The Weird and the Wonderful: The NortheastBy Kellilynn Hann
If you’re headed to the Northeastern part of the US but tired of the everyone’s-been-there-done-that tourist traps, don’t worry—this part of the country has its fair share of weird and wonderful places that are off the beaten path. Visit the places independently, or follow them in order for an unforgettable road trip. Warning: the awesome pictures you post might blow up your Instagram account.
International Cryptozoology Museum, Portland
Big Foot. Nessie. Tatzelwurms and grootslangs. Are they real or just myths?
Decide for yourself at the International Cryptozoology Museum. It’s packed to the ceiling with “evidence” of cryptids—mysterious or undiscovered creatures. The collection showcases more than 10,000 items, including things like authentic (?) Yeti fur and poop, dozens of footprint casts, tales of creatures such as the Dover Demon and Jersey Devil, some seriously bizarre articles…
The museum falls somewhere between silly and science, but no matter what side of the debate you land on, it’s worth visiting. Everyone deserves a chance to see a furry trout and own a Chupacabra finger puppet, don’t you think?
Museum of Modern Renaissance, Somerville
Nestled on a quiet street among traditional houses is a building that stops traffic. Its colorful walls are painted with roosters and flowers, stars and swirls, and a giant sun. At the center is an enormous tiki-style carving with real flowers for hair.
This odd but beautiful place is called the Museum of Modern Renaissance (which is a bit misleading, as it’s not really a museum), and it’s the vision of Russian artists Nicholas Shaplyko and Ekaterina Sorokina.
The inside will render you wide-eyed, slack-jawed speechless. It’s an explosion of harmonious colors—on the walls, ceiling, floor, stairs, doorjambs, furniture—everywhere. Then, you start to notice all the intricately painted creatures. Cats, a winged dog, dozens of elegant birds; cherubs, flowers, suns…
You can wander from room to room, each one more outrageously beautiful than the last. It’s really too incredible to put into words. Just go see it. Go now.
MOBA Museum of Bad Art, Somerville (in the basement of the theater)
The Museum of Bad Art is exactly what it sounds like—a collection of paintings that are just awful. Weird subjects, underpants glued to canvas, bizarre portraits, and the like. The collection is curated from thrift stores, donations, and (not surprisingly) the trash. The place causes a surge of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, art is personal expression, and people who are trying their best shouldn’t be mocked. I mean, the person who painted Clamp Lamp, Wicker Chair and Sink certainly painted a better clamp lamp, wicker chair, and sink than I ever have.
On the other hand, OMG.
A headless animal carcass eating baseball players? A naked woman riding a lobster? George Washington dancing with Jackie Kennedy? What the…?
As you make your way through the gallery, you will experience waves of delight, horror, and disbelief. In the end, your sides will hurt from laughing, and (if you have any decency) you’ll simultaneously feel deeply ashamed.
It’s totally worth it.
The Book Barn, Niantic
Used books, picnic tables, cats, gardens, tricycles, reading nooks, games, weird signs, statues, goats… The Book Barn is delightfully bonkers. Boasting a collection of more than 500,000 books, it’s actually in four separate locations. They’re all within a mile of each other, however, so it’s easy to stroll from one to the next browsing titles, enjoying the flowers, petting animals, or reading for a spell under a shady tree.
While the grounds are chaotic (in a good way), the books are carefully organized by genre, most housed in freestanding sheds or little roofed nooks. There are maps of all four locations and signs everywhere to guide you, but getting lost here is as delightful as losing yourself in a good story.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., Brooklyn
If you’re planning on quitting your day job to become a superhero, you’ll need to make a stop at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.
You can get a jug of levitation, a can of mind control, pick up a secret identity kit, grab some x-ray goggles and a superhero suit—everything you need to fight crime—all in one shop so you don’t have to fly all over town. It’s also the only place you can test capes on a platform of industrial fans. As you know, it’s embarrassing to fight villains in a saggy cape.
The true identity of the Superhero Supply Store is 826NYC—a non-profit that helps kids aged 6 to 18 hone their creative writing skills. All proceeds from the store go to fund the program. Now that’s some real hero stuff right there.
So, if you need an extra dose of courage, wish you were immortal, have to contain an evil blob, or just want to help budding writers, put this place on your to-do list.
Toloache, New York City
I know you’ve been thinking this, too—It’s so hard to find a good grasshopper taco this side of the border! Luckily there’s Toloache, an authentic Mexican restaurant in the heart of NYC that serves up this delicious delicacy. They’re surprisingly good—salty, crunchy, and only slightly leggy.
Another rare item on the menu is huitlacoche, or moldy corn. It’s a large, grey, nasty-looking fungus that grows inside an ear of corn that’s cooked, mashed, and added to various dishes. Apparently, it has the earthy flavor of a mushroom with a hint of corn. Go figure.
If you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t like to experiment with food, no worries. They also have standard options for the “normals.”
Mütter Museum, Philadelphia
It’s gross. And fascinating. And then gross again.
The Mütter Museum is a collection of medically significant objects including skulls, organs in jars, antique medical instruments, slices of brain (including Albert Einstein’s), and other interesting specimens.
However, as you dig deeper (pun intended), it starts to take an icky turn. There’s a drawer of things discovered in people’s throats. Seriously revolting drawings of old medical procedures. All kinds of replicas of boils and pus, odd growths, deformities, and display cases showcasing every weird medical mystery you can imagine.
It really is very interesting but not for anyone who has a weak stomach. If you have a taste for the macabre or medical anomalies, though, definitely visit—before lunch.
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton Township
Part botanical garden part art installation, Grounds for Sculpture is definitely something you’ll want to experience. There’s a surprise on every path, whether it’s a lake full of blooming lilies or a 14-foot abstract sculpture.
The best thing about it is there are no ropes, fences, or intrusive signs to interrupt the experience. You, nature, and the sculptures are all seamlessly sharing the space, often creating the feeling you’ve walked into a painting or stumbled upon a giant. These pieces are not scrapped-together creations by bored locals—Grounds for Sculpture features pieces by acclaimed artists from around the world. You’ll be able to have fun and get yourself all cultured up at the same time.
Paranormal Books & Curiosities and the Paranormal Museum, Asbury Park
They entered the shop. It was cool and quirky, with an impressive selection of paranormal books and curiosities. They browsed contentedly, unaware of the chilling otherworldly forces they were about to encounter…
Did that get your attention? If so, you’ll love this place. It’s not just a bookstore and museum—it’s a whole paranormal experience. They conduct séances, give psychic readings, and offer walking tours of haunted places around town. Spoooooky.
On the tours, you’ll learn a lot about the history of the area, hear creepy stories, and maybe (hopefully) bump into something from the other side. Perhaps your séance will have you revisiting past demons, or your psychic reading will warn you about future ones.
Scared? You will be.
The adventure continues…
We’ll be getting back on the road soon, sharing more weird and wonderful places around the US you’ll want to visit. Be sure to check out the other articles in the series, covering the Midwest, the South, and the West.