Feel like stepping outside of your comfort zone? Sure, you could play it safe and visit the De Young Museum for the eighth time or Crocker Museum to remind you of grammar school field trips, but how about taking a walk on the wild side and discovering the strange and disturbing? Northern California has a lot of that to offer.
Here’s a list of a few museums that are too weird for words. Add these to your bucket list of things to do with your friends. They’ll love you for it!
1. Pez Memorabilia Museum - Burlingame
California’s most famous strange museum is the shrine of Pez dispensers in Burlingame. The museum has every Pez dispenser ever sold (over 1,000) and sells many popular Pez collectibles.
2. Don & June Salvatori California Pharmacy Museum - Sacramento
Pharmacy enthusiasts everywhere should make the trip to Sacramento where two centuries of pharmaceutical equipment are on display. There’s a replica pharmacy from the 1890s complete with glass bottles. The collection also has pharmacy journals. It’s available for tours by appointment only.
3. Hand Fan Museum - Healdsburg
Do you dig hand fans? Then this is your place. The museum houses a collection of fans from around the world. It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only hand fan museum in the United States.
4. Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven StudiesSan Jose
San Jose State has the largest collection of Beethoven stuff in the Western hemisphere. The Beethoven Center has scores, historical keyboards and even a lock of Beethoven’s hair - seriously!
5. Essig Museum Of Entomology - Berkeley
Love bugs? Located on the UC Berkeley campus, the Essig Museum of Entomology features over 5 million pinned specimens and contains “probably the largest collection of California insects in existence.” The museum is open for special events or if you apply for a research visit. Apparently, they're particular about who gets to enjoy their bugs.
6. The Roseville Telephone Museum
4500 square feet of telephone geneology right here. Come meet your iPhone's great-great-great-grandfather. Then scare the kids and tell them you're going back to this kind of telephone at home.
7. Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - Fremont
There’s nothing weird about a silent film museum, but did you expect to find one in Fremont? The unassuming storefront in the Niles district showcases early silent films; the location was one the site of a studio used by Charlie Chaplin in the 1910s. Who knew?
8. Steinbeck’s Spirit of Monterey Wax Museum - Moneterey
The TripAdvisor reviews caution that you’ll need a sense of humor here: The basement museum is a weird animatronic homage to Steinbeck’s Cannery Row-era Monterey. The exhibits are old and worn and the audio is hard to hear. But, according to at least one review, “Didn't mind the price because it was worth all the laughter.”
9. Bigfoot Discovery Museum - Santa Cruz
Want to know more about the Sasquatch? This museum is where it's at. There are all manner of Bigfoot "evidence" and a map of reported sightings. Plus, there's lots of cool bigfoot trinkets to purchase in their gift shop. We're sure he or she would be proud.
10. Reiff’s Antique Gas Station Museum - Woodland
Feel like visiting 1950? This museum will take you there. Old time memorabilia and whacky gas station antiques. You can even reserve this spot for personal photo shoots. They have it all here!
11. Musee Mecanique Museum - San Francisco
You know this is just creepy. Tucked away in Fisherman's Wharf is surreal and wonderful Musee Mecanique, offering hundreds of antique arcade games. Admission is a mere handful of quarters with which to play ... and a willingness to go to Fisherman's Wharf.
12. Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum - Samoa
The Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum seeks to identify, collect, preserve and interpret artifacts, photographs, library archives and materials relating principally to the maritime history of California's North Coast. And, coming just for this buoy is worth it.