The Quest for Quirky Museums

Be inspired and intrigued by the unique museum offerings available in the largest county southeast of the Mississippi River. In a county larger than the State of Delaware and Rhode Island, The Palm Beaches has an abundance of one-of-a-kind experiences to put your quest for quirky finds in motion as you explore seaside villages, equestrian escapes and the glitzy glamour of tropical islands. Here is a brief listing of a few key under-the-radar museums to check off your travel “to do” list this year:

Juno Beach, Fla.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center – Tucked behind sea grapes and dunes, located along the turquoise blues of the Atlantic Ocean sits Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a non-profit organization. Focused on ocean and sea turtle conservation, the center began in 1983 as the Children’s Museum in Juno Beach when founder Eleanor Fletcher noticed an abundance of sea turtle nests. Now, the organization runs a sea turtle monitoring program, operates an on-site hospital rehabilitating sick or injured sea turtles, and offers more than 30 public and educational programs. Guests can experience up-close encounters with sea turtles in the 15 viewing tanks, and learn about Florida coastal ecosystems with interactive exhibits and aquariums. Loggerhead Marinelife Center is completely free, welcoming guests from around the globe every year.
 

Photo courtesy of Greg Lovett
Photo courtesy of Greg Lovett

Jupiter, Fla.

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum – Visitors are invited to climb atop the landmark 1860 lighthouse, meander through a waterfront history Museum located in a restored WWII Navy Building, or stroll along brick walkways as they discover historic pioneer homes. The Museum also offers unique event programs such as “Hike Through History” and “Twilight Yoga at the Light.”

Photo courtesy of Jack Hardway
Photo courtesy of Jack Hardway

Riviera Beach, Fla.

Manatee Lagoon – Meet the iconic Florida manatee in this new, free educational attraction, which has a dedicated area for viewing the sea cows up close. The 16,000-square-foot center features engaging, hands-on exhibits for visitors to learn all about these endangered and unique creatures, as well as the natural wonders of the surrounding Lake Worth Lagoon. On cold winter days, the facility’s observation deck will be the ideal spot to view manatee herds basking in the warm-water outflows from Florida Power & Light Company’s adjacent Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center.
 

Photo courtesy of Manatee Lagoon
Photo courtesy of Manatee Lagoon

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Norton Museum of Art – Founded in 1941 by Ralph Hubbard Norton and Elizabeth Norton, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, is internationally known for its distinguished collection, featuring American, Chinese, contemporary, and European art, as well as photography. The core of its collection includes masterpieces of 19th century and 20th century painting and sculpture by European artists such as Brancusi, Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, and Braque; Americans such as Davis, Hassam, Hopper, Manship, O’Keeffe, Pollock, and Sheeler; and a collection of Chinese jade and bronze that is considered among the best in the world.

In addition to exhibitions, the Norton presents a diverse range of programs, including the weekly “Art After Dark” series—“Where Culture and Entertainment Meet”—which includes an array of live music, dance, films, tours, DIY art projects, conversations with curators, and lectures. Other educational offerings include free family programming, school tours and partnerships, and afterschool art activities which reach 20,000 school children each year. In February 2016, the Norton broke ground on a transformative campus renovation, designed by Foster + Partners. It includes a 42,000-square-foot West Wing comprised of a 210-seat state-of-the-art auditorium, an additional 12,000 square feet of gallery space for exhibitions, an expanded education center, and a new dining pavilion. Museum admission is free to all through completion of construction in December of 2018.
 

Photo courtesy of Norton Museum
Photo courtesy of Norton Museum

Ragtops – Step in to the world of vintage cars at this unique antique automobile dealership and museum. From the 1941 Cadillac Convertible sedan (one of the only 400 ever built) to 1950 classics with great paint schemes waiting to be admired, as well as newer classics from the 60’s and 70’s, this venue is a haven for car aficionados. Owned by Ty Houck, this unique space is also available for event hosting, transporting guests back in time to themed eras.
 

South Florida Science Center and Aquarium – The facility features more than 30 hands-on educational exhibits, an upgraded, state-of-the-art planetarium, and a new 1,000 square foot early childhood education room featuring a 16-foot-long water play area, photo booth, seating area and a light bright art wall. Additional offerings include a new science laboratory for educational programs and an upgraded theatre. Children of all ages will enjoy the 10,000 square foot “Aquariums of the Atlantic” gallery, as well as an Everglades and conservation-themed permanent exhibit hall, and an outdoor Nature Trail, complete with mini-golf, butterfly gardens and outdoor exhibits.
 

Photo courtesy of Peter W. Cross
Photo courtesy of Peter W. Cross

The Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum – This historic museum enriches the lives of children and adults alike by making local history accessible, interesting, and meaningful. The Museum contains two second-floor interactive, permanent exhibits and a Rotating Exhibit Gallery (under renovation for the Fall Exhibition.) In addition to the permanent and special exhibitions on the Museum level (second floor), visitors are welcome to tour the courtroom located on the third and fourth floors in the center of the building. The Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September 3rd.

Opening this September 6, a new special exhibit, “For the Love of the Game: Baseball in the Palm Beaches,” highlights the impact of America’s Pastime over twelve decades in our area. Baseball took root as entertainment for winter visitors to Henry Flagler’s elegant hotels. Locals took up the game and competed against other South Florida communities.
 

Photo courtesy of Discover The Palm Beaches staff
Photo courtesy of Discover The Palm Beaches staff

 

Palm Beach, Fla.

Flagler Museum – This museum was originally built as a wedding present and winter retreat for Henry Morrison Flagler and his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. The 75-room Gilded Age mansion, also known as Whitehall, was built in 1902. When it was completed, the New York Herald proclaimed that the mansion was “more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world.” Today, Whitehall is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as the Flagler Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits, and special programs.

