You love culture—sure—who doesn’t? But honestly, you’ve seen the permanent exhibits at the Smithsonian so many times that you are often mistaken for a curator. And, you can’t imagine waiting in the massive, freezing line outside the Met for another of their much-talked-about exhibit. It is high time you got your history and culture fix in one of these highly underrated museums that come sans wait, high prices and a commercial feel.
From quirky collections to one-of-a-kind artifacts, these are the seven coolest American museums you’ve never heard of.
1. The Delta Flight Museum, Atlanta, Georgia
Until 2014, the Delta Flight Museum (pictured above) was only accessible to Delta employees and their guests, and we can see why. The space, which takes up two hangars of Delta’s Atlanta Headquarters, showcases aircraft artifacts and exclusive exhibits that will make visitors feel like they have snuck into an “employees only” area. From the cockpit of the first Convair 880-22 to a flight deck simulator that was used to train Delta 737-200 pilots, this is a traveler’s dream museum.
2. Apothecary Museum, Alexandria, Virginia
If George and Martha Washington shopped there, it’s worth stopping by. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum was founded by a Quaker pharmacist in 1792 and is one of the oldest pharmacies in the country. Patrons included the Washington’s and Robert E. Lee. A visit to what is now a museum that houses original pill rollers, mortars and pestles, drug mills, carboys and medical glassware will shed light on how they treated and cured illnesses and how the medical industry functioned in the 1800s and early 1900s.
3. The Bunny Museum, Los Angeles, California
What resembles the home of a hoarder (and very well might be) is actually the “world’s largest bunny collection.” Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski have over 30,000 rabbit-themed collectibles in their home and have opened up their stock to the public. Lucky us. The Bunny Museum will make your childhood assortment of stuffed animals look pathetic.
4. City Reliquary Museum, New York, New York
While New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art house some of the greatest pieces in the world, you cannot learn about the magnificent city they call home if you are stuck inside these institutions all day. The City Reliquary is a not-for-profit community museum in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The small but mighty establishment will show you how New York City has changed over the years through rotating exhibits like Mazel Tough: The Jewish Gangsters of New York and their permanent collection which showcases NYC relics, including an original subway turnstile.
5. National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee
Photo via Flickr/BBC World Service
Located in the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, this unique museum gives visitors the chance to walk through history while learning about the American Civil Rights Movement. Get a better understanding of this tumultuous period by stepping onto a freedom bus and of course, seeing the motel balcony on which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his last moments.
6. Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hilo, Hawaii
While natural disasters aren’t something we want to relive or showcase, they do have to be addressed. Unfortunately, Hawaii is not foreign to tsunamis, as they have killed more people in the state than all other types of natural disasters combined. The Pacific Tsunami Museum is located in Hilo, an area that is particularly prone to this type of destructive force. Luckily, over the last 30 years, there have been few harmful tsunamis in Hilo, which gave them the chance to build this museum. The Pacific Tsunami Museum commemorates those lost in these monstrous waves and educates current residents on natural disasters, preparation and recovery through exhibits on the history of tsunamis in Hilo, scientific information and historical testimonies.
7. Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona
Photo via Flickr/InSapphoWeTrust
If you’re like most of the American population, you sadly have not ever had the chance to step inside a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. You can change that by visiting the Taliesin West museum, a structure Wright began building in 1937 as his personal winter home, studio and architectural campus. Guests have the chance to not only set foot inside one of his designs, but also get a glimpse into the life of one of the most innovative architects of his time by touring his living quarters.
is Paste Magazine’s assistant travel editor.