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Because Missing Out Is Never Fun!

Charles M. Schulz Museum

Santa Rosa, CA

Step inside the world of Charles Schulz.  Charlie Brown is there with the whole gang, and admission costs peanuts!

Likely Santa Rosa’s most beloved resident, Charles Schulz created a myriad of characters, each of whom personified him in one way or another.  Maybe that’s why his Peanuts strip portrayed emotions running the gamut from joy to despair, and why so many people can relate to the comic which ran for nearly 50 years.

Stroll through the museum and browse through dozens of Schulz’s personal belongings.  You’ll find cases housing early childhood sketches, a picture which earned him a mention in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and plenty of awards celebrating his achievements as a cartoonist, athlete, and philanthropy.

My favorite part of the museum was the recreation of his artist’s studio.  In an interview, Schulz joked that the simple tools necessary to create the comic strip didn’t result in much of a tax deduction; it just goes to show you that his own creativity was his most valuable asset.

This is where the magic happened!

You can spend the whole day in the Auditorium catching up on Peanuts animated specials and archived interviews with Schulz, then lament in the fact that you can barely write with a fountain pen, let alone draw with one.

Willow Creek - China Flat Museum

BELIEVE!  Or don't.  I'm not the boss of you.

Willow Creek, CA

If you ever find yourself in Willow Creek fishing, camping, rafting, or because you took a seriously wrong turn off the 101, make some time for the Willow Creek – China Flat Museum.

Why?  Because this town is known as “The Gateway to Bigfoot Country”.

The Bigfoot Exhibit chronicles an extensive collection of information, footprint casts, photos and other “evidence” of the creature’s existence.  Hundreds of articles document nearly a century’s worth of eyewitness accounts, some which are chilling and some with enough scientific reasoning that naysayers may be forced to at least consider the possibility that there is (or was) something out there.

Don’t miss the Blacksmith Shop and Miner’s Cabin, sure to make you thankful for everyday conveniences like electricity and mattresses more than an inch thick.  Be vigilant upon your departure, and if you see fresh 16-inch footprints anywhere, watch your back!

Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia

Strawberry, please!  Or, lemon.

Burlingame Pez Museum of Pez Memorabilia
Burlingame, CA

With a long and colorful history, Pez is arguably the coolest thing to come out of Austria besides "The Sound of Music" and Arnold Schwarzenneger (and that second one is questionable).

What began as a breath mint in the 1920s had evolved into an aid to quit smoking by the late 1940s.  Ironically, the first dispensers at that time resembled cigarette lighters.  Go figure.

During the 1950s, Pez dispensers resembled toy guns, Santa, and even robots.  By the end of the decade, the standard dispenser we've grown to love was designed and today you can tilt back the heads of barnyard animals, Hello Kitty or Chewbacca to access that famous candy pellet.

At the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, you'll find more vintage Pez dispensers than you can imagine, along with new merchandise, artwork and "The World's Largest Pez Dispensing Machine" standing at almost 8 feet!  That's going to be your best photo opportunity in Burlingame - believe me.

Still nostalgic?  The museum was expanded a few years ago to include the Classic Toy Museum.  A half hour with a Whee-lo should help you come down from that sugar high.

Gold Nugget Museum


Gold Nugget Museum
Paradise, CA

Television shows such as "Gold Rush Alaska" and "Gold Fever" have inspired a new generation of wannabe prospectors hoping to find flakes and nuggets at the bottoms of their gold pans or in the ridges of  their sluice boxes.  Since the late 1840s, individuals have migrated to California, searching high and low in hopes of striking it rich.

The Gold Nugget Museum houses a collection of exhibits and publications about the gold rush era and is staffed entirely by volunteers. The Museum hosts events throughout the year, such as Tent City, where you can see how the miners lived and learn panning and mining techniques.  The Miss Gold Nugget Pageant is open to high school juniors who not only must create their own gold rush period dresses, but submit portfolios as well.

If chilly metal folding chairs don't bother you, ask a docent to pop in one of the many DVDs they show throughout the day.  If you're lucky enough to catch the same film I did, John Lithgow will merrily narrate a fascinating history of the trials and tribulations of the miners, complete with how they travelled and what they ate.  Docents are happy to supplement the stories with additional information and suggest other educational materials.  Be sure to leave a donation to keep the Museum running!

Museum of Death

The best museum in L.A....no bones about it!

Museum of Death
Hollywood, CA

I can't seem to get enough of the "dark side".  I'll watch autopsies on TLC, ancient burial methods on the History Channel, and will call it a day if I run across a marathon of Family Plots, an A&E Channel series about a family-owned mortuary.

