Last Updated on August 18, 2023
Estimated reading time: 33 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m biting off quite a bit here.
When I originally wrote this article a few years ago, I wanted to acknowledge some of America’s fascinating small museums, which often remain under a traveler’s radar.
After all, when most of us travel, we only think of visiting major museums… the Smithsonian in Washington, the Metropolitan and others on New York’s Museum Mile, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston…
But, in fact, we’re a country fabulously rich in lesser-known museums as well. Most are small and unique and incredibly interesting museums, depending on your interests. They are scattered all over the U.S., many not in large cities.
Consider that according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, there are 35,000 small museums in the U.S. In perspective, that’s 10,000 more than all Starbucks and McDonald’s in the USA combined.
A few days ago I came across my original article and decided it needed an update. I have, after all, visited many more interesting small museums since it was initially published.
But while that original article included 10 small U.S. museums, today’s tally has rocketed three-fold to 30. I’ve done a lot of travel in the past several years.
As you look at the list, however, you’ll only see 28 because I’ve grouped three museums together since they relate to the same subject. Look at the music museums in Memphis, and you’ll understand what I mean.
If you know of an excellent small museum not on this list, I ask that you please add it in the comments section at the end of the article. You’ll see that has recently been done by numerous readers of our Museum Ships article. If you enjoy museums, you may enjoy that article as well.
Here are 30 small museums you may or may not have heard of, but each is unique and captivating in its own way. They are presented alphabetically by state.
California (Los Angeles/ Pacific Palisades) – Getty Villa Museum
First and foremost, don’t confuse the Getty Center, located in Brentwood, with the Getty Villa Museum in Pacific Palisades.
While the Center showcases European art amid modern architecture with a bird’s-eye view of Los Angeles, the Getty Villa Museum is a re-created Roman country home. This country home, however, displays ancient Greek and Roman art along with its ocean views.
It’s also unlike any place you’ve ever visited, home to 4,000 years of ancient art, from the Stone Age to the final days of the Roman Empire. To provide a sense of what it’s like, imagine you were living in ancient Rome and going to visit a wealthy friend. After all, J. Paul Getty was the world’s richest man.
The villa contains ancient Greek and Roman treasures – Greek on the first floor and Roman on the second floor. It’s all beautiful as well as beautifully done. Its Outer Peristyle, an open garden inside the dwelling lined by a row of columns and a continuous porch, is a focal point of the villa. The villa’s most significant garden space, it contains sculptures, water fountains, and covered walkways.
Enjoy the villa’s most extensive garden, featuring a reflecting pool, colonnaded walkways, and views of the Pacific Ocean.
Incredibly, J. Paul Getty never visited the Getty Center or Getty Villa Museum.
Getty Villa Museum
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Tel: (310) 440-7300
California (Sacramento) – California State Railroad Museum
You don’t have to be a train buff to enjoy the California State Railroad Museum, a complex of historic facilities and unique attractions in Old Sacramento. It’s a fascinating place, a world-class tribute to the “iron horse,” both steam and diesel, that connected California to the rest of the country.
You can climb aboard meticulously restored engines, some of which date back to the years of the Civil War, and be astounded by the complexities of the old giants. Walk through a restaurant car and see how food was prepared and served on lengthy journeys.
You’ll also find engaging exhibits – including a full-scale diorama of an 1860s construction site high in the Sierra Nevada – and have the opportunity to ride an old steam train on weekends during the summer. It’s the place many travelers would not expect to visit but are glad they did.
California State Railroad Museum
111 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: (916) 323-9280
Florida (St. Petersburg) – Dali Museum
It might seem a bit odd to have a Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, along the Gulf Coast of Florida. However, it turns out that the founders chose the site because it resembles Dali’s hometown of Cadaques, Spain.
This small museum near the St. Petersburg waterfront is home to more than 2,400 works by the surrealist master. It’s received a lot of raves, and even the Michelin Guide has given it a three-star rating.
