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Members' Favorite Offbeat Museums in the West

From Bigfoot to a collection of hats, these museums offer unusual delights. 

By
Via Readers
trying on hats at the National Hat Museum in Portland, Oregon, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Robbie McClaran
Photo caption
Shop for a chapeau at Portland’s hat museum.

"In Crockett, Calif., the Bailey Art Museum has robots and much more, including ceramic bowls of water that burp unexpectedly, a skeleton of a ‘kaolithic’ man, and pseudoscientific experiments."—Mary Ellen McKey

“There isn’t a more wonderful and definitely offbeat museum in the West than the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, Calif. Full of intriguing exhibits and evidence to support the existence of all things Bigfoot, it will turn anyone into a believer.”—Chris Greenwood

“The Museum of Wonder and Delight in Folsom, Calif., is exactly what it claims. The first room is full of boxes and bags representing stores from around the world, including the San Francisco Bay Area. The remainder is packed with a miniature Victoriana collection brilliantly displayed in window boxes.” —Kris & Barbara Ruck

“There’s a gem of an attraction not too far from downtown Las Vegas: the National Atomic Testing Museum. Most people know that bombs were assembled and tested in the Nevada desert, but many haven't heard the stories about the people who came to live and work nearby in the 1940s and '50s. This museum is full of history and technology, pieces and parts and pictures. You can even ogle Miss Atomic Bomb 1957.” —Toni Sopocko

“My favorite is the National Hat Museum in Portland, a Victorian house crammed with more than 1,000 hats. Costumed tour guides lead you through the rooms, tell you the history of toppers, and point out specific ones from the collection. You have to make reservations, but it’s well worth your time!” —Arianna Scott

“A true gem in Sagle, Idaho, near Sandpoint, is the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center. Forrest Bird's collection offers a meticulous display of military and flying history—and it's free!” —Ron and Jeanne Pearl

“I frequently visit the Fort Dalles Museum and Anderson Homestead in The Dalles, Ore. It's off the beaten path, and its historical presentations, including an original privy with a surprising period photograph, are unusual.” —Julie Carter

“The Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Ore., is a fascinating time capsule of Chinese immigrant life in the West in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. In the museum, everyday items are just as they were in 1948 when the building was boarded up.” —Carolyn Lashlee

Marsh's Free Museum in Long Beach, Wash., has all kinds of claw games, old inventions, strange findings. You never know what unexpected item you're going to see around the next corner.” —Helen Winberg

This article was first published in Winter 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.