Want to take in some offbeat culture this holiday season? WNC has some weird + wonderful area museums which will enlighten you and arm you with some off-the-wall knowledge sure to impress your friends and family.
Aluminum Tree & Ornament Museum | 189 W. Main St., Brevard
This delightfully kitschy exhibit, located at the Transylvania Heritage Museum, is dedicated to the retro aluminum trees that were popular in the ’50s and ’60s. With dozens of faux trees decked out in whimsical contemporary + vintage ornaments (including some that feature the likes of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe), a visit here is a quirky, firsthand look at Christmases of yore. You can even bring some of your own vintage ornaments to donate. Protip: admission is free, but donations are encouraged + appreciated.
American Museum of the House Cat | 5063 U.S. 441 South, Sylva
Owned + operated by Harold Sims, who also runs Catman2 (the area’s largest no-kill, cage-free shelter for cats), this Jackson County gem is one only a few of its kind in the country and showcases thousands of pieces of cat art and memorabilia, including toys, pottery, sculptures, figurines + more. Most recently, the museum housed one of the Burning Man Festival’s three original Purr Pods before donating the sculpture to its purrmanent home in Sylva’s Bridge Park. The best part of this feline museum? The proceeds go to help provide free and low-cost spaying and neutering services to area kitties.
Antique Car Museum | 111 Grovewood Rd.
Talk about a blast from the past. This museum, located in Grovewood Village behind The Omni Grove Park Inn, was created in 1966 by Harry Blomberg, founder of Asheville’s oldest family-owned auto dealership, Harry’s on the Hill. It’s home to some seriously swanky vintage rides, including a 1913 Ford Model T and a rare 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham (of which there were only 400 made). Protip: admission is free, but donations are encouraged + appreciated.
Asheville Pinball Museum | 1 Battle Sq.
Gamers, rejoice. With over 70 pinball machines + classic arcade-style video games, this museum celebrates the nostalgic entertainment beloved in the ’70s and ’80s — and even includes a sign for each one explaining the machine’s history. Coolest of all? You can play dozens of games with no coins or tokens needed after paying the $15 entrance fee. And with snacks, soda, and beer on hand, there’s no need to leave when you need refreshments.
Wheels Through Time Museum (62 Vintage Ln., Maggie Valley) I Reopens April 6, 2023
Since 1993, this 38,000-sq.-ft. spot in Maggie Valley has been showcasing more than 300 rare American motorcycles + automobiles — most of which are kept in running and operating condition — including its “Decade Collection” of cars from a span of almost 100 years. It also features over 25,000 pieces of memorabilia, photos + art related to American transportation history. Now in its 20th year, the museum has launched a fundraising campaign to help preserve the country’s motorcycle history.