While his famous oil paintings, watercolors, and sketches may feel like a journey into Dalí’s mind, it’s not only the art that attracts the crowds. The museum building itself is a big part of the experience. In fact, Architectural Digest has named it one of the ten most interesting museums in the world.
And to tell you the truth, although I was never a Dali fan, I fell in love with this museum and left with a newfound respect for the man and his works.
The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum)
1 Dali Boulevard
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Tel: (727) 823-3767
Florida (Winter Park) – Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
The town of Winter Park is among the unexpected pleasures awaiting visitors to Central Florida. Built in the late-19th-century as a winter refuge for wealthy northerners, it is only about a half-hour drive from Orlando.
In Winter Park, nothing is as dazzling as a stroll through The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art galleries. It’s one of the great things to do in Orlando for adults who want to avoid the theme parks.
The Morse Museum is a great small museum, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of works, in a single place, by American designer Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933). Highlights include the restored Byzantine-Romanesque chapel interior Tiffany designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and a wing showcasing the museum’s collection of art and architectural objects from Tiffany’s Long Island home.
In addition to Tiffany’s works, the museum’s collection includes ceramics, late 19th- and early 20th-century decorative arts, paintings, and graphics.
Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
Florida (Palm Beach) – Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
After a career as a founding partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, Henry Morrison Flagler’s interests turned to developing Florida.
Eventually, Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway and the luxury hotels he built along the way linked the entire east coast of Florida. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing agriculture and tourism as Florida’s leading industries and Palm Beach as one of the great winter resorts.
When completed in 1902, the New York Herald proclaimed that Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate in Palm Beach, was “more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.”
Today, Whitehall is open to the public as the Flagler Museum. In addition, you can also see Flagler’s amazing private rail car in the adjacent Flagler Kenan Pavilion.
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
1 Whitehall Way
Palm Beach, FL 33480
Tel: (561) 655-2833
Florida (Sarasota) – A Wonderful Small Museum: The Circus Museum
You’ve never seen anything quite like this – an incredible miniature recreation of a circus, built to exact scale (3/4” to the foot) and which is amazingly detailed. For example, parked on a siding are 55 tiny circus-train cars. And there are 7,000 miniature folding chairs in the Big Top that, when folded, fit into the five small wagons, just as they would in the actual show.
There’s also much more covering an area of 3,800 square feet and about 1½ times the length of a football field. Even more impressive is that only one man, Howard Tibbals, created the entire thing for this small museum over 55 years.
After visiting the miniature circus, make sure you go up to the second floor, where there’s another exciting exhibit that details the history of the circus from ancient times to the present. But, of course, you also won’t want to miss this either. Fittingly, you’ll find it on the grounds of the Ringling estate, home of the late John Ringling.
The Circus Museum
5401 Bay Shore Road
Sarasota, FL 34243
Tel: (941) 359-5700
Florida (Miami ) – Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
This historical Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is on the shore of Biscayne Bay, just minutes from the downtown skyscrapers of Miami. It’s a subtropical interpretation of a country estate in the Veneto region of northern Italy.
Industrialist James Deering, who in the early 20th century decided to build himself a 16th-century style Italian estate, constructed it on Biscayne Bay. He succeeded spectacularly, and the property – a blend of Renaissance and Neoclassical styles due to changes made over the years – contains many of the items purchased by Deering on his shopping trips all over Europe.
As you wander about the house, you find one of the USA’s most significant Italian furniture collections. The collection is in addition to all of the items Deering purchased on his shopping trips all over Europe. Several of its rooms, as you might expect, including the Reception and Music Rooms on the first floor, were inspired by Italian cities, including Milan, Palermo, and Venice.
In the rear of the property, on the Bay, striped poles along the shoreline evoke the beauty of Venice. At the same time, its beautiful formal gardens mix Italian and French features with the tropical foliage of Florida. So this should be the place to visit if you see no other site in Miami during an afternoon away from the beach.
