Those iconic images of Christmas market stalls with carols and snow softly falling aren’t all fantasy — Germany was world-renowned for toy-making until mass production came into play. Today you can admire the handiwork in several parts of the country, including Nuremberg, where the Toy Museum in the heart of Old Town features traditional wooden toys, dolls, tin figurines, metal toys and a large model train in 15,000 square feet of space. New toys like Lego, Barbie and Playmobil are there, too, with a staffed play space and outdoor playground in the summer.
Branson has long considered itself the epicenter of family-friendly and affordable fun in the United States and the World’s Largest Toy Museum goes a long way in solidifying that claim. With six museums, 1 million toys ranging from the 19th century to today and six total museums in the complex (among them the BB Gun Museum, Stearnsy Bear and World of Checkers) you may not need to go anywhere else all day. Lots of the items are hands-on and, of course, there’s a gift shop!
Step back in time in England’s capital — the Victorian Era, to be exact — and into Pollock’s Toy Museum and shop. Folk toys, tin toys and dolls rule here, where the former print shop building dates back to the 1850s. Benjamin Pollock hand-printed and constructed much of the material in the museum today.
Don’t expect an Xbox or Nintendo at Toy Museum Brussels, where treasures from families from the 50s through the 80s are amassed. All toys are manually operated and spread over three floors: the first for rocking horses and play kitchens made of wood; the second for castles and paper puppets; and the third for participatory tic-tac-toe. Plan your visit around Teddy Bear Days, mechanical toy performances with rhymes and music.
Open seasonally May through August, the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum in Bellaire, Ohio, is known as the “Unofficial LEGO Museum.” There’s a private collection of LEGOs, as well as works by brick artists. The museum also lays claim to Guinness’ World’s Largest Lego Image (mosaic) installation.
The Tin Toy Museum in Yokohama features some 3,000 spinning acrobats, chiming monkeys, toy planes and mini railroads, all a private collection amassed since the 70s and opened to the public in 1986. Ever wondered where the inspiration came from for Toy Story? Ask director John Lesseter, who visited in the late 80s.
Seoul, South Korea
What you might find at the world’s largest yard sale, Hyeon Tae-Jun’s collection of swag — 30,000 pieces, to be exact — comprises the delightful Pollalla Toy Museum. There’s a Kevin McCallister doll, Hillary Clinton and Michael Jackson action figures, a Sesame Street album featuring tunes from the Doobie Brothers, and much, much more, all in various states of charming disarray.