From shark cage diving hotspots to outré theme parks to off-the-grid religious enclaves, we at MNN have a fondness for travel destinations that are slightly off the proverbial beaten path. And this includes museums and exhibitions that pay tribute to celebrities both living and dead.
When it comes to celebrity museums, Graceland may be the triumphant king but there are plenty of other quirky, kitschy and memorabilia-filled shrines that pay homage to the famous (and the infamous) worth seeking out on your next road trip. Here you’ll find a few of our oddball celebrity museum picks and, as you can see, they truly offer something for everyone, even mutant cat lovers, ghost hunters and fans of Canada’s mellow music queen, Anne Murray.
Is there a singular celebrity museum that we didn’t mention? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Location: Jupiter, Fla.
Marvel at … the canoe from “Deliverance,” a pair of boots from “Smokey and the Bandit,” a personal letter from Elizabeth Taylor
Remember your experience with … a charcoal sketch poster of a shirtless Reynolds wearing a cowboy hat
If Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds’ co-star in the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” gets her own amusement park, we suppose it’s only appropriate that the frequently mustachioed star of “Starting Over,” “The Longest Yard” and, last but not least, “Cannonball Run II,” deserves his very own museum. Part of the soon-to-move nonprofit organization, the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film Theatre (BRIFT) and billed as the largest celebrity museum in the entire country, the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum is chock-full of movie and sports memorabilia, gifts and letters from famous friends and the numerous honorary deputy sheriff badges and city keys that “Buddy” has been bestowed with over the years. It’s unclear if Reynolds’ extensive toupee collection is also on display.
Location: Los Angeles
Marvel at … Life-size diorama from “Battlefield Earth,” hands-on E-meter exhibit, displays of Hubbard’s early works of pulp fiction
Remember your experience with … your very own copy of “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”
Looking for a unique — and free — Hollywood Boulevard museum experience that doesn’t involve a wax replica of Kim Kardashian? Located smack dab on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a museum that dabbles in a different sort of celebrity worship: The L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition. Open daily for guided 90-minute tours, visitors to this Church of Scientology-operated exhibition can expect to learn, via “over 30 creative displays and multi-media presentations,” a whole lot about the controversial sci-fi author-turned-spiritual leader. Given that this is Scientology that we’re dealing with, there’s a sales-pitchy air to the proceedings, but guests — who ideally come with an open mind and sans psychiatric drugs — can expect to emerge audit-free, checkbooks unharmed.
Location: Key West, Fla.
Admission: $12.50, adults; $6, children
Marvel at … Hemingway’s writing desk, photographs of Hemingway’s many adventures, and the resident felines
Remember your experience with … A Hemingway Home cat bowl
Although the fact that there’s a museum dedicated to the life and times of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway isn’t exactly odd, one of the main attractions at the historic Key West home where he lived — and drank — during the 1930s is a touch kooky: dozens of polydactyl, or extra-toed, cats that freely roam the grounds. The museum estimates that there are about 60 cats, about half of them polydactyl, living on the architecturally significant property; some are believed to be direct descendents of Snowball, a six-toed cat bequeathed to Papa himself by a salvage boat captain. And where do the Hemingway cats head to when they’re feeling parched? A urinal, taken from iconic Key West saloon, Sloppy Joe’s, that was converted into a feline drinking fountain, naturally.
Location: Springhill, Nova Scotia
Admission: $6 CAD, adults; $5 CAD, children and seniors
Marvel at … a dress Murray wore during the 1971 Rose Bowl parade, gold and platinum records galore
Remember your experience with … an Anne Murray Centre commemorative spoon
As celebrity-centric museums across America struggle to stay afloat, a museum celebrating the life of a certain Canadian national treasure has managed to weather the storm. Her name? Anne Murray. Although the smooth-voiced chanteuse responsible for super-mellow country-pop and adult contemporary hits like “Songbird” and “You Needed Me” may not have the chart-topping pull that she did in the 1970s, it’s business as usual at the Anne Murray Centre in the tiny coal mining town of Springhill, Nova Scotia, where visitors can expect to take in an “incomparable mix of awards, photographs, memorabilia and audio-visual highlights of Anne Murray's life and career in a series of award winning, three-dimensional displays.”
Location: Fall River, Mass.
Admission: $12.50, adults; $10, seniors; $7.50, children 15 and under
Marvel at … the autopsy photos and reproduction furniture
Remember your experience with … Lizzie Borden Hatchet Earrings
No doubt the only museum in America honoring an alleged 19th-century hatchet murderess, visitors to the Lizzie Borden Museum don’t just have the option of touring the supposedly haunted Victorian home where Borden’s father and stepmother were brutally murdered in 1982 — they can also spend the night in the same rooms in which the historic skull-bashings occurred. Although the bloodstains have long been removed, the museum’s charming/macabre accommodations include WiFi, use of a communal Ouija Board and a breakfast consisting of johnny cakes, bananas, sugar cookies and coffee … the same breakfast that the Borden family ate on the morning of the crimes.
Location: Ferriday, La.
Admission: $15, adults; $7.50, children and seniors
Marvel at … playbills, family photos and assorted rock 'n’ roll paraphernalia (but no burnt-out piano)
Remember your experience with … a tall boy
Frankie Jean Lewis Terrell, sister of the hell-raising, cousin-marrying 1950s rock ‘n’ roller, is the proud proprietress of the Jerry Lee Lewis Museum located in the small Louisiana town of Ferriday in Concordia Parish. While not an entirely odd operation, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the museum is located adjacent to a drive-through liquor store (above), also operated by Frankie Jean. The museum itself is located within the childhood home of Lewis, one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is filled with rare memorabilia from his colorful life. The Lewis Museum Facebook page is filled with additional information and updates about the Lewis clan. Writes Frankie Jean: “You all come down and I’ll give you the tour personally.”
Location: Las Vegas
Marvel at … a rhinestone-encrusted Baldwin grand piano, a rhinestone-lined black diamond mink cape, a rhinestone-covered Roadster (all now, sadly, in storage)
Remember your experience with … a donation to the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts
Although the Liberace Museum, a tourist attraction that was once, as The New York Times put it, “on a par with the Hoover Dam,” closed its doors indefinitely in October 2010 after 31 years in operation, Las Vegas’ superlative shrine to kitsch deserves a place in this list. After all, Mr. Showmanship himself certainly wouldn’t want to be left out. Although the perpetually bedazzled entertainer’s jaw-dropping, rhinestone-laden collection of pianos, costumes and cars is no longer on public display, the memory of Liberace lives on through the Liberace Foundation, which aims “to help talented students pursue careers in the performing and creative arts through scholarship assistance and artistic exposure.” And get this: The day that the Liberace Museum closed, a freak desert thunderstorm hit Las Vegas, resulting in a full double-rainbow.
Other offbeat celebrity museums: The Ava Gardner Museum (Smithfield, N.C.), The Britney Spears Exhibit at Kentwood Museum (Kentwood, La.), Dr. Bob’s Home (Akron, Ohio), Archie Campbell Tourism Complex (Bulls Gap, Tenn.), Lawrence Welk Museum (Escondido, Calif.), Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum (Gibsland, La.).
Reynolds: ZUMA Press
Hemingway: Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
Murray: ZUMA Press