10 terrific museums that you’ve never heard of

Barrel racing, courtesy the Fort Worth National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of FameAre you ready for something new?

Sure, it’s great that the Louvre in Paris was the most-visited museum by a wide margin last year, but maybe you’d like to visit something on a more intimate, accessible scale (for example, we described Japan’s unique and wonderful Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum in a recent post.)

Here are some suggestions:

** Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, Ireland (near Shannon.) Not everyone used to arrive in Europe via the aggravating Heathrow airport; beginning with the July 1939 landing of Pan Am’s “Yankee Clipper” flying boat, this was the primary entrance point to northern Europe by air. My family and I enjoyed the exhibits and films, and my husband and I each sampled the trademark beverage that was supposedly invented here….the Irish coffee.

** The Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway houses anthropologist explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s original balsa wood raft that he and his crew sailed 4,300 miles across the Pacific in 1947. I recommend reading Heyerdahl’s book about the voyage, which he made in order to prove that the ancient ancestors of South Pacific islanders could have come from South America on rafts, using the prevailing trade winds. It is also well worthwhile to watch the superb Academy Award-winning 1950 movie “Kon-Tiki,” shot onboard during the astonishing journey.

** Of course I recommend the “Big Daddy” Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida, since I blog about the sport for Fast Machines. Garlits, driver of the famous “Swamp Rat” series of Top Fuel dragsters, has assembled an incredible array of automotive horsepower at his museum, plus a big selection of classic and antique cars and the Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

** Eyeglasses Museum/Brilmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This place is awesome if you’re like me and have worn glasses or contacts forever; I actually felt pretty hip when I left here. There is every sort of vision-correcting device that you can imagine, from many different eras, and I bought some pretty cool Sonia Rykiel frames there, too.

** Many people never see more of the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas metroplex than the enormous DFW Airport. They certainly don’t know about the spectacular art museums there like the Amon Carter, the Kimbell or the Tadao Ando-designed Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. What they might expect, and would most definitely enjoy, is the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, dedicated to the trailblazing women of the American West.

** Edo-Tokyo Museum. “Edo” is the old name for “Tokyo,” and this museum captures many different historical periods in this sprawling Japanese city, including temples and apartments. The main indoor museum has wonderful re-created street scenes and exhibits, but there is a branch in western Tokyo called the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum that has many more buildings and artifacts. The Web site is in Japanese, but Metropolis Tokyo (sort of like Time Out) has a great description of park highlights. Japan-Guide.com lists other open-air museums in Japan.

** In Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper/Ypres, Belgium. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row….” This is a superb museum about the impact of World War One in this part of Belgium and Europe as a whole. The famous poem was written near here by Canadian John McCrae, who was killed not long after he wrote it.

** Chocolate Museum/Schokoladenmuseum in Cologne/Köln, Germany. On the banks of the Rhine River, not too far from the striking Dom (cathedral) you’ll find a chocolate fountain, exhibits on the history and geography of cacao production and a mini-production line where you can watch workers make goodies like life-sized chocolate soccer balls. Yes, there’s a great gift shop, and a nice cafe as well.

** If you can tear yourself away from the Chinese city’s frenetic energy and shopping, pay a visit to the Hong Kong Museum of History on the Kowloon side. Nicely organized and visually impressive, it gives visitors a comprehensive look at the city’s origins and development.

** National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio tells the story of the Underground Railroad; a secret series of houses and churches that hid fugitive US slaves on their way north to freedom. Some of the hiding places can be seen today, but many are in private homes, so this dynamic museum on the Ohio River (including the child-friendly “Escape!” exhibit) is a great way to learn a lot in one place.

For more museum ideas….

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.