The magnificent historic residence is a blend of Renaissance and Neoclassical styles. Thankfully it was built with great care not to disrupt the surrounding subtropical environment.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
3251 S Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33129
Tel: (305) 250-9133
Georgia (Atlanta) – Atlanta History Center
The Atlanta History Center is not a single small museum that explores the history of Atlanta, as I expected.
It is a beautiful, multifaceted complex with a Folklife Gallery showing how folk arts shaped traditions in the changing South. But it also includes a presentation on Indians in Georgia, an exhibition on golf legend Bobby Jones Jr. and the evolution of the Masters Tournament. There’s also the charming and fascinating Smith Family Farm from the 1860s and the 1928 Swan Mansion back through the woods behind the museum. So, by all means, don’t miss it – there’s something here for everyone.
Most riveting, however, was the Center’s exhibition “Turning Point, the American Civil War,” which, in a personal way, explained the impact the Civil War had on people’s lives both in the North and the South. It was not pro-South, nor pro-North, but pro-education. And excellent.
Atlanta History Center
130 West Paces Ferry Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30305
Tel: (404) 814-4000
Louisiana (New Orleans) – National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum is a must-see for individuals or families visiting New Orleans. In addition, the U.S. Congress has designated it as America’s official WWII Museum.
It is not, however, your run-of-the-mill “war museum” with static exhibitions. Instead, its powerful images and artifacts bring to life the spirit and, courage, teamwork of the young men and women who won the war. You’ll see America’s role in the war zone and on the Home Front.
Your journey into the war begins at the Union Pacific Train Station. Board the train, and you’ll feel what it was like for soon-to-be soldiers heading to their training camps. Like everything in the museum, it’s an immersive exhibit that highlights the sights, sounds, and emotions of going to war.
Later, you’ll reach the beaches of Normandy and the sands of Iwo Jima as the exhibits tell the stories of dozens of amphibious landings and the thousands of men and women who made the Allied victory possible. There’s a reproduction of the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) that carried thousands to the beaches of Normandy and a soaring Douglas C-47 aircraft.
The USS Tang Submarine Experience brings you aboard the most successful submarine in World War II for its fifth and final war patrol. Finally, there’s Tom Hank’s production of Beyond All Boundaries, a 4D journey through the war.
National WWII Museum
945 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: (504) 528-1944
Massachusetts (Boston ) – Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
In Boston, certainly enjoy the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which houses significant examples of European, Asian, and American art.
After her husband, John L. Gardner’s death in 1898, Isabella Gardner realized their dream of building a suitable space to exhibit their treasures. She purchased land in the marshy Fenway area of Boston and created Fenway Court, modeling it on the Renaissance palaces of Venice.
Upon Isabella’s death, her will stipulated that her art collection –including paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts –be permanently exhibited “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.” Visit the museum today, and you’ll find it’s a museum and an experience.
In 1990, thieves stole thirteen of the museum’s works; the crime remains unsolved, and the works, valued at an estimated $500 million, have not been recovered. A $10 million reward for information leading to the art’s recovery remains.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 566-1401
Michigan (Hickory Corners ) – Gilmore Car Museum
Even though I’m not a car fanatic, the Gilmore Car Museum floored me. Never before – and likely never again – have I seen such a collection. It includes more than 400 cars (Model A’s, Cadillacs, Pierce-Arrows, Duesenbergs, Studebakers, Hudsons, etc.) and eight restored 19th-century barns, an authentic operating 1940s diner, a recreated 1930s Shell gas station and train depot from the 1890s.
The crème de la crème of the collection of this small museum is a rare 1938 Mercedes 540K Sport Tourer. Although Mercedes made only two of the cars, Gilmore possesses the only surviving one (valued at $3+ million), discovered only in 2005 following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Surprisingly, the owner of the other was Adolph Hitler.
Its original owner, to conceal it from the Americans and Soviets and protect it from destruction in WWII, hid it in a basement garage of his Dresden, Germany home. He had bricked up the entrance, filled the driveway with soil, and planted a rose garden above it.
