As many locals know, New Jersey is notorious for its diversity. From multicultural foods to day-trip activities, it offers a wide variety of experiences. One of the Garden State’s most enriching attributes is its numerous unique, quirky, and even bizarre museums. Instead of learning about history or art, crawl through insects’ creepy caverns or explore haunted remains and relics. For visitors of all ages, these 10 unique New Jersey museums will definitely pique your curiosity.
Paranormal Museum – Asbury Park, NJ
If you can’t wait for Halloween to enjoy spooky ghost stories, haunted relics, and Ouija Board terrors, the Paranormal Museum is here to help. Take a self-guided tour through the unsettling exhibits or investigate the objects yourself through their “hands-on” approach. Or, for the especially daring, take the lantern-led ghost tour through Asbury Park to visit a crime scene and learn more about local legends like the Jersey Devil.
The museum offers various exhibits, including haunted objects, prison ghosts, cryptids, creepy remains, and occult libraries. Covering periods like the Salem Witch Trials and the last American Vampire, the Paranormal Museum is rich in history and hauntings.
While the haunted dolls are a popular attraction, guests can also conduct research from their secluded occult library or investigate the Ouija Wall. As spooky season fast approaches, this museum is certain to set the stage for all things paranormal.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum – Atlantic City, NJ
Ever wondered what a spider made from scissors and knives might look like? Or have you ever thought about the world’s smallest production car? At Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Atlantic City, feed your curiosity at fascinating and, at times, bizarre exhibits ranging from optical illusions to artifacts. This museum offers 14 themed galleries, including the “Odditorium”––a collection of interactive exhibits, videos, and pieces.
The museum also offers a second popular feature called the Vault Laser Maze Challenge. For thrill-seekers and spy-enthusiasts, this facility is the perfect place to test your agility. The vault is equipped with laser beams spewing from the walls. To complete the challenge, guests must work their way through the maze unscathed. With 400 exhibits and artifacts, the interactive laser maze, and extreme curiosities, this museum takes the phrase “believe it when you see it” to a whole new level.
Insectropolis – Toms River, NJ
As the school year ramps up, Bug University at Insectropolis is the perfect place to expand your knowledge about nature and arthropods. At this museum, inspect everything from bug basics to featured live creatures for a complete study of everything bug-related. Insectropolis has plenty of exhibits, including interactive activities. Crawl through the Mud Tube to learn about termites’ underground subway systems or visit the Bugseum to witness critters from around the world.
For the most daring guests, the Creepy Cavern awaits. View spiders, like the infamous tarantula, and discover their molting ability. Even more observation awaits at the Insectropolis Zoo, where guests can learn how bugs are kept in captivity. Here, the most venomous creatures sit in cages waiting to greet onlookers––just don’t poke the glass.
Franklin Mineral Museum – Franklin, NJ
New Jersey isn’t just the “Diner Capital of the World.” In 1968, the New Jersey State Legislature declared that Franklin was the “Mineral Capital of the World,” giving the state yet another remarkable attribute. At the Franklin Mineral Museum, the local mining heritage of Franklin is preserved through displays, replicas, and mineral specimens. Explore more than 4,000 local minerals and discover the history of the Garden State’s mines.
The museum has plenty of attractions, including the renowned Fluorescent Room––a 32-foot long display showcasing a beautiful array of glowing local minerals. The fossil room, another popular attraction, lets guests view perfectly petrified wood displays. Meanwhile, the Mine Replica and Artifacts exhibit merge history and science together by showcasing life-sized examples of mining methods, along with artifacts from Thomas Edison’s iron-mining operation on Sparta Mountain. To end the day, put your skills to the test with the interactive sluice and fossil dig to discover your very own minerals.
Old Barracks Museum – Trenton, NJ
Museums are typically home to history. However, at the Old Barracks Museum, the building itself is historical. Established as a museum in 1902, it was first constructed in 1758 during the French and Indian War. Originally meant to house British soldiers in New Jersey, it’s currently the only extant and restored military building from the colonial wars in the state. Restoration kept the structure true to its 1758 form, with exhibits highlighting the history and significance of Trenton.
