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28 Fun Facts About Disney World

It’s the most magical place on earth…and the most mysterious!  Filled with hidden tunnels, secret passageways, INSANE casting rules, and lots of secretive tidbits, Disney World has remained a favorite tourist destination for kids and adults alike.

Whether you go with the kids or just go because you’re a kid at heart, there’s no denying that Disney World is a place where dreams come true…and now you can learn a little more about this magical getaway with these 28 Fun Facts About Disney World!

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28 Fun Facts About Disney World

There’s no gum sold at any Disney World or Disneyland park…so if you chew, bring your own.

It’s NOT a small world after all…Disney World encompasses over 50 square miles.

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Hidden Mickey Mouse heads can be found everywhere.

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Guests at Disneyworld are never more than 30 steps away from a trash can.  Some of them even talk to you!

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Since its grand opening, Disneyworld has only closed 3 times: Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001, and a power failure in 2002.

Visit The Hat Shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and you’ll see an old pay phone on the wall. Pick up the receiver and you can eavesdrop on an interesting conversation.

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There are no bathrooms located in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, in keeping with the time period of that area.

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In the Magic Kingdom Train Station, look closely for articles left by other “guests,” including Mary Poppins and other characters from Disney films.

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An imagineer named George was killed during the building of Pirates of the Caribbean.  It is said his ghost haunts the ride to this day.  Workers say “goodnight George” before they shut down the ride each night as a superstition to prevent attraction break downs the next day.

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Epcot’s American Pavilion is home to an American flag taken from the rubble of 9/11/2001.

Underneath Disney World are miles of underground tunnels called utilidors that house the massive costume departments, cast member break rooms, garbage chutes and more.  It also serves as a way for cast members to get from one place to another without disrupting the “magic”.

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Disney World averaged 10,000 visitors per day when it first opened in 1971. Today that number has swelled closed to 50,000 visitors per day.

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The new Avatar section of Animal Kingdom cost more than $400 million to build.

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Epcot gardens grow over 30 tons of fruits and veggies each year to help feed hungry park visitors.

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The Disney Company bought 12,000 acres of Florida Wetlands located about 15 miles south of the park back in the 90’s. The idea was to maintain the balance of nature and offset the environmental impact of the parks.

More than 1.6 million turkey legs are consumed at the parks every year. They are such a fan favorite that you can buy turkey leg hats, t-shirts and other souvenirs.

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Disney’s first Audio Animatronics were introduced to the world at the 1966 World’s Fair in Flushing, NY. The two rides were “It’s A Small World” and “Great Moments with Abraham Lincoln”, which later evolved into today’s Hall of Presidents.

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You never have to pay for water in Disney World…just go to any quick service restaurant in the park and ask for a cup.

One of the most popular Disney souvenirs of all time was the Mickey Mouse watch. It was first introduced in 1933 and sold for $2.95. Walt Disney himself was presented with the 25th million watch in 1957.

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Disney’s Wedding Pavillion near the Grand Floridian Resort is designed to give the bride and groom a great view of Cinderella Castle while saying their vows.

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Over 10 million hamburgers, 7 million hot dogs and 9 million pounds of French fries are consumed by hungry Disney World guests every year.

Walt Disney World Costume Department is home to over 1.2 million pieces of clothing.

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It takes over 150 tractor trailer loads of decorations to deck the halls for holiday celebrations. Wonder what Disney’s electric bill is for all of this?  It’s zero…they have their own power plant.

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Admission was only $3.50 on opening day in 1971…a little more than $20 today.  Nowadays, a ticket is gonna run you closer to $100, depending on the parks you want to visit.

Designers built an apartment for Walt into the castle plan for Cinderella’s Castle, but he died before its completion. That space was later turned into a hotel room that’s only available if you win a promotion or sweepstakes.

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Disney World is the largest single-site employer in the US…and employees aren’t just called employees — they’re cast members.

An estimated 1.65 million pairs of eyeglasses have made their way to Disney World’s lost-and-found bins since 1971. Every year, the park finds an average of 6,000 cellphones, 3,500 digital cameras and 18,000 hats.

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Disney World’s biggest theme park, Animal Kingdom, encompasses 403 acres.

Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

 

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21 Fun Facts About the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

A few days ago I was just reminiscing about my recent trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  As I was unpacking my boxes after our move, I came across my Butterbeer cup, my wand, and a few other things I picked up on our journey…and I found myself missing it more and more!

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Regardless of whether you love or loath Harry Potter, there’s no denying that the park abounds with amazing detail.  Movie props pepper the park, voices of familiar characters can be heard throughout the Hogwarts castle, and you can even TAKE THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS between parks!

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I may or may not have cried on that ride…but I definitely cried.

J.K. Rowling had a hand in everything while the park was being created, from the look and flow of the scenery to the title of the songs that crooner Celestia Warbeck sings on stage.  It really is a dream come true for fans of the series and is FILLED with little nods that lovers of the books and movies are sure to appreciate.

If you’re planning a trip to TWWoHP in the near future, here are 21 little nuggets (or should I say Galleons!) to keep in mind as you plan your trip!

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21 Fun Facts About The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Many of the Wizarding World staff members are from the U.K.  The park hired a large number of its team members directly from Britain to make the experience as authentic as possible.

Every staff member also takes an exam, testing their knowledge of the books and movies to make sure their interactions go as smoothly as possible.  Nothing’s getting past these guys!