Wellington, Fla.

Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame – From prized polo memorabilia to its growing Hall of Fame, this museum celebrates the sport of polo and American polo history. With exhibits such as The Mallet, Best Playing Ponies and The History of Polo, visitors don’t have to be equestrians to enjoy this museum.

Delray Beach, Fla.

Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens – Visitors of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens have the opportunity to discover South Florida’s history and its connection with Japan while exploring a series of six diverse and authentic gardens, each inspired by a different historical period and style of Japanese gardening, and all designed by Hoichi Kurisu. The Morikami showcases traditional and contemporary Japanese culture through engaging exhibits, a variety of educational programs and seasonal events, a world-class bonsai display, Pan-Asian cuisine at the Cornell Cafe, and a distinctive museum store filled with unique items which appealto all age groups.

Silverball Museum – Featuring more than 150 video games and pinball machines dating as far back as the 1930s, this newly-opened museum brings a bit of nostalgia to visitors. Evoking childhood memories for adults while creating new memories for newer generations, the 9,000-square-foot museum offers classic videogames such as Ms. Pac-Man, two-floors of pinball machines, arcade games and even the original skee ball alleys from New York’s Coney Island – Eldorado Arcade.

Located on the second level of the museum, its restaurant serves classic favorites that are sure to warm the heart, like funnel cakes, hot dogs, tomato pies, and Jersey Shore fries. Pulled Pork sliders, Lobster rolls, crab cakes and more are also available, as are more than 40 beers on tap, and an impressive wine list. The best part about it is that all the games are set for free plays, which means unlimited plays are included in your admission. Admission starts as low as $7.50 for 30 minutes.
 

Spady Cultural Heritage Museum – This museum is dedicated to preserving, discovering, collecting and sharing African-American influence on Florida. From history to heritage, it offers exhibits, lectures, and more. Located in the former home of the late Solomon D. Spady, the most prominent African-American educator and community leader in Delray Beach from 1922 to 1957, the museum opened in July 2001 and is the only African American Cultural Heritage museum of its kind in Palm Beach County.
 
Photo courtesy of Spady Museum
Photo courtesy of Spady Museum

Surfing Museum – This museum strives to document, preserve, and display the history of surfing in the State of Florida, with an emphasis on Palm Beach County. The Museum offers an extensive documentation of surfing in the eastern United States, historic surf board displays, an M.E. Gruber photo collection, special events, and more.

The Cornell Art Museum at Old School Square – View innovative and provocative works of art at this small town museum, housed in a restored 1913 elementary school building. The Museum exposes the community to artwork that is culturally relevant and exciting, hoping to foster creativity and inspire imagination.  Museum shows typically begin with a theme, and blossom into dynamic group exhibitions that excite visitors from all backgrounds. Exhibits rotate every three to four months, and feature contemporary and cutting-edge works from both regional, national and internationally acclaimed artists.

The Delray Beach Historical Society – Established in 1964, this museum delves in to the history of Delray Beach. Sharing and preserving the area’s past thorough events, exhibits and tours is the mission of the Ethel Sterling Williams Archives & Learning Center, which is open to visitors for history research.

Boca Raton, Fla.

Boca Children’s Museum – Among the first such museums to be created in Florida, The Boca Raton Children’s Museum is today the oldest in existence in the state, having remained true to its original intent and function. Housed in the historic “Singing Pines,” circa 1913, this timeless cultural and educational attraction offers activity centers, exhibits, classes, and special events.

Boca Raton History Museum – Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich history of Boca Raton at this museum, located in the historic 1927 Town Hall, originally designed by Addison Mizner and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Showcasing local history topics of general interest such as World War II, the 1960s, Boca Raton Then & Now, and housing two permanent exhibits which display artifacts from Mizner Industries, the museum has gained reputation as a center for Addison Mizner and Mizner Style artifacts of Florida’s glamorous 1920s era. The museum has also become known as a repository for artifacts and information on the history of IBM in Boca Raton, home of the original IMB PC, ancestor of all modern “PC” computers. An array of history tours are available by advanced reservation, such as a walking tour of the famous Boca Raton Resort & Club and a tour of the Boca Express Train Museum, located at the Boca Raton FEC Station.
 

Photo Credit: Boca Raton Historical Society
Photo Credit: Boca Raton Historical Society

Boca Raton Museum of Art – As a leading cultural institution in South Florida, this museum attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually to its galleries and programs. The 44,000-square-foot facility has achieved international recognition for its dynamic changing exhibitions and distinguished permanent collection. The Museum’s many public programs include artist presentations, family activities, and more than 100 classes per week at its studio Art School.
 

Wick Theatre & Costume Museum – The Costume Museum at the Wick Theatre is an astounding exhibit of the finest costumes ever brought to the Broadway stage by the most honored and respected designers in the history of the American Musical Theatre. The incredible venue houses a collection of original costumes from more than 50 Broadway productions and revivals with an estimated value of more than 20 million dollars. Visitors can enjoy viewing costumes for Titanic, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Camelot, Dracula, My Fair Lady, and many more. Tours are available, as are theatre shows, cabaret and dining on sumptuous fare at the elegant Tavern Room, a loving homage to the famed Tavern-on-the-Green® complete with the lovely china and crystal from that iconic restaurant and beneath the amber and crystal chandelier that once graced its foyer. Many of the theatrical costumes seen during the tours are the original Broadway wardrobes from some of the Great White Way’s most historic productions.
 

Tavern at the Wick photo courtesy of the Wick Theatre and Costume Museum
Tavern at the Wick photo courtesy of the Wick Theatre and Costume Museum