Idaho has earned a reputation for being a state with a plethora of outdoor and recreation opportunities, but believe it or not, we also have some interesting things to do for the indoors-lover as well — or, just to fill in those empty summer days. A fantastic summer activity for kids, couples, or families is to explore Idaho’s incredible selection of museums.
That being said, with Idaho’s unique and diverse history in terms of its place on the Oregon Trail, Short Line, and of course a rich logging and mining past, you can find museum collections around just about every corner. Today, we’ve chosen just 10 of our state’s curated buildings. Ranging from quirky roadside attractions and massive historical museums, to collections found nowhere else in the country, here’s a list of Idaho’s best and most unique museums.
1. Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot
An Idaho classic. As a museum dedicated to the perfect, starchy vegetable Idaho has come to be renowned for, this small, quirky gem in Idaho's potato capital is well worth a visit! You'll learn more about the history of potatoes both globally and in Idaho than you ever thought possible. This museum is currently undergoing renovations, so admission is waived -- or, you can wait a while longer for the big reveal!
2. Museum of Clean, Pocatello
Surprisingly huge and unexpectedly unique, Don Aslett's Museum of Clean isn't just a collection of vintage vacuums and brooms -- it's a concept. Paintings, statues, and, of course, cleaning supplies abound, but the idea of clean eating, clean thinking, and overall cleanliness will take your breath away from the moment you walk into the massive space. It's the only museum like it in the country -- and it's right here in Idaho.
3. Farragut Museum at the Brig, Athol
An incredible collection in tribute to not only the world's second-largest naval training station, but to the sailors who had served or fought in WWII, this museum is unique on all accounts. The brig itself is one of the few remaining buildings from the training center's original 750 or so buildings, and is dedicated to the approximately 300,000 recruits who served their basic training here.
4. Sacajawea Interpretive Center, Salmon
While there are a number of museums in the Northwest that focus on the Lewis and Clark expedition, often in combination with the later movements of the Oregon Trail, only Salmon's Interpretive Center focuses on Sacajawea, her role in the expedition, and the history of the Shoshone people in Idaho. Authentic Agai’dika crafts, displays, and education offer a unique perspective, along with easy access to a number of beautiful hiking trails.
5. Oasis Bordello Museum, Wallace
This one of a kind brothel-turned-museum is offbeat, quirky, and historic in all the right ways. Perhaps not for the young'uns, this little gem preserves the oldest "profession" known to man in a way that is tasteful and informative. Madames and feathered boas abound, but you'll also get a fascinating taste of the time period itself, back when the Oasis Room was operated by Madame Ginger in the 1800s.
6. Sprag Pole Museum, Murray
Perhaps one of Idaho's most fascinating and eclectic collections, Sprag Pole features rows upon rows of vintage displays, hand-carved items, logging and mining history, and more in close to 9,000 square feet of space.
7. Boise Art Museum, Boise
Featuring rotating collections by local and nationally-recognized artists as well numerous education opportunities, traveling exhibits, and demonstrations. While you're at it, definitely be sure to check out the Idaho Historical Museum just next door, which houses thousands of Idaho and PNW artifacts, relics, and ancient treasures.
8. Snake River Heritage Center, Weiser
Housed in what was formerly Hooker Hall of the old Weiser Institute campus, the SRHC hosts a number of exhibits for curious history lovers that aren't found elsewhere in Idaho, such as the Holocaust Room, Arrowhead Room, and Heroes Room, just to name a few. Even the building itself is a fascinating masterpiece in itself.
9. Idaho Museum of Natural History, Pocatello
For a peek into Idaho's incredible prehistoric and archaeologic past, and featuring renowned traveling exhibits such as TITANOBOA,, Idaho State University's museum is a must-visit. While you're there, be sure to check out Pocatello's own Fort Hall replica nearby.
10. Old Mission State Park Museum, Cataldo
Idaho's oldest and arguably most beautiful standing church, the Sacred Heart Mission, is full of history in itself at the hands of Father DeSmet and his partnership with local tribes. Today, the park is also home to a museum collection that includes the restored Parish house and a historic cemetery, as well as exhibits that detail the history of Northern Idaho.
Idaho has quite the collection for history lovers! Have you checked all of these museums off of your bucket list? Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Let us know!