Do you know there is a carnivorous plant garden in Wilmington, South Carolina? A wordless language that relies on pitch variation to communicate meaning in La Gomera, Spain? A baobab tree in South Africa that is so large it has a pub in it that can comfortably fit 15 people? Or, how about that the ice cream parlor with the most flavors in the world – around 900 total and 60 in any given day – is located in Mérida, Venezuela, and that there is a temple made entirely of beer bottles in Khun Han, Thailand?
Now, I know I love maps and geography more than the average Joe, but how can that not jazz you?!
Luckily Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras & Ella Morton have put together the ultimate list of curious and unusual destinations around the globe in the Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. It’s quickly become one of my favorite books and I highly recommend it for any other map geeks or armchair adventurers out there.
My favorite fact about Atlas Obscura? There are hidden gems in multiple Discovery Map destinations including Bozeman, MT, Wilmington, NC, Providence, RI, and New York City (where a new map launched in 2017).
In the spirit of Atlas Obscura, here’s a list of my own favorite quirky museums and attractions – some from the book and some not – found in Discovery Map destinations:
- Albu-Quirky Downtown Weird Walk – Albuquerque, NM: Voted the fifth quirkiest city in the country by Travel + Leisure, Albuquerque has a long and storied history of its citizens marching to their own beat. The Albu-Quirky Downtown Weird Walk, a product of the Albuquerque Tourism & Sightseeing Factory, celebrates the city’s kookiness by highlighting outlandish personalities, bizarre crimes and odd events. Guests will discover historic buildings, public art, a giant Adirondack chair and filming sites from features such as The Avengers and Breaking Bad, among other things.
- American Computer & Robotics Museum – Bozeman, MT: From early number systems to modern technology, the American Computer & Robotics Museum is a collection of all things related to computing. Rated one of the 10 best free museums in the country by USA Today, guests will be wowed by an Apple 1 donated by Steve Wozniak, an original Apollo Lunar Mission computer, a watch worn on the moon, telegraphs from President Lincoln and more.
- Beaufort Maritime Museum – Crystal Coast, NC: With 3,000 miles of coastline, North Carolina is awash with maritime history. The Beaufort Maritime Museum goes beyond traditional boatbuilding to highlight some unusual gems from the past, including a nearly 300-year-old toilet used by the infamous pirate Blackbeard on his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge before it grounded in Beaufort in June 1718.
- Music House Museum – Traverse City, MI: Located just outside of Traverse City in Acme, the Music House Museum features a rare collection of musical organs, player pianos, phonographs and more – most, if not all, in working order. The jewel of the museum’s mechanical instruments is an 18-foot high Theofiel Mortier dance organ called “Amaryllis” that was originally hand-carved in Belgium in 1922 and sounds like a full, festive band.
- Pioneer Museum – Flagstaff, AZ: Located in the former Coconino County Hospital for the Indigent, the Pioneer Museum has a fun and quirky mishmash of Flagstaff history. Guests will discover historic hospital equipment used prior to the 1930s, Route 66 memorabilia, a 1929 Baldwin locomotive used in logging operations and information on astronaut training at nearby fields. The museum also hosts monthly “Night at the Museum” events covering topics as odd as “100 Ways to Die in Flagstaff” and an annual Flag Wool and Fiber Festival.
- Art Crossing – Greenville, SC: With more than a dozen open studios that visitors can walk around to observe local artists at work, Art Crossing is the place to experience art in action. Located along Greenville’s Reedy River, visitors often find artists of all mediums outside painting, drawing or sculpting.
- Tybee Island light Station & Museum – Tybee Island, GA: Ordered by General James Oglethorpe, Governor of the 13th colony, in 1732, the Tybee Island Light Station has been guiding mariners safe entrance into the Savannah River for over 270 years. One of America’s most intact lighthouses, it features 178 stairs and a First Order Fresnel lens that is nine feet tall from 1916.
- The Woodlands Waterway Art Bench Project – Spring-Woodlands Area, TX: Born out of The Woodland’s tradition of public art, The Woodlands Arts Council sponsors a collection of funky and functional benches along the popular Waterway. Designed by artists from around the world, the benches vary greatly in design, material and theme, from colorful, lit-up balls to a piano with music notes. Vacationers can search for all 14 benches.
- The American Hungarian Foundation Museum – New Brunswick, NJ: For travelers that want to take a deep-dive into a very specific type of art, The American Hungarian Foundation Museum features a wide range of fine art, folk art, photography and more, all capturing the flavor of Hungarian immigrant life. The museum shop also features an interesting collection of items imported from Hungary including embroidery, Zsolnay porcelain, cookbooks and more.
- Asheville Art Museum – Asheville, NC: While you don’t generally think of museums as having pop-ups, that’s exactly what’s happening with the Asheville Art Museum as it’s under construction. Visit the pop-up and discover a wide collection of 20th and 21st century American art.
- Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park – Hendersonville, NC: Hikers revel in The Rock, a distinct granite outcropping with 75-mile views. Located in Chimney Rock State Park, visitors will also find hiking trails for all ages, a 404-foot waterfall, a variety of events and more.
What hidden gem are you going to uncover first?