America compares itself to a “melting pot,” a food-related term that applies not only to the myriad of cultures and flavors that exist in the country, but also to the mish-mashup of these identities. It’s clear that America takes its food very seriously, whether we’re talking about ingredients, culinary processes, or complete dishes. Here are 11 awesome food museums that give you the scoop on all of America’s gastronomic obsessions.
Here are 11 of the best food museums in the U.S.!
1. Mill City Museum
704 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Flour—the basis of so many good things in life: bread, cookies, cakes, and gravy. The Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota tells the history of wheat, from farm to table. It was once the site of the largest flour mill in the world, but has since been renovated to house a baking lab and an eight-story “Flour Tower” elevator ride, which gives visitors the main historic stories and photos without guests having to sift through the information. It was nicknamed the “Best-Smelling Museum Ever Created,” for good reason. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM, and Sundays from Noon to 5 PM. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 5-17.
2. Idaho Potato Museum
130 NW Main Street, Blackfoot, ID 83221
Those who don’t get their carbs from bread might have interest in the potato. The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, close to Pocatello and built in 1912, documents the revolution of the potato industry. It includes information on potato history, the growing and harvesting process, nutrition, trivia and educational potato facts. Ever wonder about the difference between a potato chip and a crisp? The Idaho Potato Museum will make you a spudding expert by day’s end. You’ll also be able to see the world’s largest potato crisp, a single crisp of 920 calories. The Idaho Potato Museum was nominated by FlipKey as one of the “Top 50 museums worth traveling for,” so pay homage to all those fries, tater tots, and mashed potatoes you’ve consumed over the years by learning more about this tuberous crop. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, September through May on weekdays from 9:30 AM to 5 PM, and June through August Mondays through Saturdays from 9:30 AM to 7 PM. Admission is just $3 for adults and $1 for kids.
3. Museum of the American Cocktail
1504 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70113
We’ve been talking about staples, and what is an adult staple but a classy cocktail? The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, Louisiana traces the history of the cocktail over the past 200 years. Don’t get too excited, but the museum hosts regular events and classes in the evenings that include tastings and the mixing of drinks. The museum collection itself includes iconic glassware, centuries-old bottles, rare bartending books and a 5-foot-tall robotic cocktail shaker. It also has the largest collection of
Absinthe artifacts in the USA—Absinthe being the anise-flavored, highly alcoholic, green colored beverage that was once completely banned in the United States. Check out the museum’s re-creation of the Old Absinthe House in the French Quarter, or try your hand at mixology. This nonprofit museum is open Wednesday through Monday, 11 AM to 5:30 PM. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and Seniors, and free for children under 12.
4. The Farmers' Museum
5775 State Highway 80, Cooperstown, NY
We get our food today with a lot more convenience and ease than our forefathers did. The Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York gives visitors a sense of how our ancestors might have gotten their food. It’s one of the oldest rural life museums in the United States, and this museum gives visitors the chance to experience 19th century rural and village life firsthand. The museum includes demonstrations and interpretive exhibits, as well as a working farmstead, a recreated historic village, the Empire State Carousel, and a Colonial Revival stone barn. It was founded in 1943, and has since collected 23,000 items including butter molds and carriages that capture the agricultural history of the region. The museum’s hours vary depending on the season, but general admission is $12 for adults and $6 for juniors ages 7-12.
5. Pizza Brain
2313 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
It’s the self-proclaimed first pizza museum of the United States, and even the Guinness Book of World Records has noted Pizza Brain as “the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world.” This unusual “museum” is located in one of the hippest neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and is attached to a pizzeria kitchen and just next door to Little Baby’s Ice Cream World Headquarters. Not only will you find tons of pizza memorabilia like a USS Enterprise-shaped stainless steel pizza cutter, but you’ll also be able to grab a slice of pizza, or order a box, for the road. Pizza Brain is open from Monday to Thursday 11 AM to 9 PM, and on Friday and Saturday from 11 AM to 10 PM.
6. Southern Food and Beverage Museum
1504 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70113
For those interested in regional cuisine, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans is a celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. The museum brings together the cultures that have shaped the South’s unique culinary heritage, and offers special exhibits, demonstrations, lectures and tastings to showcase the products. This museum is relatively new; it first opened in 2008 at the Riverwalk Marketplace in New Orleans, and has since moved to Dryades Street Market in New Orleans. Hours of operation are Wednesday through Monday, 11 AM to 5:30 PM, and admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and Seniors, and free for children under 12.
7. National Mustard Museum
7477 Hubbard Avenue, Middleton, WI 53562
A life without condiments would be sad indeed. And Barry Levinson wouldn’t have amassed his collection of 5,300+ mustard jars and memorabilia that is a huge part of Wisconsin’s National Mustard Museum, located near Madison. The museum showcases exhibits about mustard pots, puts on mustard-themed musicals and even has a mustard tasting bar. It’s open 7 days a week—except New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas—from 10 AM to 5 PM. The museum is free, but guests are welcome to make donations or purchase a grainy treat at the museum store.
8. Vidalia Onion Museum
100 Vidalia Sweet Onion Drive, Vidalia, Georgia 30475
Chef Bobby Flay says Vidalia onions may be the only famous onions in the world, and who’s to say they aren’t? The Vidalia Onion Museum is in Vidalia, Georgia—the region that made it so famous in the first place. Vidalia is an hour and a half from Savannah and is a great day trip destination. The museum showcases the onion’s history, as well as its economic, cultural and culinary significance. What makes the little onion so special, anyway? The museum will cover that, too. Did you know, for instance, that the pronunciation of “Vidalia” is actually “vidaya” without the “l” sound? If knowledge simply isn’t enough, the museum also provides hands-on interactive experiences great for both kids and adults. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM, with free admission to the public.
9. Hershey Museum
63 West Chocolate Avenue, Hershey, PA 17033
Can we start talking about dessert, yet? The Hershey Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania is home to a very comprehensive museum about Milton S. Hershey’s life and the history of Hershey as a region and as a chocolate brand. Many of the museum’s exhibits are interactive, and provide hands-on learning experiences for people of all ages. Try your hand at tempering chocolate at the Chocolate Lab, or taste hot drinks made from international cocoa beans in the Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting Area in Café Zooka. The museum experience is only $10, with added fees for chocolate tastings, the Chocolate Lab Class, and the Hershey Gardens and Hershey Story Combo pass.
10. Jello Museum
23 E Main Street, Le Roy, NY 14482
Speaking of dessert, the Jell-O Gallery of Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, New York is all about the jiggly sweet treat. Jello was invented in Le Roy (a half hour's drive from Rochester) in 1897, and the fact remains a source of pride for the community. The museum is operated by the Le Roy Historical Society, and its exhibits tell the story of Jello’s history through old Jello commercials, old packages of Jello, and lists of flavors that were cancelled. The museum is open on weekdays from 10 AM to 4 PM, and admission is just $4.50 for adults and $1.50 for kids ages 6-11.
11. Burnt Food Museum
Having an appreciation for food doesn’t necessarily mean one has to be a good cook. One woman named Deborah Henson-Conant started a museum for burnt food in Arlington, Massachusetts (a quick 20-minute drive from Boston) with the motto: “To cook the museum way — always leave the flame on low and then take a long nap.” It is said that she started her collection of burnt food after charring a pot of apple cider into a freestanding chunk of cinder. Her Burnt Food Museum has been featured on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped,” ABC’s “The View,” and even on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition.” It’s a private museum that’s mostly open for private events, but has public viewings few times a year.
This article was written by Hanna Choi.