Museums are those elusive destinations that city residents never quite muster up the energy for, as there's the implicit knowledge that you can always visit them another day. Or maybe you think you've seen them all already; even if you're a big fan of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, you'll quickly realize that there are only so many times that you can learn about the life of Athanasius Kircher.
L.A.'s count of odd museums is dwindling: The past few years have witnessed the sometimes mysterious disappearances of a few zany old-timers. Altadena's International Banana Museum was the most recent casualty, closing in 2010. But fear not: There are still plenty of passionate curators and strange establishments to visit.
Here's our pick of the top 10 oddball but delightful offerings out there, some from our best of L.A. issue.10. Best Bright Lights: Museum of Neon Art
With bus tours and booze, as well as a soon-to-open exhibition space in Glendale, the Museum of Neon Art is a great way to explore the parts of L.A.'s cityscape that are too often ignored. While the museum itself is currently closed during its relocation to Glendale, the bus tours through L.A.'s neon jungle run every Saturday, from June through September, with docents who know the (sometimes surprising) ins and outs of Hollywood sign history. (Also check out our post on the 10 best neon signs in L.A.) (213) 489-9918, neonmona.org. --Sophie Duvernoy9. Best Place to Get Retro: Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum
Unleash your inner trainiac and hop onboard one of the miniature steam engines that chug over bridges, through tunnels and in between ghost towns at Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park. You don't even have to be a kid to do it -- no one will give you strange looks, we promise. Founded in 1956 by train enthusiasts who wanted to educate visitors about railroad history, Los Angeles Live Steamers contains more than 23,000 feet of track, various historical (full-size) train cars, and the Disney Barn, which once resided in Walt Disney's Holmby Hills backyard. 5202 Zoo Drive, Griffith Park. (323) 662-8030, lals.org. --Laura Clark8. Best Shootout Conservation: LAPD Historical Society
Sometimes, the best kind of museum is a bit shabby around the edges, and the exhibit is only a small part of the charm. That's the case for the LAPD Historical Society, located in the original Highland Park Police station built in 1925. Most of the museum has the usual fare: old guns, vintage uniforms and cars, strange handcuffs, etc. But if you sniff around a bit more, you'll find some relics of notorious Hollywood history, like Charles Manson's booking photos, paraphernalia from Patty Hearst's kidnappers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and car casualties from the North Hollywood shootout. The website condenses this into: "Some of the cars have real bullet holes from shootouts with bad guys." But hey -- why not go see it yourself, and decide on the museum's merits and blind spots (we're guessing there won't be any exhibits on the Watts Riots anytime soon). 6045 York Blvd., Highland Park. (323) 344-9445, laphs.org. --Sophie Duvernoy