The List: 5 Great Museums To Visit for our Annual Museum Day

This Saturday, September 24, be sure to download a free ticket to visit any one of more than 1,300 participating museums nationwide

Railroad Town
Stuhr Museum's 1890s Railroad Town features dozens of historic homes and businesses Courtesy of Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer

This Saturday, September 24, is Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day. So get your museum day ticket, pick your plus-one (the ticket admits you and a guest) and visit one of more than 1,300 participating museums and cultural venues across the country—for free!

Here are just five sites that show the variety represented:

1. Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer – Grand Island, Nebraska

Edward Durrell Stone, architect of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, designed the main building of the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. But the real highlight of a visit to Struhr, in my experience (I went a few years ago with my husband, who grew up in Grand Island), is in walking through the living history portion of the museum. On its grounds, actors reenact 1890s life in a railroad town. There is a working tinsmith, carpenter and blacksmith on the premises, as well as a mercantile, selling lemon drops, and the actual house where actor Henry Fonda was born in 1905.

2. California Surf Museum – Oceanside, California

About 40 miles north of San Diego, this museum, curated by surfer Ric Riavic, chronicles the history of the sport. Its collection includes 55 surfboards ranging from a 100-pound, sugar pine board from 1912 to a four-pound, fiberglass board from 2008, and 1950s photographs from photographer Leroy Grannis, among other artifacts.

3. Buddy Holly Center – Lubbock, Texas

Housed in a building that was once a railway depot, a warehouse and later a restaurant, the Buddy Holly Center features memorabilia from Buddy Holly and other West Texas musicians.  The Lubbock hometown boy became a pioneer of rock and roll. Some highlights of the gallery include Holly’s Fender Stratocaster, his famous black-rimmed glasses, a songbook, photographs, clothing and tour itineraries. Incredibly, the center even touts Holly’s report cards.

4. The Center for Wooden Boats – Seattle, Washington

To carry out its mission of providing “a gathering place where maritime history comes alive” so that “small craft heritage is enjoyed, preserved and passed along to future generations,” this Seattle facility offers boat rentals and courses in sailing, boatbuilding, navigating and woodworking. In a workshop starting this Saturday, attendees can learn how to construct an Aleut Ilkyak, a type of kayak used in the Aleutian Islands for thousands of years.

5. Willowbrook Wildlife Center – Glen Ellyn, Illinois

With about 8,300 patients last year, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center is one of the largest hospitals for wild animals. Visitors to the 50-acre preserve in DuPage County can see up to 80 native animals, including eagles, owls, raccoons and foxes, on permanent display. Occasionally, the public is also invited to witness the release of a rehabilitated animal.

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