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Unusual Museums Throughout the US

Most museums are buildings that serve as vaults for some of humanity's most culturally significant art and artifacts. Places like the Louvre in Paris, which houses the Mona Lisa, and the Museum of Natural History with its fantastic dioramas are classic examples of what most people think of when museums come to mind.

Unfortunately, there are a large number of items and industries that have cultural significance that just can't find a home in a “normal” museum. Luckily, instead of being lost to history forever, there are plenty of unusual museums across the U.S. that cater to even the most obscure interests and cultural taste.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology - Culver City, CA

While many Southern California attractions cater to a wide array of interests, the Museum of Jurassic Technology hones in on the strange and the weird. The MJT, which bills itself as “an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic,” offers a diverse collection of artistic, historic, and scientific exhibits. Its microminiature collection by Hagop Sandaldjian focuses on sculptures carved out of single grains of rice or single strands of human hair, and displayed within the eye of a needle. There's also a collection detailing life and “artifacts” from Los Angeles trailer parks known as The Garden of Eden on Wheels, as well as an oil painting gallery named The Lives of Perfect Creatures, which depicts the heroic canines of the Soviet space program.

The Museum of Sex - New York, NY

One of the more unique museums in New York is located on 5th Avenue: the Museum of Sex, or MoSex, offers educational exhibits that cover a wide range of presentations related to sexuality and its related topics. Some of MoSex's previous exhibitions have examined how New York City affected the perception of sex in the United States, and others have focused on sexuality from other time periods and cultures. While the museum presents these topics in an academic format, some items and images are graphic, which restricts admission to MoSex to those 18 or older.

The Museum of Bad Art - Boston, MA

With so much great art in the world, it stands to reason that there would be some art that misses the mark. The Brookline and Somerville, Mass., (both just outside Boston) branches of the Museum of Bad Art aim to give those peculiar pieces the exposure that they so richly deserve. The MOBA's collection of “art too bad to be ignored” contains approximately 500 pieces and ranges from mountains that look more like ice cream to portraits of landscapes that might actually be portraits of dogs. Despite the quality of the artwork, everything is displayed and exhibited with the utmost seriousness (loosely speaking). Each piece of artwork is examined, critiqued and interpreted by curators, just like a traditional art museum. The MOBA is not interested in collecting or displaying tacky artwork, so to be considered for inclusion, pieces must have been created with serious artistic intent.

National Museum of Funeral History - Houston, TX

Founded in 1992, the NMFH in Houston is a museum with the goal to “educate the public and preserve the heritage of death care.” The museum, which is widely regarded as the largest funerary educational institution in the world and hosts a variety of exhibits, including Thanks For the Memories, which focuses on celebrity funerals. Additionally, the NMFH is also home to Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes. This exhibit contains vestments, funerary items, and even the Popemobile, and was designed in collaboration with the Vatican to make visitors feel as if they were part of the papal funeral process

Free Falling Falcon's Fury Debuts at Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Garden Tampa's newest ride: Falcon's Fury

You’ve probably heard the term “free-fall” before, but have you ever experienced one? Well, now’s your chance. Busch Gardens Tampa’s newest thrill ride, Falcon’s Fury, opened September 2 and is giving guests plenty to scream about.

Falcon’s Fury is a free-standing drop-tower – the tallest one in North America. It climbs to a height of 335 feet, where it surprises riders by pivoting them 90 degrees into a face-down dive position. An instant later, they plunge straight towards the ground, reaching speeds of 60 miles per hour and free-falling for about 5 seconds, just like a falcon diving after its prey.

Falcon’s Fury is the centerpiece of Pantopia™, a land featuring 8 rides in total, from Falcon’s Fury and The Scorpion, another thriller, down to kid-friendly rides like the Bush Flyers and the Kiddie Train.

Pantopia’s food offerings will not disappoint – visit the Twisted Tails Pretzel Bakery for a Bacon Pretzel Fury and a cold beer, while the kids enjoy a snowcone from Lynx Frozen Treats. The Kettle Corn stand serves up its namesake popular sweet-n-salty snack, as well as other guest favorites like turkey legs, potato twisters and chicken strips. Up for something heartier? The Dragon Fire Grill and the Pantopia Grill offer great lunch and dinner options, including ribs, kabobs, pasta, salads, sandwiches and desserts.

If you’re looking for some souvenirs to remember your Pantopia visit, stop at The Painted Camel or Pantopia Artisans, where you’ll find a selection of treasures, many made of recycled materials. You could even get a henna tattoo. And in the newly renovated Pantopia Theater, take in live entertainment with the all-animal production Opening Night Critters, starring both domestic and exotic animals.

