Texas Living

7 of Texas’ Strangest Museums

By Peter Simek 7.27.23

While Texas is renowned for its world-class art museums and cultural institutions, the Lone Star State also boasts a diverse range of lesser-known, peculiar galleries that rival their august peers when it comes to reflecting Texas character. These unconventional collections offer an intriguingly alternative perspective into Texas’ multifaceted history, local folklore, and quirky culture. Embarking on a tour of these unique museums across Texas provides not only a respite from the traditional but also a glimpse into the state’s rich and quirky cultural tapestry. The journey promises to be both enlightening and entertaining, filled with distinctive Texan charms that make for an unparalleled travel experience.

1. The ‘Garage Mahal’, Houston

The Art Car Museum, or the “Garage Mahal,” as it’s affectionately known, celebrates the imaginative spirit of the art car movement, housing a diverse array of decorated vehicles that runs the gamut from the fantastical to the political. The ever-changing lineup ensures there’s always something new to marvel at in this museum, where creativity truly knows no bounds.

unique museums
Photo by Clarence Chester

2. Salt Palace Museum, Grand Saline

We find one of the state’s most unique architectural treasures in the small East Texas town of Grand Saline. The Salt Palace Museum is a small structure built entirely from blocks of locally mined salt. The building pays homage to the town’s rich salt-mining heritage, while the exhibits it houses detail the geological history of East Texas and the sea that once blanketed the region, alongside the evolution of the salt industry. While modest in size, the Salt Palace Museum offers a compelling slice of Texas’ unique geological and industrial history.

3. National Museum of Funeral History, Houston

Equal parts fascinating and macabre, the National Museum of Funeral History offers a unique look into the history of an occupation that touches everyone’s lives, as much as we would often rather not talk about it. The museum offers an intriguing exploration of the funeral industry’s evolution, offering a wealth of information regarding global funeral traditions, embalming history, and the funeral stories of notable figures. The museum’s expansive collection creates a distinctive narrative that underscores the universality of mortality and the diversity of cultural responses to death.

unique museums
Photo courtesy of Truck Yard

4. Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum, The Colony

A curious attraction in a north Dallas suburb has turned the eyes of the art world toward itself: Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. This unique museum owes its existence to Barney Smith, a retired master plumber turned artist, who found an unusual canvas for his creativity — toilet seats.

Over several decades, Smith converted more than 1,300 toilet seats into unique works of art, each narrating a different story or event. These extraordinary creations encompass everything from local events and far-off travels to historic moments and celebrity tributes. This museum presents a fascinating fusion of an everyday object and artistic expression, providing a humorous and heartwarming insight into one man’s view of the world.

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Photo by Ted Kidwell

5. International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, Arlington

The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame has helped turn Arlington into a pilgrimage site for bowling enthusiasts worldwide. The museum houses an extensive collection tracing the game’s history, dating back to its ancient roots and journeying to its modern incarnation. Interactive exhibits detail the sport’s physics, while the Hall of Fame honors bowling’s greatest champions. The museum also hosts a replica of a 1930s bowling alley, inviting visitors to step back in time and engage with the sport’s rich past.

6. Munster Mansion, Waxahachie

Proving that sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, this painstakingly accurate replica of the house from the 1960s television show “The Munsters” transports visitors into the beloved sitcom’s world. From the dungeon to the electric chair, every detail has been faithfully reproduced, offering a nostalgia-filled finale to our unique Texas museum tour.

unique museums
Photo by Rob Messchendorp

7. Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean

In the small town of McLean, situated along historic Route 66, the Devil’s Rope Museum presents an intriguing look at the simple and underappreciated technology that helped transform Texas’ ranching history and forever change the nature and ecology of the American West. The museum houses an extensive collection of barbed wire varieties and offers detailed insight into the invention’s significant impact on Western development. Visitors will gain a fresh perspective on this seemingly mundane object and its transformative role in shaping the region’s history.

Eager to discover some more Texas weirdness? Read the story of the short-lived, but ever-intriguing Great Texas Camel Experiment.

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