Unusual Museums That Kids Will Love
Photo courtesy of Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Despite what your children might think, the highlight of a day full of culture doesn’t have to be that trip to the museum food court. Museums — especially the smaller, independently owned ones — can be quirky, unpredictable and fun. Here are 5 of the wackiest, most kid-friendly museums across the country. Just be sure to bring your sense of humor.
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia
This Burlingame, CA, museum pays homage to everybody’s favorite candy, Pez, and the plastic dispensers that made the sweets famous. The museum is quite literally bursting with candy memorabilia. The front room is a shop from which owner Gary Doss sells more than 200 varieties of Pez dispensers from all over the world. The back room is a museum, where a $3 admission gets you a 10-minute tour of Pez history from World War I to present. Doss' collection includes a copy of every Pez dispenser style ever made (more than 700 in all). There’s also a 7-foot-tall snowman dispenser — recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest.
Devil’s Rope Museum
Yes, some people really collect barbed wire. And yes, a bunch of them got together in 1991 to launch a museum in McLean, TX, devoted to immortalizing the object of their obsessions. Today, the place (which invokes a common nickname for barbed wire) displays hundreds of specimens and examines the role the wire played in shaping America’s Wild West. One of the most popular exhibits catalogs the different kinds of barbed wire used by the US military. Other exhibits feature tools and devices used in fence construction (you can’t have barbed wire without a fence), as well as handicrafts made from barbed wire (as hokey as it sounds, the cowboy hat is very impressive).
Museum of Bad Art
A place with the slogan "Art too bad to be ignored" is not where you’ll find Renoir, Picasso or Basquiat. The MOBA is billed as "the world's only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms." Pieces are divided into categories including portraiture, landscapes and "unseen forces." Formerly housed in a private home, the main museum now resides in the basement of a community theater in Dedham, MA (across the hall from the men’s room, mind you). Though the collection comprises more than 400 pieces, no more than 40 are on display at a time. An outpost is located in another theater basement in nearby Somerville.
Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Any kids who love video games will go gaga for Marvin’s. This museum and fun emporium in Farmington Hills, MI, features more than 200 coin-operated games from the past century, and all are operational. Historic games include everything from gypsy fortune tellers (like the one in the movie Big) to miniature carousels (which you can ride). More current games include Dance, Dance Revolution, Pac-Man and others. The man behind it all is collector Marvin Yagoda, who also has accumulated a treasure trove of oddities over the years, including more than 40 antique fans and an electric chair once used to execute 30 inmates at Sing Sing prison in New York state.
International UFO Museum and Research Center
Since 1947, when a supposedly alien spacecraft crashed in the New Mexico desert, Roswell, NM, has become the poster child for extraterrestrial life on Earth. How fitting, then, that this museum dedicated to the history of UFOs and UFO encounters would be based there. Among other zany exhibits, the museum contains a film of the “official” autopsy of alien bodies after a supposed 1947 crash. It also offers up information (some might even call it “evidence”) of crop circles and alien abductions over time. The museum doesn’t proselytize, but instead encourages visitors to ask questions in an X-Files sort of way. If you get hungry, there’s a UFO-themed restaurant across the street.