The other day I read a fascinating post about a museum in the Netherlands called the “muZIEum”, about experiencing life as the visually impaired do. Your visit takes place in the dark. It got me thinking about unique museums we’ve been to or have heard about. As far as adult museums go, there are plenty of unique or unusual museums, the list goes on. But in thinking about museums to take the kids and family to, the list narrows; yet there are still many interesting and different ones out there. We’ve all been to a million children’s museums, why not try something new?
6 Unique Museums to Visit with the Family
muZIEim in the Netherlands
I read about this museum in an interesting post by the family travel blog Daisy the Bus. Do read it if you have a chance – it’s a fascinating read. It outlines their family’s visit to this museum in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. As they start in the first room, the living room, everything seems normal – there’s a tv, a mirror, décor…but as they soon discover, there’s no light. From there on begins the tour – or experience- in the dark, through an “outside” park, a city square and into a shop where the smells of fruits and vegetables have never been so intense.
There are sounds of birds chirping, a rolling river, cars buzzing. I can only imagine the sensory experience it must be. The goal is to get to a café across the street, and in doing so they face some obstacles. After all, they can’t see. However, from the beginning there has been a guide to help them along the way – a woman who can’t see herself, but knows how to navigate the museum down to the last detail. They have experienced life as she does every day.
What an educational experience (also in the main part of the museum there are hands-on activities for kids using blindfolds, braille typewriters, etc.), there should be more museums like this to visit. Perhaps some day it does not have to fall under the unique category. (Note: of course this would be difficult for younger kids – being scared of the dark – but as mentioned above there is an interactive area).
Tenement Museum, New York City
This is a museum I can’t wait to take my girls to. It’s on the list, I just wanted to wait until my youngest would be old enough to fully appreciate it. 97 Orchard Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side was a tenement building built in 1863 and home to almost 7,000 working class immigrants – people who came to our country for a better life, to start a family, to find new and promising work. It’s a compelling museum on the history of immigration and the important role it has, and continues to play, in the identity of America.
In light of current times, you can bet I’ll be taking my family there soon. There are three ways to visit the museum: 1.) Tour the building and restored apartments of past residents and merchants. 2.) Meet the Residents, who are played by costumed interpreters. 3.) Walk the neighborhood (the Lower Eastside) and see how immigrants helped transform and shape the culture of the area, the city, the country. Note: you can also combine a building and walking tour. Ages: click here to see the different family options for different ages.
International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine
Cryptozoology Museum? What does that mean? It’s actually the study of hidden or unknown animals, usually large in size. Think Big Foot, Yetis, Lake Monsters. This is the only cryptozoology museum in the world, containing artifacts and evidence such as footcasts, hair samples and native art. I remember being obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster when I was a kid, and would have loved to have gone to this museum when we visited Portland.
Unfortunately we were passing through for the day and didn’t have time. But I’ve listed it in the things to do section in that post because it sounds fascinating! I know my kids would love it and it consistently comes up as a cool museum to visit with the family. The museum also studies animals of recent discovery, including the Coelacanth, Megamouth Shark, Giant Panda, and Mountain Gorilla. Seriously, my girls would love this! On the list. Talk about unique.
International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
Are your kids into Spy Gear? Chances are, they’ll be totally intrigued by this museum, the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage. In fact, it has the largest collection of espionage artifacts on display ever. Learn about how famous spies used their espionage tactics and strategies, and how these secret missions worked. In the “Covers & Legends” exhibition, you adopt a cover identity and learn how secret agents operate. In “School for Spies”, get special training and learn about the world of spy gadgets, weapons, cameras and spycraft. For older kids there is “Operation Spy”, where you’re the spy on a serious mission, as well as “Spy in the City”, where you’re given a GPS device for a mission outside in the museum’s neighborhood! Next time we’re in D.C. I hope I can convince my girls to go..they’ll probably think it’s more for boys, but once they start interacting I know they’ll be hooked.
Museo della Tortura in Tuscany
Otherwise known as, the Torture Museum. I know. Doesn’t sound like a place you want to take the kids. However, kids – perhaps of a certain age – love this museum. A chain museum in Tuscany, we went to the one in Montepulciano. My older daughter (at the age of 7) was highly entertained, along with her cousins, while my younger daughter (at the age of 5) came running out screaming bloody murder after 5 minutes. You can read more about that in my Montepulciano and Siena post. It’s exactly what you would think it is – an exhibit of instruments and contraptions of torture used throughout time, and the history behind it.
My daughter and niece and nephew thought it was super cool, while I had no interest and didn’t want to spend the money (it’s not cheap) on it and waited in the front lobby. Good thing I did, for the soon to be screaming 5 year old running out. But I will say this – when you’re touring around Tuscany mainly doing things the adults want to go, it serves as a great break for the kids, along with all the ice cream and toy shop stops. I may not like the theme of the museum, but it was a good diversion for (most of) the kids in our gang. And it was certainly unique.
