Travelers are certain to stumble upon an oddball museum occasionally, with such wide-ranging subjects as voodoo dolls, aliens and funeral history. While these gems provide an unforgettable and often humorous experience, groups might be surprised to discover what they learn as well. Here are five unusual destinations to consider adding to your next itinerary.
International Banana Museum
In the desert community of Mecca, California, near Eastern Coachella Valley’s Salton Sea, the International Banana Museum is one zany attraction groups will not want to miss. It came to fruition in 2010 when local Fred Garbutt noticed a Guinness World Record collection of “bananabilia” for sale and decided to install a banana museum in the bar adjacent to his family’s liquor store. The collection has since grown to more than 20,000 banana-themed items, with visitor favorites such as a 1970s banana-shaped record player, a banana phone, banana hats and banana blazer jackets.
“It skyrocketed to popularity faster than I ever thought it would,” said Garbutt. “People often see the sign and pull over, expecting it to be some cheesy thing with some dusty bananas in a cabinet. But the look on people’s faces when they walk in the door, like they just walked into this banana utopia—they totally don’t expect it to be so colorful and enchanting. It’s really fun to see.”
The Banana Museum also doubles as the local ice-cream parlor. On a hot summer day, guests can sit on a barstool shaped like a banana tree or a trio of monkeys, and savor cool treats like homemade banana ice cream or banana soda ice-cream floats.
“Everybody raves about my banana shakes,” said Garbutt.
Tour groups are advised to call in advance for museum hours.
Andy Warhol Museum
Few artists had as much of an impact on the postmodern and pop art movement of the 1960s as Andy Warhol. Groups can learn about his prolific and unconventional career at the seven-story Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which houses 900 paintings, 1,000 original prints, 4,000 videos, 60 feature films and much more from his life work.
Inspired by the aesthetic of comics and ads, Warhol developed a technique called photographic silk-screen printing to create his iconic pop paintings, and this technique enabled him to replicate the same image with slight variations of color. Most visitors will recognize his multicolored portraits of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley, as well as the reproductions of mainstream products like Coke and Campbell’s Soup cans.
Due to his fascination with moving images, Warhol experimented extensively with film throughout his life, and groups can watch some of his most famous pieces, such as “The Chelsea Girls” and “Sleep.” Other series on display include “Death and Disaster,” “Mao” and “Time Capsules,” a collection of 569 cardboard boxes full of mementos such as photographs, fan letters and newspaper clippings.
On the lower level, visitors can take silk-screen-printing classes and other artistic programs in an education lab called the Factory, named after Warhol’s New York studio.