The trips with unique and interesting stories are the ones that stay with you the longest. You’ll talk about them for years after you get back, reliving the vacation over and over. To make your next trip worthy of remembering, take a look at these eight man-made museums and attractions, each as strange as they are wonderful. Best of all, none of these trips can be found anywhere else.
House of Eternal Return – Santa Fe, New Mexico
The House of Eternal Return can be described as a museum, an art installation, or a haunted house. This vacant bowling alley in an industrial neighborhood was purchased by George RR Martin in 2015 and turned over to a conglomeration of 135 artists known for interactive installations. They turned the lanes into an abandoned Victorian House, complete with a backstory of a family that one day simply disappeared. Throughout the house you’ll find 70 portals leading to other dimensions; explore an old west ranch powered by hamsters, play xylophone on a Mastodon’s ribcage, or play the laser harp. All the while, keep your eyes open for clues about where the family living in this strange and magical house wound up. So we’re still waiting on Winds of Winter, but you can’t say Martin hasn’t given us anything fascinating lately.
The Warren’s Occult Museum – Monroe, Connecticut
If you’re into the occult at all, you’ve heard of the Warrens. Ed and Lorraine Warren are the first and only names in American paranormal investigation. They have performed exorcisms of demons and witches and investigated numerous unexplained phenomenon, including a deep look at the Amityville Horror House. What you might not know is they sent every item they deemed to be haunted or in any way “defiled by evil” back to a house in Connecticut which is now open to the public as The Warren’s Occult Museum. Tombstones used in demonic rituals, psychic photographs, demon masks, and a vampire’s coffin are among the vast array of artifacts, but mostly you’ll see dolls. Countless cursed dolls – most of them unnamed, but a few with names and harrowing stories to match – sit around the museum, following you with their dead doll eyes. Whether you’re a believer or just looking for something different to do in Connecticut, this museum is worth the trip. Just don’t expect to get any sleep that night.
Oz Park – Chicago, Illinois
The beauty of Chicago is that you don’t need a single reason to make it a road trip destination. Fancy food, art, music, and the best damn hot dogs in the country can be found in the Windy City. But if you find yourself there with an afternoon off, head over to Oz Park, the strangest city park that revitalized its neighborhood. Lincoln Park was historic and beautiful, but not well maintained. In 1974, when the city acquired the park land, they made a unique decision – why not theme our next city park around the Wizard of Oz? After all, Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum made Lincoln Park his home at the end of the 1800’s. Both the risk and literary reference paid off for the city. Oz Park has become well known and has brought plenty of other revitalization projects to the area. Walk around Dorothy’s Playground or the Emerald Gardens, and of course don’t miss the statues of the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy and Toto built throughout the space.
Neon Boneyard – Las Vegas, Nevada
A majority of old neon casino signs were designed and produced by the same company, the Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO). Aside from being a great little fact to keep in your brain for bar trivia, this information can be the fuel for your next trip to Vegas. Or more likely what you wind up doing with your last afternoon since it’s likely you’ll have blown all your money at the craps table. A visit to the Neon Boneyard is a step back in time. This three-acre plot owned by YESCO houses more than 150 vintage Vegas signs, all non-restored. Symbolically this seems like a perfect end to your trip. You’ve spent days living in luxury and excess, and now all you’re left with is an empty wallet and a killer hangover. Viva Las Vegas.
House on the Rock – Spring Green, Wisconsin
House on the Rock was designed to be as beautiful and unique as the view from the rock where it would be built. In 1945, Alex Jordan built this wacky masterpiece, a tribute to his beloved corner of Wisconsin. Upon realizing that people were struck by the interesting architecture, he began offering tours of the house – after all, he only used it as his weekend retreat. Through the years, the tours became less and less about the house as Jordan began building his collections and displays. Automated music machines, a 200-foot sea creature, and the world’s largest carousel are all inside House on the Rock. But if you can, try to make it for the holidays. In addition to the pure magic of a snowy Wisconsin wonderland, you’ll see thousands of Santas (I really mean it, there are 6,000) of all shapes and sizes decking the halls. No matter what time of year you go, don’t try to see it all in one day, there’s far too much whimsy to be packed into that short of a time.
New Orleans’ Historic Voodoo Museum – New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is another city you really don’t need any more excuses to visit. It would be a shame, however, to leave a city with such unique and interesting history without learning more about it. New Orleans Voodoo has both African and European influences, brought to the city through the slave trade in the 1700s. The museum gives guests a walk through of how New Orleans Voodoo came to be and introduces them to the ancient and mystical art. This is one museum where you’ll want to save some money for the gift shop. Along with the usual pens, shirts, and key chains, you can purchase spells and potions – maybe even one that will finally turn that special someone’s eye your way.
Vent Haven Museum – Ft. Mitchell, KY
Billed as the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism, the Vent Haven Museum was founded in 1973 and houses over 800 ventriloquist dummies along with thousands of photographs and other memorabilia dating back to the 1700s. Like so many of these attractions, the Vent Haven is the product of an avid collector whose passion for ventriloquism outgrew his living space. The Museum’s founder, W.S. Berger purchased his first figure, Tommy Boloney, in 1910 when he was 16 years old. As his collection expanded, the figures filled his house so in 1947 he renovated his garage to hold them, and in 1962 expanded to a separate building. It wasn’t until 1973 fearing that with no heirs to pass his collection down to, it would be broken up, that he founded the museum. So significant is the collection that two of the world’s most famous ventriloquists, Edgar Bergen and Jimmy Nelson, performed for the crowd at the museum’s opening.
The Wave Organ – San Francisco, California
Is there anything more calming than the song of the ocean? Gentle crashing of waves is the perfect backdrop for a soothing night’s sleep or a morning cup of coffee, but in San Francisco you can hear what happens when you give the ocean an instrument. A series of granite and marble pipes in various sizes and at various elevations dip into the ocean, and as air rushes through the pipes you’ll hear the ocean playing its low gurgling tones. In addition to being strangely serene, the Wave Organ is a pretty cool piece of engineering. The pipes that dip into the bay rely on the waves to push air through at different frequencies, creating the different notes and tones. It’s engineering that celebrates and embraces the environment. You’ll get different pitches and volumes and different times of the day – for the full orchestra you’ll want to come at high tide.