Unique Museums to Visit in Michigan

Learn about magic, railroads, and even pickles at these unique Michigan museums.
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American Museum of Magic - unique michigan museums
Photograph courtesy of the American Museum of Magic.

Whether you’re a history buff looking to dive into an interesting subject, a gamer with an eye for technology, a fashion fanatic, or just looking for your next adventure, these unique Michigan museums leave plenty to be discovered.

American Museum of Magic

Known as the country’s largest collection of magic, the American Museum of Magic is located in Marshall. Thousands of artifacts with rich histories can be found within, making every step surprising. The museum was founded by journalist Robert Lund and his wife, Elaine. It started as a private collection including over 12,000 books, photos, journals, and 350,000 pieces of memorabilia. The American Museum of Magic is open by appointment only from December to March and will reopen to the public in April. American Museum of Magic, 107 E. Michigan Ave., Marshall; 269-781-7570; americanmuseumofmagic.com.

Michigan Transit Museum

For those looking to travel back in time, the Michigan Transit Museum provides a look into the days before cars. The Mount Clemens depot has been restored to its 1900s appearance. The former depot, which has not been used as a functioning railway since 1980, was home to an incredibly famous employee: Thomas Edison. The railroading era is shown through artifacts and is a great place to learn the deep history of the railroad system has in the U.S., and specifically Michigan. There’s always something new to see, with rotating exhibits, train rides, and a gift shop. Michigan Transit Museum, 200 Grand Ave., Mount Clemens; 586-463-1863; michigantransitmuseum.com.

Pickle Barrel House Museum

Built as a house for 1920s cartoonist William Donahey, this is by far one of the most unique museums on our list. Donahey was best known for his “Teenie Weenie” comic strip for the Chicago Tribune. The house, built to serve as Donahey’s summer home, is shaped like a large pickle barrel. The museum remains in its original design and contains old copies of the “Teenie Weenie” comics, books showcasing the home in the ’20s and ’30s, and other memorabilia. The one-of-a-kind home has become a hot spot for tourists and is beloved by locals. Pickle Barrel House Museum, Northeast corner of Lake Avenue and Randolph Streets, Grand Marais; michigan.org.

Michigan Firehouse Museum and Education Center

This 26,000-square-foot museum is devoted to firefighting history and teaching and promoting fire safety. The space contains a restored 1898 firehouse and large, modern addition with 25 exhibits. Artifacts include antique fire trucks, tools, equipment, and the largest collection of truck bells in the U.S. Michigan Firehouse Museum and Education Center, 110 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, 734-547-0663; michiganfirehousemuseum.org.

The Lace Museum

Based in Northville Square, The Lace Museum is a must-visit spot for those who are interested in fashion history. Curated by owner Mary Salmon, who has experience as a purveyor and merchant of lace, the museum houses 18th- and 19th-century handmade lace and linen from the U.S., Central Europe, Ireland, and England. Lace-making tools, textiles, and vintage clothing are also part of the collection. The Lace Museum, 133 W. Main St., Suite 219, Northville; 937-681-7219; thelacemuseumllc.com.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

This massive collection of all things mechanical is sure to impress visitors of every age. Founded in 1980, the interactive museum is home to a ton of vintage coin-operated games and new video games, animatronics, and nostalgic collector’s items. The lively space is perfect for family fun days, quirky date nights, and general curiosity. Marked as one of the World Almanac’s 100 Most Unusual Museums, this is something you’ll need to see to believe. The museum will be open until the end of 2024 at which point it will leave its current home, which is set to be demolished. The museum has announced it will move to a new location but details on where it will move have yet to be released. Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, 31005 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills; 248-626-5020; marvin3m.com.

Midwest Miniatures Museum

In 2007, the Midwest Miniatures Museum became a place where people could experience the fine art of miniatures. The museum, which is in a historic mansion, is filled with miniatures set of scale-models from different eras throughout history. Some permanent collections, like van Gogh’s yellow house and the Lynnwood House, can be found on display at the museum. Midwest Miniatures Museum, 20 S 5th St., Grand Haven; 616-414-5809 midwestminiaturesmuseum.com.

This post has been updated for 2024.