11 Museums Unique to Southern California

After you’ve lived in Southern California for years, you know that it’s much more than mouse-themed amusement parks, miles of beautiful beaches, and celebrity sightings. However, even if you’ve explored many hidden treasures in the state’s lower counties, you may have missed other one-of-a-kind spots.

Whether you’re moving out of SoCal soon or planning to stay in the area for life, make sure to add these unique museums to your Golden State to-do list.

1. Petersen Automotive Museum

If you don’t necessarily love traditional art museums, come see some three-dimensional creations with built-in horsepower. You’ll walk past more than 100 rare and awe-inspiring vehicles. Movie fans will appreciate the cinematic car’s display, complete with the Batmobile and DeLorean (functioning flux capacitor not included). Kids will love learning about how cars work in the interactive exhibit featuring Lighting McQueen.

2. La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

This hot spot isn’t exactly a hidden treasure, but it’s not your typical natural history museum either. Where else on earth can you see tar pits that trapped Ice Age animals and the live excavation of those pits? Nowhere but Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

3. Cabazon Dinosaurs

Do you prefer to see recreations of extinct animals that lived long before the Ice Age? Then stop and see the huge roadside dinosaur recreations, located just off of I-10, northwest of Palm Springs. Taking a quick selfie with the Apatosaurus or the Tyrannosaurus is a great way to announce your arrival or departure from Southern California.

4. Museum of Jurassic Technology

Although this museum sounds like it also has a dinosaur theme, its actual focus is not extinct reptiles. In truth, visitors find it hard to classify exactly what they see here. The strange exhibits include a spotlight on Soviet space-traveling dogs and a display of dice. If you’re looking to be strangely surprised for an afternoon, take a drive to this museum in Culver City.

5. Original McDonald’s Museum

You may or may not see the Golden Arches as a symbol of classic Americana, but you can’t deny that this global giant is iconic. Explore its contributions to the cultural landscape at this museum in San Bernardino, the site of the original restaurant. You can’t get a Big Mac or any McNuggets here anymore, but you can see a huge collection of McDonald’s memorabilia, including many Happy Meal boxes and toys.

6. Museum of Broken Relationships

In prepping for a move, did you find mementos from a past relationship? Take them to the new Museum of Broken Relationships, opened in 2016. When you drop off your donation, you get to leave a note about the details of the relationship or the breakup. All the displays at the museum are created from donations like yours, but if your objects do get displayed, you’ll remain anonymous.

7. General Patton Museum

Military history buffs should consider this site a must-see. Although it’s a bit out of the way off I-10 south of Joshua Tree National Park, the huge collection of retired tanks makes the drive into the desert worth it. Indoors, you’ll be able to view a sizeable amount of WWII memorabilia. Active military members can enter for free.

8. Bunny Museum

The couple that owns this museum holds the Guinness World Record for most bunnies. Their collection is always growing because they give each other a new bunny item every day. The museum is open by appointment only, but at your scheduled visit, you’ll see both bunny-related objects and real-life bunnies.

9. International Banana Museum

Are you a huge fan of that peel-able yellow fruit that Gwen Stefani featured in a huge hit? Then drive out to Mecca, California to see this museum filled with anything and everything banana: stuffed animals, puzzles, office supplies, clothing, lotion, and more. The building itself is, of course, yellow. During your visit, enjoy a banana treat, such as a banana milkshake or a chocolate-dipped banana.

10. Whaley House Museum

San Diego is anything but a ghost town, but don’t tell that to the curators at Whaley House Museum. Numerous tales of otherworldly inhabitants surround this former residence, the first two-story brick building in San Diego. Both day and night tours are available, and visitors can snap as many photos as they wish. If you’re lucky (or not, depending on how you look at it), you may see a ghost during your visit.

11. The Academy Museum

Our list closes with a spot that’s sure to become a Southern California hotspot: the highly anticipated Academy Museum, built by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Scheduled to open in 2017, the museum will allow visitors to explore film history, preview emerging cinematic technologies, and view memorabilia from the Academy’s extensive collection.

This list proves that the adventures available in Southern California are almost inexhaustible and we only discussed museums. If you’re moving away from this beautiful area soon, make sure to take in these sites before you depart. And if you’re about to move to or within Southern California, get ready to enjoy these unique spots.

Finally, no matter how many of these museums you plan to visit, partner with Bekins during your move. Our team will reduce your stress and help you get settled into your new home.

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