Admit it.  It fascinates you, too.  That's precisely why you should make your way to the Museum of Death in Hollywood, a veritable mecca of items such as morgue photography, letters from death row inmates and artwork by serial murderers.  Have a strong stomach?  Spend an afternoon watching embalming tutorials, studying the Heavens Gate cult recruiting video, and perusing crime scene shots.  You can even examine replicas of execution devices.

Great place for a marriage proposal, right?  Might put that "till death do us part" stuff in perspective.

Computer History Museum

Here's a photo of a bunch of stuff way over my head.

Computer History Museum
Mountain View, CA

Imagine a world without computers: no sexting, no DVRs to record your Real World marathons, and no microwaves to nuke your Hot Pockets. There goes your Friday night.

A trip to the Computer History Museum will make you even more grateful for technology as you learn about Charles Babbage, a pioneer from the late 1700s who designed the first "automatic computing engine" that weighed several tons from over 8,000 parts.  And you thought having last year's iPhone was inconvenient.

Check out vintage computer brochures, learn about the history of computer chess, and pay tribute to the Hall of Fellows, a group of men and women who've made significant contributions to the industry.  Afterwards, head over to the cafe and enjoy a dessert panini while you stalk your high school crush via Facebook on your Blackberry.

Cable Car Museum

Take me to your nearest crab stand...

Cable Car Museum
San Francisco, CA

Ah, San Francisco: likely the only city in the world where tourists are giddy with excitement in anticipation of a ride on public transportation.

Travelling at 9.5 MPH has never been so exciting, especially if you factor in the beautiful sights, fellow international occupants and the cable car system's extremely lackadaisical policy against hanging off the sides.

The idea for this unique transportation system was conceived by Andrew Hallidie, who witnessed horses being whipped as they pulled a horsecar up a wet cobblestone street.  They slipped, and were subsequently dragged to their deaths.  There had to be a better way.

The Cable Car Museum chronicles the nearly century-and-a-half history of these unique cars and provides a close-up look at the cables, grips, track and other system features.  On display are three antique cars from the 1870s along with other memorabilia from the era.  The museum is located inside the Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, where you can watch the gigantic engines and wheels that pull the cables.

The Museum also hosts the Annual Bell Ringing Competition, a great opportunity to pay tribute to the cable cars and those who maintain and keep them safe.

Folsom Prison Museum

Shoplifters, beware!

Represa, CA

Ever since I watched "Escape from Alcatraz" as a young girl, I've been fascinated with the prison system. I've watched umpteen episodes of "Cops", my DVR is set to record every episode of "Jail", and my first night tour of Alcatraz made me feel like a kid in a candy store.

Don't get me wrong...I don't want to ever go to prison, at least not in the traditional sense.  But I'd tour any penitentiary that allowed it.  I just have no interest in a daily routine consisting of uncomfortable bedding, chilly temperatures, bland cuisine, and, in the case of Folsom prisoners in the 1880s, having to dump my bucket of "night waste" into a communal drain tunnel right before breakfast.  Finger foods, anyone?

Folsom has enjoyed a long history since the late 1880s when it was constructed to relieve the overcrowding at San Quentin.  Like most facilities, it has seen escape attempts and deaths of both prisoners and prison employees alike.  Death by hanging was common there until 1942.  The prison even hosted several live performances by country star Johnny Cash.

Museum admission is a mere two bucks, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting several charitable organizations.  Watch a video portraying everyday prison life, take a look at a mock cell, and inspect a wall of confiscated homemade weapons.

On your way home, drive safely, ensuring at least one more night in a warm, comfy bed.

The National Yo-Yo Museum

Don't try this at home.
The National Yo-Yo Museum
Chico, CA

This museum boasts as many yo-yoers as a Weight Watchers meeting, and even features a 256-pounder!  I'm referring, of course, to a working 256-pound yo-yo which was once a world record holder.

The National Yo-Yo Museum houses a truly extensive collection of yo-yos, international memorabilia, print ads and other items such as cereal box premiums.  Gather inspiration from performance videos shown on-site or from one of several hobbyists practicing their skills on any given day.  Take some lessons to refine your abilities at Walking the Dog or the Double Gerbil (!); once you've mastered those without clocking your grandmother in the head, consider entering a regional contest in order to work your way up to the National Championship held each October in Chico.

Having difficulty Splitting the Atom?  Keep practicing.  Like yo-yos themselves, life has its ups and downs.

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