TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Everyone knows some of Texas’s most famous museums like the Johnson Space Center, the Alamo or the USS Lexington.
Those museums are spectacular and historical in their own right, but NASA spaceships, old Spanish mission forts and retired Navy ships aren’t unique to Texas. NASA has a handful of museums across the country, Spanish colonization left many missions and forts scattered across the Southwestern United States and there are five different American aircraft carrier museums.
If you’re wondering about all the weird, odd and particularly niche Texas museums you’re missing out on, we’ve got you covered.
The museums on this list represent experiences that are peculiarly Texan, from the fun to the dreadful, to the logic-defying and the out-of-this-world.
KETK has compiled the following list of museums that range from the truly quixotic and quirky to the sickeningly specific:
1. Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum
The Colony, Texas
Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum is exactly what it sounds like, a shrine to art made on the seat of America’s white porcelain throne, the toilet. Over 97 years, Smith has created over 1,400 pieces of toilet seat art which are now being preserved at the Truck Yard in The Colony.
“I’d like to be remembered for how a person could save a lot of stuff that is being destroyed [and] for showing them it needs to be saved – maybe not on a toilet seat, but they can save what has come their way instead of destroying it. Showing that it’s worth something,” Smith said.
2. Salt Palace Museum And Visitors Center
Grand Saline, Texas
You can literally lick up the history at the Salt Palace in Grand Saline. The Salt Palace is a monument to the history and discovery of salt in Grand Saline, where museum guests are invited to lick a giant rock of salt.
According to the Salt Palace, the Caddo and Cherokee Native Americans used to harvest salt in the area before it was colonized and industrial salt extraction started in 1845.
3. Republic of the Rio Grande Museum
The Republic of the Rio Grande Museum is perhaps the most historically significant entry on this list, as the museum itself represents a little-known part of Texas history. The Republic of the Rio Grande was one of several rebellions against the government of Antonio López de Santa Anna to spring up across Texas, including the Republic of Texas.
The Rio Grande Republic was relatively short-lived. It only lasted from Jan. 17 to Nov. 6, 1840. The Republic straddled the present-day southern U.S. border, stretching from northern Mexico up into where it had its capital at Laredo, Texas.
Laredo is still home to a piece of the Republic’s history: its capitol building is the very same building as the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum. The building flies seven flags outside, the six flags of Texas and the flag of the Rio Grande Republic.
4. Odessa Meteor Crater Museum
This next museum is truly out of this world. Johnson Space Center can step aside. The Odessa Meteor Crater Museum is home to a crater made by an iron-nickel meteorite around 62,000 years ago.
The largest of the museum’s meteor fragments weighs approximately 300 pounds. According to the museum’s website, the Odessa crater is the second-largest observable crater in the entire United States after the Arizona crater.
5. Devil’s Rope & Route 66 Museum
The Devil’s Rope & Route 66 Museum is a museum dedicated to all things barbed wire and the old Route 66 which used to run through McLean. The museum tells the story of developments in the technology of “Devil’s Rope” and the role it played in the colonization of what became the western United States.
The museum’s library is cited as being the largest collection of barbed wire literature in the world. At their shop, collectors can buy barbed wire bundles, samples, books and postcards.
6. National Videogame Museum
This one’s for the gamers of Texas. The National Videogame Museum in Frisco is one of the youngest museums on this list having opened in April 2016. It’s also one of the biggest.
The National Video Game Museum has over 10,000 square feet of video games and video game history. Each stage of the museum takes you through a different stage of video game history. For example, there’s an arcade section complete with classic games like “Pac-Man,” “Punch-Out!!”, “Donkey Kong” and a big-screen version of “Pong.”
7. Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: Samurai Collection
This museum is the only museum of its kind in all of the United States. The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection is the culmination of 30 years of samurai history collection and it’s all free to see in Dallas.