Gilmore Car Museum
6865 Hickory Road Hickory
Corners, Michigan 49060
Tel: (269) 671-5089
Nevada (Las Vegas ) – The Mob Museum
The Las Vegas Mob Museum is unlike any other museum you’ll visit almost anywhere.
Want to see the actual wall against which Bug Moran’s men were shot in the St. Valentine’s Massacre? It’s there. Want to see an electric chair or the barber chair in which someone whacked the infamous Albert Anastasia? You’ll see them both. Want to hear some actual wiretaps? They’re there, too; slip on some headphones. You’ll find this museum to be unlike any other.
The museum, whose actual name is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, states that it’s trying to advance public understanding of organized crime and its impact on American society through high-tech presentations, interactive displays, themed environments, and artifacts. It does a remarkable job of it.
New York (Corning) – The Corning Museum of Glass, a Truly Great Museum
If you wonder what’s so special about glass, this place will knock your socks off. Founded in 1951 by Corning as a gift to the nation for the company’s 100th anniversary, this small museum has since evolved into the world’s best collection of art and historical glass.
The Corning Museum of Glass has 45,000 glass objects spanning 3,500 years, including the glass portrait of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Undoubtedly it will dazzle you with its beauty.
It’s a hands-on place where you can also explore the science and technology of glass, see live glass-making demonstrations, and even make a glass object yourself. This small museum will keep you occupied and awed for hours. So go out of your way to visit it if you’re in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
The Corning Museum of Glass
New York (Corning) – The Rockwell Museum
A renowned small museum in Corning, NY, is the Rockwell Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian. It had previously been known as the Rockwell Museum of Western Art but was renamed to identify its collection as American art, not solely Western art.
If you’re visiting the Corning Glass Museum, you can easily see the Rockwell Museum via a shuttle bus that runs continuously throughout the day all year.
The Rockwell is a beautiful, manageable, interesting small museum that portrays the American experience through art. I found the exhibition “The World of Man, Animals, and Spirits” intriguing during my visit.
The exhibition contains nearly two dozen soapstone and bronze sculptures by artist Abraham Anghik Ruben, a gallery previously in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Equally beautiful and fascinating was an exhibit of Native American contemporary pottery with interactive touch screens that let you delve deeper into the history and artistry of the pieces.
The Rockwell is in the old 1893 City Hall, encompassing the old city offices, firehouse, and police station. When you enter the museum shop, look to your left, and you can see the hole in the ceiling where the firemen’s pole originally stood.
The Rockwell Museum
111 Cedar Street
Corning, NY 14830
Tel: (607) 937-5386
New York (Hammondsport) – Glen Curtis Museum
One of Hammondsport’s most popular attractions is the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, dedicated to the town’s favorite son. Curtiss, a pioneer aviator, is the “architect of American aviation.” This small museum is a fascinating place with a priceless collection relating to early aviation and regional history.
The museum, as you’d expect, takes you back in time. But it also opens your eyes to the incredible problems to overcome in developing the airplane before World War I and throughout the war. Curtiss also invented the world’s first seaplane.
Before becoming involved in aviation, Curtiss was a young cyclist. He was also a mechanic who invented the motorcycle. While the museum displays many things related to his life and inventions, it also shows all sorts of things related to the local Hammondsport area.
As the museum director told me while we were chatting, “we’re selling nostalgia.”
As I told him, “you do it well.”
Glen Curtis Museum
8419 State Route 54
Hammondsport, NY 14840
Tel: (607) 569-2160
New York (New York City) – Lower East Side Tenement Museum
While Ellis Island highlights the hardships that immigrants faced when they arrived in the USA, few museums show you the hardships they endured living in the USA, often in crowded city tenements. That is until this small New York City museum opened its doors.
New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum is, as the name implies, a tenement in NYC’s Lower East Side. Yet, it was somehow surprisingly found intact in the late 1980s.
