7 Museums for Adults Who Think They Hate Museums

If you yawn at the thought of touring a stuffy old museum, these unique spots—from Arizona to New York—will change your mind

Weave through the maze of stone sculptures, single-handedly carved from more than 1,100 tons of rock, at Miami’s Coral Castle. Photo credit: GMCVB


What do you think when you hear the word “museum”? Expensive art displayed on walls? Rope barriers? Eerily quiet halls? While most of us say we appreciate art, let’s face it—the stuffy reputation of the museum is a turn-off. But not all museums are hushed halls filled with ancient canvasses, and kids aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy hands-on activities. Here are seven cool museums where you can enjoy an outside-the-box experience—from taking part in a zombie walk to shredding on a guitar or even striving for the high score on Frogger. 

1. Explore a mystery at the Coral Castle Museum (Miami, Florida)

More than a sculpture garden, this structure and the courtyard garden it surrounds are a mixture of art, architecture and oddity. Built single-handedly by Ed Leedskalnin between the mid-1920s and the early 1950s, it’s still unknown exactly how he crafted this unique museum, as he built it under cover of darkness. Coral Castle features include a 9-ton gate that moves with a touch of a finger, as well as functioning rocking chairs made of stone.

2. Make magic like Houdini at the History Museum at the Castle (Appleton, Wisconsin)

The building itself, a castle-like structure that was once a Masonic temple, is just as interesting as the collections housed inside it. The cool museum’s exhibitions focus mostly on the well-known people who called Appleton home—including, perhaps most famously, Harry Houdini. Not only will you see the handcuffs and straightjackets Houdini used in his performances, but you can also try your hand at picking locks and levitating a séance table; you maybe even be able to convince a companion to join you in trying out the famous Metamorphosis trunk.

3. Listen and learn at the Country Music Hall of Fame (Nashville, Tennessee)

View the massive wall of gold records spanning several floors of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Country Music Hall of Fame

Explore the influence country music has had on American culture as you walk through this expansive museum. The core exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, chronicles the genre from its beginnings deep in the Appalachians to the megastars of today. Listen to original recordings, see the fringe of Gene Autry’s costumes and marvel at all of the gold on one of Elvis’ Cadillacs.

4. Have no fear at The Living Dead Museum (Evans City, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh)

Zombies have made a resurgence in pop culture thanks to shows like The Walking Dead, but zombie movies first took a bite out of fame with George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, which was filmed in Evans City in 1967. This museum, housed in a nondescript storefront, is full of movie memorabilia and stills from the film and its sequel, Dawn of the Dead. Visit in October to take part in the zombie walk during Living Dead Weekend.

5. Play arcade games at the Asheville Pinball Museum (Asheville, North Carolina)

Savor the bells, lights and whistles of decades of arcade games at the Asheville Pinball Museum. Photo credit: Asheville Pinball Museum

Sure, here you can learn about the history of pinball machines and uncover fun facts about different designs. But the real draw is the unlimited play time. This museum houses a collection of pinball machines and arcade games from the 1940s to the present; you can’t play the antique ones, but it’s a free-for-all on the others. Get a glimpse of pop culture at its finest while you try to beat the high score on Spider-Man, Star Trek and Kiss pinball machines, or brush up on classic arcade games like Donkey Kong and Frogger.

6. Play out loud at the Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix, Arizona)

When is a guitar more than a guitar? When it’s the red one used in concerts by Taylor Swift, or one of the road-worn acoustic guitars played by Johnny Cash. Get a peek at these and other iconic instruments played by famous musicians, including Elvis Presley and John Lennon, at the world’s only global musical instrument museum. The collection contains more than 6,500 pieces, and not only can you look and learn, you can try your hand at making music on a changing group of instruments from many different cultures in the museum’s Experience Gallery. You can also check out some great tunes at one of the more than 200 concerts hosted each year in the museum’s theater.

7. Join the circus at the Coney Island Museum (Brooklyn, New York)

Be transported to a time of vaudeville, burlesque and circus sideshows at Brooklyn’s Coney Island Museum. Photo credit: Norman Blake - Coney Island Museum

Experience the gaudy, exuberant heyday of Coney Island at this interesting museum, featuring a collection of thermoses from the ’50s and ’60s, a bumper car and carousel horses from between the ’30s and the ’60s. Immerse yourself in the sideshow world with live magic performances every Sunday, at a burlesque and vaudeville show on weekends throughout the summer, during the Mermaid Parade in June, and in Sideshow School in August.

Ready to visit? Find hotels in Miami, Appleton, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Asheville, Phoenix, Brooklyn.


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