Great Ohio Road Trips: Quirky Museums
These attractions showcase corners of pop culture and American heritage in fun environments everyone will love.
American Sign Museum: Displayed on mock storefronts, vintage signs beam throughout this 20,000-square-foot Cincinnati attraction celebrating more than a century’s worth of neon logos and billboards. Tod Swormstedt, former editor of industry trade publication Signs of the Times, founded the museum by combing antiques stores and accepting donations. Visitors can’t help but be impressed by the 20-foot-tall genie statue holding a banner bidding everyone “Welcome.” 1330 Monmouth Ave., Cincinnati 45225, 513/541-6366, americansignmuseum.org
Wyandot Popcorn Museum: Venture under the big-top tent to learn about our favorite movie treat and Marion’s role in snack history. Founded in 1982 by George Brown, the son of Wyandot Inc. popcorn company owner Warren Hoover Brown, the museum features more than 50 antique popcorn carts, a steam-powered machine from 1899 and a horse-drawn wagon owned by actor Paul Newman to promote his popcorn brand. 169 E. Church St., Marion 43302, 740/387-4255, wyandotpopcornmus.com. As of February 2021, the Wyandot Popcorn Museum is temporarily closed.
Merry-Go-Round Museum: The golden age of carousels lives on in Sandusky at this museum that is one of only four of its kind in the United States. Take a twirl on the restored 1939 carousel built by the Allan Herschell Co. — the famous New York-based maker of amusement rides — or admire the menagerie of carousel animals, which have been painstakingly restored by a volunteer team of carvers and artisans. 301 Jackson St., Sandusky 44870, 419/626-6111, merrygoroundmuseum.org
Feline Historical Museum: Overseen by the Cat Fanciers’ Association Foundation, this Alliance museum is catnip for feline fans. It showcases cat-related artwork, a more than 6,000-volume library of related books and “Best Cat” awards dating back to the 1880s. The pièce de résistance: a high-end cat condo designed in 1954 and attributed to the studio of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It features a flat roof for sunbathing, a flagpole and an assortment of toys for Felinus Tonkens, the adored pet of prominent Cincinnati resident Gerald Tonkens. 260 E. Main St., Alliance 44601, 330/680-4444, felinehistoricalfoundation.org.
Castle Noel: Every day is Christmas at this Medina museum Mark Klaus (yes, that’s his real name) and wife Dana have filled with toys of yuletides past and holiday movie memorabilia. Their collection includes the sleigh Jim Carrey piled with gifts in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Will Ferrell’s “Elf” costume, animatronic window displays from renowned department stores and a slide reminiscent of the one Ralphie Parker made famous in the classic 1983 film “A Christmas Story.” 260 S. Court St., Medina 44256, 330/721-6635, castlenoel.com
State Parks on the Water | Minor League Ballparks | Adams County Quilt Barns | Antique Superstores | Gardens | Retro Diners | College-Town Eats | Quirky Museums | Night Skies