12 Unusual Museums to Visit in California

Musee Mecanique | © Michael Greenberg/Flickr
Musee Mecanique | © Michael Greenberg/Flickr

Without a doubt, museums all over the world have interesting stories, facts, and history to share. However, some museums go beyond interesting and enter the world of strange. California is home to many incredible and unusual museums. Some are fascinatingly unique, while others are just plain peculiar. Find out about California’s must-see unusual museums here.

Winchester Mystery House
History Museum, Architecture Museum
Winchester Mystery House © Mike Shelby/Flickr

Winchester Mystery House | Mike Shelby / Flickr

This is the destination for lovers of the odd and ghostly. The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion that was once home to Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun man William Wirt Winchester. With the Winchester fortune, Sarah didn’t stop building the estate, nor did she stop trying to reach the dead. Tour the estate to see for yourself the doors that lead to nowhere, a seance room, and the overall bizarre architecture.

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Indoors, Outdoors, Architectural Landmark, Instagrammable

Walt Disney Family Museum
Walt Disney Family Museum

© Chris LaBasco / Alamy Stock Photo

Young and old will love the Walt Disney Family Museum. Take a glimpse into the life of the infamous genius behind the Disney conglomerate, Walt Disney. Discover the legacy he left behind for everyone to be entertained by his beloved creations.

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Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, Burlingame

Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, Burlingame | © G H/Flickr

This place is an absolute doozy of a throwback. With his Pez candy dispenser collection dating back over a decade, Gary Doss decided to open a Pez museum in 1995. The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia is colorful space with a lot of fun history in it. Tour the gallery and learn all about these cute little candy dispensers.

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Musée Mécanique

Located on buzzing Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Musée Mécanique is an unforgettable treat. It’s an interactive museum of 20th-century penny arcade games and artifacts. Walk through the early history of gaming, even play a few of the more modern pinball games while listening to the self-playing piano!

Musée Mécanique, 45 Sausalito – San Francisco Pier 41, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 346 2000

Legion of Honor
Building, Museum, Park
Amidst a gallery event

Amidst a gallery event | © Sole Space

The Legion of Honor is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The building itself is immaculately gorgeous, as is the art. Come and see the masterpieces you won’t be able to see anywhere else, as well as beautiful fine art exhibits.

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Gamble House

Architecture lovers and enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Gamble House. Finally, architecture and design is presented as fine art. This National Historic Landmark is a stunning display, inside and out. Take a guided tour around the museum to admire fine pieces from the arts and crafts era.

Gamble House, 4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena, CA, USA, +1 626 793 3334

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum

This unusual museum highlights ancient Egypt and its mysterious legends. See real mummies on display, walk through halls that simulate the majestic pyramids, and take a stroll in the peaceful rose gardens. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum has the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on display in western North America.

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, 1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA, USA, +1 408 947 3635

Museum of Death

Despite the morbid name, the goal of the Museum of Death in L.A., according to its establishers, is “to make people happy to be alive”. Visitors will enjoy the authenticity and enthralling nature of the exhibits. The museum is meant to educate visitors about death, something that is incredibly lacking in the United States. The exhibits entice, and peak curiosity and make for a truly interesting day.

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Sun - Thu:
10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Fri - None:
10:00 am - 9:00 pm
Sat - None:
10:00 am - 10:00 pm

California Automobile Museum

Mustangs | © Marcin Wichary/Flickr

Inside this 72, 000 square-foot museum sits a collection of more than 150 classic cars, muscle cars, race cars, and historic models on display. There’s also an interesting make-up of other interactive and educational exhibits. The California Automobile Museum is truly a one-of-a-kind place.

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Whaley House Museum

If you’ve always wanted a haunting experience, look no further than the Whaley House Museum in historic Old Town San Diego. Dating back to the 1800s, the tragic history of the house consists of mysterious killings and hauntings. It is definitely something to experience. You may or may not see any ghosts, but the tour and stories of the house are worth it either way.

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USS Hornet Museum
USS Hornet

USS Hornet | © the_tahoe_guy/Flickr

Another spooky stop is the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum. The museum itself is inside the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, which was built in the 1940s and was retired in the 1970s after serving with the U.S. Navy. The museum displays pieces of U.S. history and military history, although rumors and stories of hauntings have floated around the museum for years. One of the tours offered at the museum highlights the hauntings and chilling history after the museum has closed.

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Museum of Ice Cream

Sweet tooth-ers rejoice, there’s an actual museum dedicated entirely to ice cream! The energy of the Museum of Ice Cream and its exhibits are contagious and a lot of fun. Shower yourself in sprinkles, take pictures next to giant ice-cream cones, and explore the bright and colorful rooms.

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