You’ve heard of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Baseball Hall of Fame and maybe even the Astronaut Hall of Fame (one giant leap and all that). But what about the lesser-known spots that honor the best of the best, like the Polka Hall of Fame, Bicycling Hall of Fame or Indiana’s own RV/MH Hall of Fame?
This spring, instead of taking your family vacation to the usual spots (the beach is overrated, right?), check out these unique halls of fame that are more than worth some quality time in the car. These five Midwestern spots might not be the usual suspects, but they’re family-friendly—and all within about six hours of Chicago.
If you’re always telling stories about the one that got away (we’re talking fish, of course), this is the hall for you. At the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame& Museum in Hayward, Wis., you can check out 50,000 items of memorabilia, including vintage lures, rods and reels, as well as 300 mounted fish that are surely responsible for their fair share of tall tales. If you’re not into the artifacts, don’t get your waders in a bunch: the museum’s crowning jewel is a ginormous leaping fish (a muskellunge) whose jaw holds more than 20 people, making for a photo op that would have Jonah himself standing in awe. The museum is open daily from May-October, as well as on April 15. (715) 634-4440
With kids at home, it is almost a guarantee that you also have at least some toy cars laying around. With 25,000 square feet of exhibits and displays, the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., has lots of cars laying around. Not too far from the Henry Ford Museum (also worth a visit), the hall of fame has exhibits on motorsports, design innovations, America’s first highway, technology visionaries and even the fine folks who sell us our automobiles. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students 13-18 and $6 for kids 4-12.
Indiana businessman Ben Wallace always wanted to be involved in the circus, and in 1884, he made his dreams come true in the small town of Peru, located halfway between Fort Wayne and Lafayette. Eventually his land became the “winter quarters” for many circuses, and today it is home to the International Circus Hall of Fame. Open each year, May 1-Aug. 31, it houses a shrine to great performers past and present, a miniature replica of Wallace’s 1934 circus and, during the month of July, a big top show featuring circus stars from around the country. There is also the annual Circus Parade each summer, featuring performers and animals. (800) 771-0241
Right here in our city, a quick trip to the corner of State and Kinzie streets will land you at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. A beacon for everything television and radio, the museum offers its visitors a glimpse behind the scenes of media. It is also home to the National Radio Hall of Fame. With more than 100 inductees, the museum recognizes and honors those who have contributed to a medium we now take for granted. With tons of photos, artifacts and audio to listen to, it is a fun way to introduce your family to a big piece of American history that is really not that old. Open Tuesday-Saturday, admission is $12 for adults, $6 for kids 4-12.
Celebrate Christmas in March … or June … or September at this hall that honors all the famous Santa Clauses and Mrs. Clauses of history. Nestled inside the beloved Santa’s Candy Castle in Santa Claus, Ind., the museum is totally free (although you may be paying your weight in the form of candy canes, chewing gum and 31 different flavors of hot cocoa). Kids will love logging into the North Pole Network, telling Santa what they want for Christmas—even if the list is likely to change a few dozen times—and printing off an official Good List Certificate. And they’ll learn a little about St. Nicholas of Myra, the inspiration for modern-day Kris Kringles and the Hall of Fame’s patron saint.