Quirky and unique museums and attractions have been a part of America’s vacation culture since the invention of the automobile. There’s Route 66, with its giant rocking chair and neon-lit motels, and road trip stops at South Dakota’s Wall Drug or the Corn Palace. But the American West isn’t alone when it comes to the odd and unconventional—the Midwest, too, has its own quirks to share.

For example, in Middleton, Wisconsin, the National Mustard Museum showcases more than 6,000 mustards from all 50 states and over 70 countries. “It’s the king of condiments,” says the museum’s founder and creator, Barry Levenson, who became a fanatic mustard collector in 1986 while looking for a hobby. While hosting tour groups, he cheerfully sings fight songs for his self-created American Mustard College. Tours can stop at nearby Wollersheim Winery & Distillery or House on the Rock, a unique Japanese-style home perched on a cliff face and full of thousands of kitschy objects that range from a giant carousel to automated musical instruments and model airplanes.

National Mustard Museum,
Credit: National Mustard Museum

Visit The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, which has nine galleries full of Spam trivia. Invented in 1937, and named after “spiced ham,” Spam became famous during World War II as a staple for American troops. Visitors to this museum can sample products, compete in an assembly line with mock cans of Spam, and join “Spambassador”-led tours through interactive games and photo opportunities. Add a side trip to the Hormel Historic Home or the Hormel Institute, where visitors observe and participate in biomedical research experiments.

A collection of antique cars morphed into a fun and fascinating museum in Volo, Illinois. The Volo Museum showcases 200 cars at any given time, as well as military equipment, an antique carousel, trains, and many other exhibits on its 35-acre campus. The car collection is always evolving, and the vehicles are all for sale to collectors. There’s a showroom just for muscle cars, plus notable film industry vehicles, too.

1928 Carousel,
Credit: Volo Museum

Heading southeast to Indiana, discover over 2,000 ceiling fans at the Antique Fan Museum in Zionsville. For a different kind of fan, visit the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting. Founded by original Phillie Phanatic (the official mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies) David Raymond, the hall of fame features favorite mascots like the University of Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger or the Phoenix Suns’ Gorilla.

The United States is not alone in its passion for unique museums. The province of Ontario, Canada, has plenty of unique museums to visit. The Niagara Apothecary in Niagara-on-the-Lake is an actual restored Victorian apothecary, while the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough is home to 600 canoes and kayaks, the largest known collection of its kind.

Written by Mark Shuman

Main Image: National Mustard Museum; Credit: National Mustard Museum