The objects in this collection date from the 5th to 19th centuries and are displayed at the historic St. Ann’s School Building. On the last Thursday of every month, the museum offers after-hours cocktail tours and on the first Saturday of the month, they offer family-oriented tours.
8. Art Car Museum
The Art Car Museum in Houston, also known as “Garage Mahal”, is a collection of art cars. The styles of the cars at the museum, which opened in 1998, vary drastically, making it one of the most visually unique collections of cars on the planet.
The museum building itself is decorated with scrap metal and chrome furnishings which evoke the contents inside. “All art cars are subversive and have in common the transformation of the vehicle from a factory-made commodity into a personal statement or expression,” said Noah Edmundson, director.
9. Dr. Pepper Museum
Despite being one of the more popular museums in Texas, the Dr. Pepper Museum still merits a spot on this list simply because of its singular devotion to the sacred beverage. What needs to be said about Dr. Pepper that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the most popular soft drinks in Texas and it got its start in Waco.
The Dr. Pepper Museum was originally the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company, which was the first building made to make Dr. Pepper. The museum has a collection of not just Dr. Pepper memorabilia but all kinds of soft drink-related memorabilia.
The cost of admission is $10 and that gets you access to the museum and a Dr. Pepper from their soda fountain, which also serves floats!
10. American Windmill Museum
If, like the wind, you find yourself blowing across the plains of West Texas, you could find yourself at the American Windmill Museum in Lubbock. This museum is the largest windmill museum in the world.
The more than 100 windmills are more than just a spectacular sight – wind power has helped farmers for years. Wind turbines like they have at the museum are an important part of the world’s green energy production.
11. Museum Of Measurement And Time
Back in deep East Texas is The Museum of Measurement and Time in Jefferson. This museum is a monument to all things horology, geodesy and more. The collection features over 500 clocks, early solar instruments, measuring tools, drafting tools and calculating devices related to surveying.
The museum also features 1,500 sets of salt and pepper shakers. Needless to say, that’s a lot of salt and pepper shakers. Recently the museum has also acquired some mechanical musical instruments, telephone systems and vintage computer systems.
12. The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame
You’ll strike it rich in fun when you visit the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington. The 5,000-year history of bowling is on full display at this museum. Guests can follow bowling’s history from the ancient Egyptians to the modern-day sport we know and love.
The museum and hall of fame are situated within Arlington’s International Bowling Campus which also houses the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, the United States Bowling Congress and the International Training and Research Center.
13. Southwest Dairy Museum and Education Center
Sulphur Springs, Texas
No Texas trip would be complete without a visit to some kind of farm or ranch. The Southwest Dairy Museum and Education Center in Sulphur Springs is the perfect spot for those interested in dairy, dairy production and dairy products.
Funded and directed by dairy farmers themselves, the museum is an educational and promotional experience housed in a 10,000-square-foot dairy farm-style building, complete with a five-story silo.
It’s a showcase of the entire history of the Southwestern dairy industry that displays the struggles of dairy farmers in the time before electricity into the modern day.
14. Texas Prison Museum
The Texas Prison Museum offers you possibly the most intimate experience you could have with the United States carceral system, short of going to prison yourself. The 8,000-square-foot museum opened in 1989 and features relics of prison history like balls and chains, prison art, contraband and several objects related to famed criminals Bonnie and Clyde.
This museum is unique in that it holds what may be one of the most disturbing museum exhibits ever, “Old Sparky” the electric chair that killed 361 people between 1924 and 1964. Old Sparky was built by prison workers and was originally housed at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.
15. Texas Broadcast Museum
The Texas Broadcast Museum in Kilgore has a self-described “eclectic mix of vintage broadcast memorabilia and equipment, which is sure to delight the young and old alike,” according to their website.
Among the many interesting historic broadcast exhibits are a camera that was filming when Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated, a fully-functional news studio and an entire fully equipped ESPN mobile unit.
These museums represent some of the best and brightest examples of what Texas has to offer.