Take a tour through the tenement at 97 Orchard Street. You’ll develop a new-found respect for the immigrant population when you see first-hand the adversities they endured before housing laws were enacted, including dark and dingy rooms, narrow hallways, and communal bathrooms. Then, join a tour at the Museum shop on the corner of Orchard and Delancey Streets.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
103 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
Tel: (877) 975-3786
New York (New York City) – The Frick Collection
The Frick in New York City is not only one of the preeminent small art museums in the United States. It is a very comfortable place to spend a few hours, almost as if you were in someone’s home.
It has a high-quality collection of old masters and fine furniture housed in nineteen galleries of varying sizes within the former residence. Since Frick had intended the mansion to eventually become a museum, a few paintings are still arranged according to his design. In addition to its permanent collection, the Frick has always organized small, focused temporary exhibitions.
The collection features some of the best-known paintings by major European artists and numerous works of sculpture and porcelain. It also has 18th-century French furniture, Limoges enamel, and Oriental rugs. Nearly half of the collection’s artworks were acquired after Frick’s death.
The Frick Collection
1 E 70th Street
New York, NY 10021
Tel: (212) 288-0700
New York (New York City) – Neue Gallery
Two blocks north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is the Neue Galerie, a museum for German and Austrian art created between 1890 and 1940. It’s on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 86th Street.
It’s a small museum with exhibits of painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and photographs. You’ll find works by Gustav Klimt, Josef Hoffmann, Wassily Kandinsky, and others. Its most notable work is Klimt’s famous “Woman in Gold,” stolen by the Nazis in Vienna before the war.
The movie Woman in Gold (2015), starring Helen Mirren, tells the story of how a woman fought the government of Austria for almost a decade to reclaim the iconic painting of her aunt, officially known as the “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” (Be sure to see the movie before visiting the museum).
Also in the museum is Café Saborsky, a coffeehouse and restaurant that’s a bit of old Vienna in New York. The café alone is worth a visit when you’re on the New York City Museum Mile. It has a great breakfast and lunch, Viennese style.
1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th Street)
New York, NY 10028
Tel: (212) 628-6200
Pennsylvania (Philadelphia ) – National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is the first and only institution in America established by Congress to “disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.” So, finally, you might say Congress got something right after you visit this center.
Located on Independence Mall, a visit to this small museum begins with an excellent overview of the U.S. Constitution, aptly named “We the People.” It’s not a social-studies review but a 15-minute production, with an actor in the center and a 360-degree screen all around you, which had the adults in the audience glued to every word when we were there. It’s a fascinating hands-on place with hundreds of interactive exhibits, engaging theatrical performances, and original historical documents.
You’ll become absorbed by its many small presentations. For example, “Everything that Washington does sets a precedent”…; “our young democracy passed a crucial test today. Thomas Jefferson, a Republican…”; “Tuesday, March 2, 1824 – (Chief Justice) Marshall turned the high court into a force to be reckoned with…”; on and on it goes, right up to the present day.
National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tel: (215) 409-6600
South Dakota (Hot Springs ) – The Mammoth Site
You’ll likely never visit another museum to view Ice Age fossils that’s quite like the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The Hot Springs site is an active paleontological dig site, and it’s all indoors. Open year-round, the Mammoth Site offers self-guided tours, an enhanced educational experience, and Summer Educational Programs.
In June 1974, a heavy equipment operator was leveling ground for a Hot Springs housing development. While grading a small hill, his blade struck something that shone white in the sunlight. Getting out for a closer look, he found a tusk, about seven feet long, sliced in half lengthwise, along with other bones.
The Mammoth Site is the world’s largest mammoth research facility and the only late Ice Age facility of its kind in North America. As a result, it’s become a valuable educational resource for children and adults in the United States and the world.
Although digs occur only 6-8 weeks a year during the summer, you can often see bones in the pits from the previous digs any time of year. Opening times vary by month.
The Mammoth Site
1800 US 18 Bypass
Hot Springs, SD 57747
Tel: (605) 745-6017
Tennessee (Memphis) – Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
In the mid-1800s, the need for slave labor was in high demand in Memphis, Tennessee where “cotton was king.” Some enslaved people attempted to liberate themselves whenever possible by running away. Abolitionists aided some runaways and gave them safe passage on the Underground Railroad. You’ll learn about this in the small Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in a small house.
