intense (e.g. Krampus, fake blood, insects, etc.), but the Peculiarium is the perfect place to add to any “weird” Portland bucket list. Don’t forget to peruse the funky merchandise, like miniature toasters and bat wing costumes for your dog.

Nearby KOAs:
Cascade Locks / Portland East KOA Holiday

A larger-than-life baked potato statue sites outside the Idaho Potato Museum.

9. Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho

In Idaho, the potato is king. And in the quiet town of Blackfoot, the spud is the star of its very own museum dedicated to the cultivation, history, and implementation of this great American tuber. The Idaho Potato Museum, located in a former train depot, is a glorious homage to America’s favorite “vegetable,” complete with exhibits spotlighting its earliest development, history, processing, and eventual omnipresence. Naturally, there’s a potato-centric on-site eatery, the Potato Station Cafe, where visitors can sample spuds in every form, from fries and tots to baked potatoes and potato soup. And for dessert: potato cupcakes.

Nearby KOAs:
Pocatello KOA Journey

A gallery centered out an old, wooden fishing vessel at the Basin Head Fisheries Museum.

10. Basin Head Fisheries Museum in Prince Edward Island

A humble, old-timey museum in Souris, Prince Edward Island’s Basin Head Fisheries Museum waxes poetic on the maritime history of Canada’s smallest province. Perched along the Northumberland Strait, fishing history is on full display, including a deep dive into the region’s earliest fishing industries. Outside, the grounds contain a beautiful wooden boardwalk, a swimming beach, a huge nautical gift shop, and ice cream.

Nearby KOAs:
Cavendish KOA Holiday
Borden / Summerside KOA Journey

Born and raised in New Hampshire, Matt Kirouac grew up with a love for camping and the outdoors. Though he’s lived in Chicago since 2006, he’s always on the lookout for new adventures. He writes about travel and food for outlets like TripExpert, Money Inc, Upventur, DiningOut, Food Fanatics magazine, Plate Magazine and Zagat, and he currently serves as Chicago editor for What Should We Do?! He’s the author of The Hunt Guides: Chicago (2016) and Unique Eats & Eateries of Chicago (2017).

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