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Spam Unfiltered: Check out These Quirky Museums

National Mustard Museum

Middleton, Wisconsin

When people think of museums, condiments are usually not the first thing that comes to mind. But the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, draws anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 visitors each year.

“Our goal is to let people know the story of mustard,” said Barry Levenson, owner and curator of the museum.

Levenson began collecting mustard jars in the 1980s and has since amassed nearly 6,000 brands of mustard from over 70 countries. In the museum, visitors will find everything from vintage mustard ads to the French’s Mustard mascot and antique mustard pots. There are also many tongue-in-cheek displays, such as mustard jars added into famous paintings using photo-editing software and a “Poupon University” section, named after the Poupon mustard brand. A museum guide will often lead groups in singing the “Poupon U” fight song.

“It’s a really fun time, but people learn something, too,” said Levenson.

Any food-themed attraction is bound to make visitors hungry, so after the tour, guests often flock to the gift shop to sample dozens of mustard brands on pretzels, as well as purchase a “Poupon U” hat or sweatshirt as a souvenir for the road.

The first Friday in August each year, the museum celebrates International Mustard Day with live music and fresh hot dogs from Vienna Beef, one of the sponsors of the holiday.

Admission to the museum is free.

Spam Museum

Austin, Minnesota

With an entreaty of “Please don’t eat the exhibits,” the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, takes visitors on a journey into the world of mystery meat.

“Over the past 80 years, we have created quite the relationship with families, not only in the U.S. but internationally as well,” said Savile Lord, manager of communications.

As groups wander through the museum’s seven galleries, they will learn about the founding of Spam’s parent company, Hormel Foods; how Spam is made with six key ingredients; and how Spam products are used in cuisine across the globe in countries like Japan, the United Kingdom and the Philippines. Some highlights of the exhibits include the classic Monty Python “Spam” skit; bluegrass instruments made from Spam cans; and a 12-foot, 60-pound Spam rocket. A 390-foot Spam conveyor belt runs throughout the museum, displaying 20 assorted flavors of Spam.

“The Spam Museum is very much a kitschy museum, but it’s informative as well,” said Lord.

There are also plenty of opportunities to sample Spam, with varieties like teriyaki, oven-roasted turkey and real Hormel bacon. Before leaving, visitors are encouraged to stop by the indoor children’s play area or the 1,400-square-foot gift shop.

Neon Museum

Las Vegas

Most people who have traveled to Las Vegas remember the glittering neon lights that characterize the city, but few consider what happens to the electric signs and logos that line the streets after businesses close or replace them. The Neon Museum opened in 2012 after more than a decade of collecting and restoring some of Sin City’s most iconic signage. Now displaying a colorful, outdoor assortment of some 200 signs, the Neon Boneyard features pieces from historic casinos like Stardust, Sahara, Flamingo, Golden Nugget and Aladdin.

As groups explore this whimsical setting, they will learn about the unique histories of the signs, from the intricate yucca flower design of the Yucca Hotel to the animated Steiner Cleaners happy shirt. One famous item is the Moulin Rouge sign from the Moulin Rouge casino-hotel, designed by the late artist Betty Willis. Willis was also responsible for producing the legendary “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on Las Vegas Boulevard.

The Neon Boneyard is a popular spot for selfies and engagement photos, particularly in front of the restored “Wedding Information” sign. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, since tours are limited in size.