I was amazed when I visited the Slave Haven. It’s a remarkable place because you learn how the Underground Railroad worked, which will likely shock you.
This museum is the original house of Jacob Burkle, a German immigrant who operated a way station on the Underground Railroad. From his small house, Burkle secretly ferried enslaved people up the Mississippi to freedom in Canada. “The Mississippi River was the real Underground Railroad,” our docent/guide told us.
As we walked through the house, she brought everything to life while discussing the house’s history. In the cellar, we were amazed at how people could live in such an exceptionally confined space, hidden from outsiders.
If you ever visit Memphis, by all means, ensure that Slave Haven is one of your “don’t miss” places.
Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
826 N 2nd Street
Memphis, TN 38107
Tel: (901) 527-7711
Tennessee (Memphis) – Rock ‘n Soul Museum / Sun Studio / Stax Records
Memphis may be a town built on cotton, but if you visit, you better like barbeque and music. Especially music.
And any lover of music looking for things to do in Memphis must visit Sun Studio. Here is where rock ‘n roll was born in a former upholstery shop.
Sun Studio shot to fame after an unknown 18-year-old, Elvis Presley, walked in one day and recorded his first record. The Studio also attracted many others, including Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless other legendary stars. Pay a visit, and you can stand in the same spot each did while recording.
Now a National Historic Landmark, its tour is exciting and nostalgic, especially the outtakes from some recording sessions.
It’s a bit far from the downtown Beale Street area, but there’s a shuttle from the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.
706 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
Tel: 901- 521-0664
Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is one-of-a-kind. It’s the one museum that lauds only Memphis musicians and Memphis’s music history.
The Smithsonian Institution developed the exhibition, and the museum showcases some exhibits from the Smithsonian’s collection. It’s one of the best things to do in Memphis, especially if you love rock ‘n roll.
What’s great about the museum is its focus on musicians from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds. It tells the critical story of the musical pioneers who overcame racial and socio-economic obstacles to create music that changed the cultural complexion of the world. It’s a fun, comprehensive, and educational exhibit.
You’ll find this small museum on Beale Street, the home of the Blues. The museum also provides audio guides and maps of historic Beale Street. In addition, there are free hourly shuttles from the museum to Graceland and Sun Studio.
191 Beale Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Tel: (901) 205-2533
Stax Records is one of the most successful soul music labels ever. In fact, with artists including Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and The MGs, Rufus Thomas, William Bell, and Otis Redding, it is second only to Motown in sales. As a result, it’s one of the don’t-miss things to do in Memphis if you visit for a long weekend or a day.
In the southeast of Memphis, the museum is also on the site of the original Stax Records studio. It’s a fascinating museum with over 2,000 exhibits, including films and galleries. One of the more surprising things here is Isaac Hayes’s 1972 Cadillac Eldorado, part of a Stax renegotiation deal. It has 24-carat gold exterior trim, a TV, a refrigerator, and a minibar.
It’s a captivating museum that even has a dance floor for visitors.
926 E. McLemore Avenue
Memphis, TN 38106
Tel: (901) 261-6338
Vermont (Woodstock ) – Billings Farm & Museum
The Billings Farm & Museum in Vermont is a beautiful small museum and old farmstead once owned by Laurance Rockefeller and his wife, both conservationists. Today it’s famous as a museum of Vermont’s rural past.
It’s still a working farm with champion Jersey cows and sheep, and they produce the milk sold. An exhibit at the farm highlights the conservationist movement that revived Vermont farming after erosion had ruined the land for agriculture.
Even during the winter we visited, we had much fun, including petting newborn calves. We were surprised that the late 19th-century farmhouse had hot running water, an indoor bathroom, and electricity. Moreover, guides explained how they made butter (they had a large operation in the basement) and cooked macaroni and cheese, a staple winter meal at the time, on a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. It’s undoubtedly fascinating for visitors of every age.