The museum houses over 2,000 objects from militia to fine art, displaying the colonial history of New Jersey from Women’s Suffrage to the Revolution. For over a century, the iconic building has preserved the history of the Garden State’s Old Barracks. It’s the perfect destination for historians and revolutionary fanatics.
Battleship New Jersey – Camden, NJ
Playing the “Battleship” board game can make for an eventful afternoon. However, what if you could tour a vessel in real life? At Battleship New Jersey, explore an Iowa-class ultimate battleship that participated in real naval battles during WWII. Led by experienced tour guides, this museum shows visitors everything from the ship’s living spaces to its command and control centers. However, its interior is only half of the ship’s wonder.
Launched on the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor, this battleship—USS New Jersey—was one of the largest and fastest vessels. From 1943 to 1992, USS New Jersey operated in key wars for the United States, including Vietnam. In fact, it was the world’s only operational battleship for several years. Book a personal tour or expand your experience to an overnight stay to really set sail.
Northlandz – Flemington, NJ
Exploring the world can be exciting. However, if the sheer size of Earth seems overwhelming, narrow your trip to the Northlandz museum. The world’s largest miniature wonderland, Northlandz is a 16-acre world-class attraction featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. Constructed over 30 years ago by Mr. Bruce Williams, this museum originally began from a passion project. It later became a worldwide sensation, expanding as a fictional, magical new world.
Northlandz includes a self-guided tour, along with numerous displays and hands-on experiences. With more than 400 train tunnels, music, doll displays, and artwork, guests can tailor their experience to their own interests. After completing the tour, visitors can coast through the grounds on a miniature steam-train replica.
Snowmobile Barn Museum – Newton, NJ
With cold weather approaching, snow gear may be in short supply. However, at the Snowmobile Barn Museum in Newton, New Jersey, there’s certainly no small amount of snowmobiles. As the country’s largest private collection of antique snowmobiles, motorcycles, and other unusual vintage vehicles, this museum draws national attention and visitors from across the U.S.
The collection includes 160 antique vehicles, considered fully complete and inclusive of every make and model. And, if vintage snowmobiles aren’t of interest, there’s also an array of typewriters, cameras, skates, skis, and other antique objects on display. Visit the upcoming show on Nov. 8 to tour and appreciate one collector’s dream.
Laurence Hutton Death Mask Collection – Princeton, NJ
As far as unique collections go, the Laurence Hutton Death Mask Collection may take the cake. Located in the Princeton University Library, the museum is one of the largest collections of death masks in the world. The venue includes three-dimensional casts captured to preserve the faces of the dead. Visitors can find masks featuring George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and other famous historical figures.
While you can visit the museum in person, it requires permission from the library along with strict supervision inside. To easily view the collection, each mask is photographed and available to view online.
Doo Wop Experience – Wildwood, NJ
Wildwood has always been home to thrilling rides, excellent eateries, and resort destinations. In fact, in the 1950s and 1960s, its reputation for entertainment gained itself the nickname “Little Las Vegas.” Vintage Wildwood was an incredible experience. And, luckily, the Doo Wop Experience preserved its reputation.
With a mission to preserve the popular culture and imagery of Wildwood in the 1950s and 1960s, the Doo Wop Preservation League established this museum. The non-profit organization worked diligently to repair neon signs, rescue old Wildwood landmarks, and collect cool artifacts for locals and tourists to appreciate. Walk through the Neon Sign Garden to view restored historical signs or visit the indoor venue for a complete historical experience.
Feature image courtesy of @doowopusa
Have you ever visited these unique museums in New Jersey? Tell us in the comments!
About the Author/s
Mary Sparago is 22-year-old creative writing and policy enthusiast who's always looking for new dogs to pet. In her spare time, Mary enjoys listening to K-pop and playing video games.