Photo: @museumoficecream on Instagram.
You can only eat so much food, but there’s no limit to how much you can see. All over the world, food fanatics have dedicated themselves to preserving the history, the kitsch, and the fervor of various culinary niches. Be it salty or sweet, mass-produced or artisanal, there’s probably a food museum for whatever makes your stomach growl. These six food museums are some of the most eccentric, entertaining, and fun excuses for taking a vacation.
Museum of Ice Cream
Everyone’s screaming (okay, “buzzing” might be more accurate) about the Museum of Ice Cream coming to its new (still undisclosed) location in California this spring. While ice cream treats aren’t on the menu, artsy and Instagrammable homages to that creamy, frozen dessert will definitely be in abundance. In its previous New York location, the MOIC featured a huge, collectively-created ice cream sundae, walls of cones and whipped cream dispensers, upside-down ice cream lights, neon installations, edible balloons, and a sprinkle “pool” with heart-shaped flotation devices.
The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Ah, ramen. Who didn’t worship the noodle soup’s cheap, easy, filling attributes in their college days? (Then you found out what sodium was. Sigh.) Relive the wonder of discovering one of the world’s most convenient lunch options at The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Japan. Tour a recreation of the work shed where chicken ramen was invented, watch the manufacturing process in the CUPNOODLES theater, design your own CUPNOODLES at the factory, try exotic varieties of ramen in the tasting room, and ogle 800 packages of instant noodles in a tunnel. (English audio sets are available for some of the attractions.) This museum is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
The Museum of Food and Drink
If you’re a brainiac who wants a solid education on food but also wants a snack at the end of the lesson, make sure to visit The Museum of Food and Drink the next time you’re in Brooklyn. This non-profit space specializes in exhibits that look at food through historic, scientific, cultural, and manufacturing lenses. Exhibitions have included “Flavor” (a hands-on experiment focusing on how flavor is created through taste and smell), “Boom!” (how a massive “puffing gun” helped cereal companies churn out Kix and Cheerios during the first half of the 20th century), and “Chow” (how Chinese American restaurants rose to popularity in the United States). Tastings, cooking classes, workshops, demos, seminars, and roundtables are also offered regularly through MOFAD, making this an all-inclusive-style food museum.
Do you know what the first four flavors of Jell-O were? Or which fruits float and which fruits sink when submerged in Jell-O? Or what happens when you hook Jell-O up to an EEG machine? All this and more is revealed at the Jell-O Gallery in Le Roy, New York. You’ll also see the wall of Jell-O molds, discover varieties of the gelatin dessert you never knew existed (coffee, blech), and laugh at old ads and packages of “America’s most famous dessert.”
Penang Wonderfood Museum
Texas isn’t the only place known for huge food. Penang, a Malaysian state, is home to the Wonderfood Museum, a kooky collection of Eastern foodstuffs. In the Info Zone you’ll find over 100 delicacies and street foods unique to the region and a sampling of meals in miniature consumed in an average day by locals. In the Wow Zone, take a selfie with any number of oversized models of typical Penang eats. The Education Zone will inform you about social issues surrounding food, such as why shark fin soup is harmful. There are also display themes on the most expensive food and even a “Mona-Food-Lisa” made from a post-feast tablescape. Overall, this museum is one wacky photo opp after another.
Burger Beast Museum
If those golden arches make you feel instant nostalgia (or make your mouth water), the Miami-based Burger Beast Museum belongs on your travel itinerary. There’s plenty of burger memorabilia from eateries old and new like Royal Castle, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s packed into this 1,500 square-foot space. Character cups, menu boards, and restaurant signs are just some of the items that’ll take you back in time.