The Most Unique Museums in the U.S.

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One of the best ways to get to know a new city is by wandering the halls of its museums. And while we’re fans of traditional institutions of art and culture, we’ve found that a city’s personality shines at its more quirky, one-of-a-kind museums. From under-the-radar, obsessive collections of toys and nostalgic memorabilia to places devoted to bizarre and macabre artifacts, here are some of the most unique museums in the U.S.

Circus World, Baraboo, Wisc.

For those of us who dreamed of running away to join the big top, Circus World offers a chance to relive our childhood fantasies. Located on the site of the original winter home of the Ringling Bros. Circus, this museum features vintage wagons, posters, photographs and a circus research center. Throughout the summer, there are full circus performances complete with live animals, magicians and clowns.

The International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.

Uncover the secret history of espionage at this interactive museum, which features actual artifacts from spies throughout history. Visitors can test their skills of secrecy through live-action spy experiences and explore props from beloved spy movies while learning about the real-life missions that inspired them.

Museum of Broken Relationships, Los Angeles

Failed friendships, lost loves and estranged family members. This unique museum puts them all on display with objects donated from people around the world. The museum’s concept began in Croatia after a pair of artists in the midst of a breakup wondered what people did with the leftover relics of broken relationships. And while there’s certainly plenty of sadness on display, you’ll also encounter a range of emotions, including hope and hilarity, through stories of loss and recovery.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell, N.M.

The truth is out there –or, rather, in here — at the UFO Museum, where visitors can learn about the Roswell Incident — the crash of an unidentified flying object in 1947 — as well as other UFO sightings, crop circles, alleged abductions and the mysterious U.S. military site Area 51. Fun for believers and skeptics alike, the museum features reports, artifacts, alien displays and props from classic films that explore the world beyond our own.

Museum of Bad Art, Boston

Challenge the limits of art appreciation at the world’s only museum dedicated to terrible art in all its forms. The exhibitions include paintings, drawings, sculptures and more — from atrocious portraits by talented artists gone awry to landscapes resurrected from the trash — each displayed with a hilarious description. They say you have to know the bad to know the good, right?

Museum of Death, Los Angeles and New Orleans

Not for the faint of heart, the Museum of Death offers grisly exhibitions featuring everything from serial killer artwork to original crime scene photos from the world’s most notorious murders. You’ll also find replicas of execution devices, a body bag and coffin display, taxidermied animals, autopsy instruments, cult recruitment videos and plenty more bound to make your skin crawl.

Danny Jensen is a LA-based freelance writer and photographer covering food, lifestyle and travel.

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