Museums are often considered a staid affair: Visitors walk through walls lined with paintings, sift through historic documents, or look at artifacts behind sheets of glass. But some institutions stray from the norm and offer more than your textbook visiting experience. Whether you’re browsing terrible paintings at Boston’s Museum of Bad Art, or encountering life-size aliens at New Mexico’s UFO Museum & Research Center, you’ll find yourself enlightened—and entertained.
Here are 5 of America’s most unusual museums:
Museum Of Bad Art – Boston
Most art is subjective—but at Boston’s Museum of Bad Art, the art is objectively terrible. The museum features work from artists who have somehow missed the mark, and divides its collection into different problem areas: “Portraiture” includes drawings with distorted faces and bodies, while “Unseen Forces” features bizarre paintings and sculptures that represent the human psyche. Each piece includes a short narrative that highlights the work’s questionable origins.
Mutter Museum – Philadelphia
Only those with a strong stomach should brave Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum: Run by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the museum features hundreds of anatomical and pathological specimens, including 139 skulls and a piece of John Wilkes Booth’s neck tissue. Visitors can get an up-close look at the tallest skeleton on public exhibition in the United States, and browse medical instruments dating back to the 19th century.
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum
Take a trip back in time at the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Alexandria. Founded in 1792, the museum was once a popular apothecary shop with customers like Martha Washington and Robert E. Lee. Today, the museum features a historic collection of medical equipment and memorabilia, and visitors can browse the largest collection of apothecary bottles in the United States.
The National Mustard Museum – Wisconsin
Founder Barry Levenson first had the idea for Wisconsin’s National Mustard Museum during a trip to an all-night supermarket. Since then, Levenson has amassed more than 5,000 jars of prepared mustard from 70 countries, and offers visitors free samples at the museum’s tasting bar. Flavors range from spicy to sweet, and include favorites like tequila and wasabi.
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia
Indulge your inner child for the Burlingame Museum of Pez Souvenirs. The tiny, two-room museum includes a colorful collection of Pez dispensers dating back to the 1950s, and features the world’s largest Pez shelling out machine—a towering white snowman. Manager Gary Doss gives visitors exclusive tours, and entertains with Pez trivia as well as collectors’ tips.