Thrill-seekers from around the world have been waiting for their chance to explore Pantopia and test their mettle against Falcon’s Fury, and now you can, too. Just don’t be a chicken.

Planning a Family Getaway: Disneyland Attractions in Anaheim

The kids are back in school, leaves are starting to turn, and that recognizable early morning chill is in the air… there’s no doubt about it, fall is on the way. We all know that fall leads to winter (don’t remind us!), and that it can be a sanity-saver to start thinking ahead with plans for a (warmer) change of scenery and a family vacation during the winter break from school.

One of the most “magical” and family-friendly destinations to keep in mind is Disneyland in Anaheim, Ca. The theme park was opened in 1955 and conceptualized by the “man behind the mouse” himself, Walt Disney. To this day, the 160-acre expanse delights over 16 million guests each year, bringing families face-to-face with the timeless characters they grew up with and the friendly new faces their own children have come to love.

The park plays host to a number of iconic rides and attractions. Disneyland tickets are available year-round in the perpetually sunny Magic Kingdom, making it an ideal place for a family vacation. If you’re thinking about mingling with Mickey and Minnie on the West coast, here are a few of our favorite spots that offer a little something for everyone:

Jungle CruisePhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise has been a part of Disneyland since the very first day the park opened. Take a 10-minute tour of a simulated jungle landscape aboard a boat that takes you past hippos, headhunters, and elephants. None of these creatures are real, of course, but their replicas are pretty convincing! The tramp steamer cruises along and treats visitors to replicas of great rivers and their geographic locales, such as the Nile, the Amazon, and the Mekong River. Bring your binoculars to scope out some of the hidden characters sprinkled among the exotic foliage!

The Mad Tea PartyPhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Mad Tea Party

Disneyland’s famous teacups take visitors on a whirlwind of a ride that’s best experienced on an empty stomach. Modeled after the colorful cups that adorned the Mad Hatter’s table in Alice In Wonderland, this whirling dervish spins visitors around and around on a near-collision course with other wild teacups. Each of the cups has its own wheel in the middle that allows you to control just how fast and furious your teacup turns.

Haunted MansionPhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Haunted Mansion

For the thrill-seekers among your family, the Haunted Mansion scares up some chills. This Disneyland attraction may not be suitable for very young children and could cause them a few sleepless nights. (Not exactly what any family wants to encounter on their vacation!) For others, however, the Haunted Mansion is a bona fide classic. Located in the New Orleans Square section of Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion boasts ghosts upon ghosts (999 of them, to be exact), and resembles a grand old Louisiana mansion. Take a ride in the Doom Buggy and see haunted portraits including the many husbands of decapitation-happy widow Constance, a never-ending hallway, and a graveyard populated with a slew of very social ghosts.

Space MountainPhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Space Mountain

It may be one of the oldest rides in the park, but Space Mountain has still got the longest line! The wait time for this ride can be up to 120 minutes, so if you’re planning on experiencing this coaster, make sure you make preparations to avoid the wait or stay entertained. However, this coaster is certainly worth the wait. Housed in the Tomorrowland portion of the park, the Space Mountain rollercoaster opened in 1977 and has been dipping, diving, and delighting visitors ever since. The coaster stands 75 feet tall and whizzes along its tracks and drops at 32 mph. Space Mountain also has its own musical accompaniment, too. A tune by surf guitar legend Dick Dale and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ version of “Higher Ground” have provided the sonic backdrop for this epic ride.

The park itself is a prime Southern California attraction, but Disneyland's rides are certainly iconic in their own right. Do you have a favorite Disneyland ride? How many times have you visited the “park that Walt built”? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

September Fun: West Coast Food Festivals

From exploring Oregon's bounty at Feast Portland to discovering Washington artisan cheeses in Seattle, food festivals on the West Coast are in full swing this Fall. Here's a preview with several events happening in September in the Pacific Northwest and California. read more »

Tampa Bay City Guide: When, What, Where & How - To Visit

One of the best things about the west coast of Florida is the incredible sunsets. And what better place than Tampa Bay to see the fiery orb dip into the sea? Plunk your chair down on a sandy spot, walk along Pier 60, or pack into a waterfront bar, and enjoy the end of a beach day…and read on. Weather-wise it doesn’t seem like there’s a bad time to visit Tampa Bay. With an average of 361 days a year of sunshine, how can vacationers go wrong? read more »

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