I am a museum junkie. I love them. I could easily spend hours at one museum and still feel like I have more to discover. And in my book? The stranger the subject, the better. Lucky for me, Wisconsin has its fair share of some seriously curious museums. Here are a few of my top picks from all around the state:
National Mustard Museum (Middleton)
This museum is as quirky as the guy who started the whole thing. His name is Barry Levenson and he says his mustard collection came into being thanks to a dismal trip to the grocery story following the 1986 World Series (New York Mets beat his beloved Boston Red Sox ☹). That was then and this is now: This popular Middleton attraction currently features over 5,676 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. The museum has even been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Jeopardy! among other shows. The National Mustard Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except New Year’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter). Oh, and admission is free! (Check out my trip to the Mustard Museum in the video below!)
Spinning Top & Yo-Yo Museum (Burlington) – For the kids (and kids at heart), head to this interactive toy museum to browse more than 2,000 spinning tops, yo-yos and other antique toys. Live performers, scavenger hunts and videos are just some of the activities worth taking in. I recommend making reservations; this museum and its displays are pretty popular!
Angel Museum (Beloit)
The Angel Museum is the only museum in the world that can claim a collection that once belonged to the one and only Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Here’s the back story: O mentioned on an episode of her talk show that she loved the celestial figurines that fill the Beloit museum, but she struggled to find black angels. In response, her viewers sent her hundreds of black angel statues – so many that Oprah requested the angel shipments come to a halt. She then donated the 571 figurines she received to the Angel Museum in Beloit, which today houses over 11,000 angels ranging from less than an inch tall to life size.
A World of Accordions Museum (Superior)
This Superior museum pays homage to the “squeezebox” of instruments: the accordion! A World of Accordions Museum is home to some of the oldest and rarest European musical instruments in the country. The museum also hosts concerts and events throughout the year for accordion and music enthusiasts. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead for hours and event details.
I still remember my first trip to Circus World as a little girl – I was completely in awe. The museum is visually compelling with exhibits featuring everything from historic circus wagons to colorful costumes. It’s also brimming with fascinating history: The birthplace of the Ringling Bros. Circus winter quarters, Circus World pays tribute to the original Ringlingville by sharing the impact these two brothers had on American culture and through present-day performances, which are held under the Big Top.
What have we learned? Wisconsin has some pretty awesomely weird museums. (And also, Oprah Winfrey seems to be a big fan of them.) What peculiar Wisconsin museums have you visited? I’d like to hear your favorites below!