Discover some of the most unique and unusual museums from around the world.

Stephanie Lim September 22, 2020
Young woman holding a museum guide looking at artifacts in a glass cabinet.
Museums curate some of the world’s finest art collections and historical artifacts, all of which are prominently displayed for public knowledge and enjoyment. If classic artwork and prehistoric relics don’t pique your interest, you might discover something a little more to your liking at these wonderful yet weird and wacky museums from around the world. When travel opens up again, be sure to add these to your list of places to check out. 

Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA) – Cancun, Mexico.

Cancun, Mexico is known for its beautiful beaches and clear blue waters, but did you know it also has a huge museum underwater? If you’re thinking about venturing off to this little piece of paradise, be sure to visit the Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA). Tucked between the islands of Cancun and Isla Mujeres on the coast of Mexico, this hidden wonder features over 500 life-size submerged sculptures that will leave you captivated. Whether you choose to snorkel, dive or hop aboard a glass bottom boat, you can take in this amazing aquatic exhibition and explore the magnificent marine life at your leisure. As a side note, the clay used to create the sculptures serves to promote marine growth, making this museum part art and part conservation project. Whichever way you look at it, the trip underwater promises to be a fun-filled adventure!

Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA) – Boston Area, Massachusetts.

Do you know the best place to find the worst art? Well, if you’re ever in the Boston, MA area, be sure to visit the Museum Of Bad Art; it’s been curating, preserving and celebrating bad art since 1994. The first piece that started it all is an oil canvas dubbed “Lucy in the Field with Flowers” that was actually acquired from the trash. Since then, the museum has grown to house over 700 pieces in its collection. Though you may encounter a few raised eyebrows and some chuckles along the way, you’ll be intrigued by what’s considered “good” and “bad” art.
Acrylic on canvas of Bruno Tiger, Museum of Bad Art, Somerville, Massachusetts.

Chaffee Barbershop Museum – Fort Smith, Arkansas.

If you’re an Elvis Presley aficionado, you’ll be excited to know there’s a museum where you can visit the very place “the King” got his buzz cut, just before heading off to the U.S. Army. Restored in 2008, the Chaffee Barbershop Museum lets you step back in time to experience how a 1950’s barbershop looked on the day Elvis strolled in. As you walk into the room you can see the barber chairs lined up; propped up in one chair is a cardboard photo of the rock and roll star alongside barber Pete Peterson, the man who sheared the King’s locks. It’s also a place to see historical photographs and artifacts documenting the history of Fort Chaffee. So if you’re a hound dog at heart who loves delving into Elvis nostalgia, this is a place not to be missed!

The Mütter Museum – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Billed as one of the finest medical museums in America, The Mütter Museum displays a large collection of anatomical specimens and medical instruments dating back to the 19th century. While some may see this medical collection as awe-inspiring, others may be a little taken aback by some of the medical oddities found throughout history. From a wall display of human skulls and preserved organs, to the jaw tumor of President Grover Cleveland, this museum seeks to inform and educate the public on the mysteries and beauty of the human body. If you’re not ready to be “disturbingly informed” in person, check out their virtual tour for a little sneak peak, or you can visit some of their online exhibitions.

Ramen Museum – Yokohama, Japan.

Alright foodies, if you love ramen, there’s a museum dedicated to just that. The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum was founded on March 6th, 1994 to pay homage to the history of this oh-so-popular noodle dish originating from China and through this museum you’ll discover that it’s also a food-themed amusement park!  All nine ramen shops are situated along a replicated street from 1958 – the year the first ramen was invented. You’ll also be able to stop by the Kateko Café and Snack Shop and Dagashi-ya on Yu-yake Shoten (Sunset Shopping Street). These too are replica shops from the old days selling traditional foods, sweets and toys. Learn about ramen varieties, soup bases, and toppings and if you’re ramen connoisseur, you can even take one of their noodle making classes!
Decorative green ramen bowls perched up on the side of the ramen museum in Japan.

Bran Castle (Dracula Museum) – Bran, Romania.

Before Vampire Diaries, Twilight and True Blood, there was Count Dracula. Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle, was thought to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s castle in the novel “Dracula” – an abode perched on a cliff above a river in Transylvania. Follow tight winding stairways to underground passages and even discover a time tunnel right in the heart of Dracula’s Castle. This castle has been around since the 13th century and was used as fortress. In 1920, it became the home of the Romania Royal Family. Experience the rich history, magic and wonder of Bran Castle through pictures and a virtual tour
Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania.

International Spy Museum – Washington, District of Columbia.

Have you ever wanted to learn the tricks and trades of a professional spy? Well, the International Spy Museum located in Washington, DC has just about everything you need to know about espionage and national security. Get ready to dive into exhibits that take you through the entire intelligence process: 

  • “Briefing Center” (where you’ll receive your cover identity)
  • “Stealing Secrets” (where you can check out the fancy gadgets spies use on the job)
  • “Making Sense of Secrets” (where you’ll think like an analyst)
  • “Covert Action” (where you’ll find out about techniques used to secretly influence events abroad).

Your mission at this museum won’t be complete without exploring the history of espionage successes and failures throughout time and how that’s transformed the world of intelligence today. It’ll be easy to spend an entire day examining the largest collection of international espionage artifacts on display and engaging with all the interactive exhibits.

Visitors looking at an exhibit inside the International Spy Museum.

Bata Shoe Museum – Toronto, Ontario.

Calling all shoe lovers! The Bata Shoe Museum located in downtown Toronto, displays over one thousand shoes and related artifacts. Discover some of the most famous footwear worn by celebrities: Elton John’s monogrammed silver platform boots, Karen Kain’s ballet shoes, Elvis Presley’s blue patent loafers and more. Delve into a rich history of shoes from around the world – a collection started by Sonja Bata in the 1940s. After visiting the Bata Shoe Museum, you’ll definitely wish you had a bigger shoe closet. 

The Neon Museum – Las Vegas, Nevada.

Besides grand casino hotels, shopping and fine dining, Las Vegas is also known for its bright and colourful signage. But have you ever wondered where these spectacular works of art go to retire when new ones are put up? Look no further. Founded in 1996, The Neon Museum is where you can find vintage signs that reveal the story and history of sin city. Perhaps the most well-known is the outdoor exhibit dubbed the “Neon Boneyard”, which houses more than 200 unrestored signs, including extravagant signs from the Golden Nugget, Stardust, and Binion’s Horseshoe. For an immersive experience, check out “Brilliant” in the North Boneyard Gallery. Created by artist Craig Winslow, this show will transport you through time with music and digital projections of what these signs once looked like. Last but not least, be sure to visit the visitors’ centre located in the former La Concha Motel lobby. Built in 1961, this mid-century architecture is truly something to marvel at. So, if you’re looking for inspiration for your future travels, the Neon Museum will definitely shed some light. 

Get more with CAA Travel.

Satisfy your curiosity. When you’re ready to travel again, a CAA Travel Consultant can help plan your visit to one of these unique museums, plus they can tell you all about CAA Member-exclusive benefits and discounts on your travel too.

For more interesting museums from around the world, check out our latest article in CAA Magazine
Photo credit: Bruno Tiger, Acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the Museum Of Bad Art, www.MuseumOfBadArt.org; Cyber Command, photo courtesy of the International Spy Museum.