Kids universally go wild over toys and avoiding a trip to the local store is a strategy most parents employ to avoid overspending on stray toys your kid only plays with for a few days. But when it comes to a toy museum, you have the advantage of giving them an often hysterical look at toys through history and teaching them something along the way without breaking the bank. Before you plan your next vacation, see if one of these five museums makes your destination list.
Branson, Mo., is home to the World’s Largest Toy Museum complex comprised of six museums and a variety of eclectic toy collections. So whether your family is obsessed over checkers or Barbies, there’s a special spot waiting. There’s even a steam locomotive and 15-ton shovel on display with lots of oddities, old favorites and modern toys to behold.
Situated outside of downtown Mexico City, the Mexican Antique Toy Museum houses more than 40,000 pieces meticulously collected over 55 years. Visitors are treated to multiple floors of vintage toys including tin toys, Japanese collections, robots, trains and more. Before you leave, let the kids stop in the gift shop to score vintage toys and games to take home as a keepsake.
The Penang Toy Museum bills itself as the largest in the world with more than 120,000 toys, dolls and collectibles and even ranks in the Malaysia Book of Records, the first of its kind in the country. The museum features endless displays of toys from popular movies and TV shows, from Spiderman to Star Trek. Parents who grew up in the 1990s will love the *NSYNC marionette dolls just dying to come to life and start dancing.
You’ll get a trifecta of toy museums in Burlingame, Calif., with the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, Classic Toy Museum and the oh-so-amazing Banned Toy Museum. This is where debaucherous toys live that were yanked from the market for being distasteful or dangerous or just wildly inappropriate, like atomic energy laboratory and solid metal Lawn Darts. You’ll also learn that, in 1999, Spanish Barbie said a quick farewell when she was sold wearing a traditional matador costume. Any good traveler knows matadors kill bulls in a ritual and bloodied public spectacle.
Get a history lesson with the help of toys at the Toy Museum at the Prague Castle. It houses toys from Greece to modern-day times from around the world. Barbie also makes an appearance with her own oversized exposition to see her gracefully aging and trying on an endless array of professions and roles. Only this time she isn’t donning a Spanish Matador costume.