Billings Farm & Museum
69 River Road
Woodstock, VT 05091
@ [email protected]
Tel: (802) 457-2355
Washington, DC – International Spy Museum
The International Spy Museum, an easy walk from the White House, undoubtedly contains the most extensive collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display. Guinness World Records officially named the Spy Museum the largest espionage museum in the world. Overall, it’s a favorite D.C. museum for many, not just spook wannabes.
Here you can explore the entire intelligence process from collection to analysis to action and dive into moments in which espionage changed history. With interactive and immersive displays, and in-depth stories of intrigue, daring, and betrayal, the museum puts visitors in the shoes of the officers, agents, and analysts.
Exhibits include Secrets Revealed, Stealing Secrets, Making Sense of Secrets, Covert Action, Spying That Shaped History, and more. You’ll find it fascinating.
Washington (Seattle) – Chihuly Garden and Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass, in the Seattle Center directly next to the Space Needle, showcases the studio glass of Dale Chihuly.
Chihuly’s incredible glass art is part of over 200 museum collections worldwide. He’s also received many awards, including twelve honorary doctorates and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships.
This small museum features three primary components: the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits, with significant secondary spaces, including a 90-seat café with additional outdoor dining. The 100-foot-long masterpiece inside the Glasshouse is one of the artist’s largest suspended sculptures.
It’s a spectacular place both inside and out. Many of Chihuly’s masterpieces sprout among the flowers in the gardens outside, and inside, the magnificent pieces leave the crowds oohing and aahing. If you’re visiting Seattle, put this small museum at the top of your “must-see.”
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Washington (Seattle) – Museum of Flight
The Museum of Flight is one of the world’s most significant air and space museums. It has more than 160 historic aircraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird. Sit in its cockpit or ride in a flight simulator; all are hands-on and fascinating.
I found the museum section dedicated to World War II most interesting since it explained the aerial war from both sides of the conflict. Walking about a Messerschmitt, a Spitfire, and many other aircraft, all either hanging above me or parked on the ground, I got a new historical perspective of the war.
In addition, step outside, and you can board a Concorde, Air Force One, and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. The reality of the surroundings makes it all the more interesting; Boeing Field is a working airport where you’ll see the liveries of dozens of different world airlines.
Consequently, every few minutes, planes being tested land or take off close by, or pilots take delivery of new aircraft. Don’t miss it.
The Museum of Flight
Wyoming (Cody) – Buffalo Bill Center of the West
If you had to pick not just a small museum in Cody, WY, but a focal point of the entire Wyoming region, it would be the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. You’d be hard put to find anything else quite like it anywhere in America.
It’s a spectacularly exciting place dedicated to the American West. It’s also affiliated with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
The complex is not one museum but five fascinating complexes under one roof: the Draper Natural History Museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, and the Whitney Western Art Museum. Accordingly, you understand why critics rave about the place when you walk in the door.
But the Buffalo Bill Center doesn’t just celebrate its namesake. It also celebrates the American West in its entirety, including its peoples, art, landscape, culture, and history. It’s so diverse, entertaining, and educational that some exhibits mesmerize you. So plan to spend at least a half-day inside. Also, keep in mind that your admission is for all five museums.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West
Wyoming (Powell) – Visit Heart-Breaking Heart Mountain
There’s more history, albeit infamous, about a 20-minute drive outside Cody. It’s Heart Mountain, a Japanese American internment camp from World War II. Many find Heart Mountain heart-breaking, but it’s a National Historic Landmark that’s well worth a visit. It’s among the most exciting things to do in Cody.
With a wonderful interpretive center containing photographs, oral histories, etc., it explains what Japanese-Americans endured during World War II. A few of the old barracks are still standing up the road, perhaps two hundred yards from the visitor center. However, they look more like remnants of a ghost town than anything else.
Heart Mountain is both mind- and eye-opening about a lamentable period in American history. Despite its melancholy nature, you don’t want to miss it.