National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin
I had to include this because I absolutely love mustard! When I lived in San Francisco years ago I remember there being the Napa Valley Mustard Festival, and hearing about the National Mustard Museum. May sound hoaky, and I’m sure it is, but who cares, it sounds hilarious. My kids aren’t huge mustard fans but I think they’d get a kick out of visiting. Featuring more than 5,676 mustards from all 50 states and 70 countries, they have quite a mustard collection!
Attractions include the Mustardpiece Theatre, Mrs. Mustard’s Kitchen, The Great Wall of Mustard and the Tasting Bar, where you can try samples. There is even a National Mustard Day, where they have a festival every fist Saturday of August. It’s family-friendly with games, music, hot dogs and more. Best part is, it’s free! If we’re ever out that way, we’re going.
Do you have any unique museums you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments section!
Other museum-related posts you may be interested in:
New York Hall of Science: Discovery, Exploration, Fun
Top NYC Suburban Family-Friendly Museums
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Linking up with FARAWAY FILES and MONDAY ESCAPES
You’re always giving me ideas. I’d like to tour any of these. I was skeptical about the mustard, of course. I didn’t like mustard myself until I visited Maille in Paris and got hand-pumped mustard from “on tap” – now I order it regularly, even if it’s $150, it’s worth it!
Wow – that sounds amazing!!
They have the mustard on tap at the Maille store in London too. I did not resist temptation and it was soooo worth it!
Sounds amazing – must try sometime!
Great museum ideas Corey! I’ve read a blog post last year about a puppet museum in Paris, and I thought that sounded interesting as it was filled with historical hand-made puppets, and I imagine many fascinating stories. I also once stopped at the Pencil Museum in the Cotswolds, UK. Bizarre, but it claimed to have the worlds largest pencil.
There are certainly some bizarre museums out there! Thanks for the input. I think I’ve read about the puppet museum in Paris too. Honestly, there’s more museums I could have included, but didn’t want it to go too far in the direction of hoaky..I left it at the mustard :).
Fantastic list Corey – love the sound of all of these. We’re fans of any museum but these all sound so quirky and different. Great inspiration and they’ll all be going straight onto my “list”!
Thanks Joy! Clearly I took inspiration from another blog, but that’s how it goes right? We read to get inspired.
Absolutely Corey – I am now inspired!!
spy museum is something I’d love to visit:) #Farawayfiles
Me too. I would totally go without my girls ;).
Some amazing museums! The tenement museum in New York appeals the most – would love to learn more about the lives of people who lived in them! #farawayfiles
Thanks! It’s a special museum – one not everyone knows about.
Weirdest museum. Hmmm. Maybe not museums per se – but we have stopped as some rather quirky roadside attractions in the middle states of America. I swear that the bigfoot should be in Portand OREGON and not Portland MAINE though! Haha! We like to think he’s a resident of the Pacific Northwest! Fun post Corey – thanks for linking with #FarawayFiles, Erin
That’s true, Erin – I think of him out west too. I swear, the two Portlands are sister cities in so many ways!!
Great post, and I’m honoured that you found inspiration in my “muZIEum” piece. We adore seeking out quirky museums all over Europe, and if we ever cross the big pond then the Zoocryptology museum will be first thing on my to-do list – how cool is that? Also the Tenement museum sounds fascinating for different reasons. Thanks! #FarawayFiles
Thanks again for the inspiration! I really loved that article. The Tenement Museum is a great little museum and so important to show the kids, now more than ever.
I love a quirky museum. The Geffrye in London is a great way to explore the lives of Londoners past. It’s particularly lovely at Christmas time when they explore festive celebrations of past eras. The wine museum in France is pretty cool! Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles
Oh that’s right – the Wine Museum – I remember your post and thinking that looked and sounded so cool – should have put it in!
Such a great idea for a post! My kids would go mad for the spy museum and the Tenement Museum is such an important visit right now. #farawayfiles
Loved reading this post! I would love to visit the Cryptozoology Museum – I’m fascinated too by the Loch Ness Monster. The spy museum and tenement museum also sound very interesting. Great list, thanks for sharing! #FarawayFiles
Thanks, Cindy! I know, the Cryptozoology Museum sounds so great.
The tenement museum is now going on the list for when we head to NYC! #mondayescapes
Yes – a must visit!!
My favourite is Musee Des Arts Forains in Paris (18th century side show all attractions) = it’s so much fun!
Oh wow don’t know this one – thanks for the tip!
Oooh, the spy museum sounds very cool! Can’t wait til our son is old enough to enjoy stuff like that. I read there’s one in Berlin too. Even though I live in The Netherlands I’d never heard of muZIEum before. Our toddler is still afraid of the dark, but that one will definitely go on the list for later! #MondayEscapes
I know I wonder about the dark with my kids too – and frankly, myself ;). But sounds so interesting I think I would have to do it!
Oh the MuZIEum looks very interesting. Think my boys would love the Spy museum! #MondayEscapes
The Spy museum is supposed to be really great..looking forward to going!