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Author J.K. Rowling had final say on the Butterbeer recipe served at the park.

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A Crumple-Horned Snorkack, Luna Lovegood’s favorite magical creature, can be seen in the Magical Menagerie store…though Luna herself has yet to find one IRL.

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Look up in the windows of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and you’ll see house elves all over the place!  Even Kreacher makes an appearance from behind the curtain of 12 Grimmauld Place every few minutes.  CREEEEEEEPY!

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Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride features appearances from original actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, and Rupert Grint; however, Emma Watson nor Daniel Radcliffe reprised their roles…so Harry and Hermione might sound different on the ride.

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Though Moaning Myrtle haunts the girls’ bathroom in the books and movies, boys and girls can hear Moaning Myrtle haunt their toilets throughout the park bathrooms.

In order to build Diagon Alley, the famous Jaws ride had to be taken down. As a tribute, a record is visible in the windows of the shop on Charing Cross Road, where the Jaws ride was, that has a song titled “Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bo Legged Women”, a direct quote from the Jaws movie.  There’s also a set of shark teeth in the Mullpepper’s Apothecary.

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There’s an actual London-style phone in the King’s Cross section of the park.  If you dial 62442 (MAGIC), you’ll be connected to the Ministry of Magic.

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The Hogwarts Express was built in Switzerland and was artificially aged to make it look as though it had made the journey from Hogwarts to London thousands of times.

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The same musicians hired to play the film soundtracks played new arrangements for the park attractions.

J.K. Rowling wrote the titles of every song Celestia Warbeck sings in the park.

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You can converse with the goblin tellers inside Gringotts Bank.  If you ring a desk bell, the goblin teller will look directly at you (!!).  Ask the goblin a question like, “How old are you?” or “Did you know there’s a dragon on the roof?” and see what they say…

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You can trade your muggle money in for Gringotts money, which can be used throughout the park.

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Ask an employee in London’s King Cross station how to find Platform 9¾…they will look at you like you’re crazy, bristle in annoyance or confusion, or make a sarcastic remark about how bonkers you are. The wizards working at both Potter-themed parks know their stuff — and they stay in character (and challenge your Harry Potter knowledge) at every turn.

The earmuffs near the mandrake roots, the desks and chalkboard in the Dark Arts classroom, Cho Chang’s dress from the Yule Ball, the carriage compartment in the Hogwarts Express train and, most notably, Hagrid’s motorcycle are just a few of the real movie props you can spot in the park.

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The dragon atop Gringotts is a Ukrainian Ironbelly…and it has breathed fire more than 15,000 times since the park opened.

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Nearly all of the Horcruxes are available for purchase at the parks.  The only missing Horcruxes are Helga Hufflepuff’s cup and Harry himself. The locket, ring, Tom Riddle’s diary, a stuffed Nagini, and even Rowena Ravenclaw’s bedazzled diadem are for sale.

Want a challenge?  Mention the name “Voldemort” to any Harry Potter park employee…

The actual costumes from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire are on display at Gladrags Wizardwear.

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In the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes joke shop, you can adopt your very own Pygmy Puff.  When you do, the attendant will ring a bell and announce the name of your Pygmy Puff to the whole store.

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Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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Reading Around the Country: 50 Books for 50 States

They say that books are the cheapest form of travel…and with this list of 50 Books for 50 States, you can make your way around the US from the comfort of your own couch.

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Start your journey at the Whistle Stop Café in Alabama (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café), then journey into the Alaskan wilderness in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.  Travel back in time to 1800’s Chicago for the Chicago World’s Fair in Devil in the White City, then get a true taste of Wyoming’s beautiful landscape in Annie Proulx’s collection of stories, Close Range.

This is the ultimate reading list for those looking to learn about the eclectic culture of the US, from the rough and tough landscapes of the American southwest to the picturesque mountains and valleys that abound on our coastal states.

Reading Around the Country: 50 Books for 50 States

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  • Alabama – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg
  • Alaska – Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
  • Arizona – Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
  • Arkansas – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • California – East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  • Colorado – Kings of Colorado, David E. Hilton
  • Connecticut – Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
  • Delaware – And Never Let Her Go, Ann Rule
  • Florida – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

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  • Georgia – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
  • Hawaii – The Descendants, Kaui Hart Hemmings
  • Idaho – Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech
  • Illinois – Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
  • Indiana – All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
  • Iowa – The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller
  • Kansas – In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  • Kentucky – Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Louisiana – The Awakening, Kate Chopin

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  • Maine – It, Stephen King
  • Maryland – The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth
  • Massachusetts – The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  • Michigan – The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Minnesota – The Good Girl, Mary Kubica
  • Mississippi – The Help, Kathryn Stockett
  • Missouri – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  • Montana – A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Norman Maclean
  • Nebraska – O Pioneers!, Willa Cather

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  • Nevada – Desperation, Stephen King
  • New Hampshire – A Separate Peace, John Knowles
  • New Jersey – American Pastoral, Philip Roth
  • New Mexico – The Milagro Beanfield War, Joe Mondragon
  • New York – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • North Carolina – A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
  • North Dakota – The Round House, Louise Erdrich
  • Ohio – Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Oklahoma – The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

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  • Oregon – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
  • Pennsylvania – Rabbit, Run, John Updike
  • Rhode Island – The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike
  • South Carolina – The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
  • South Dakota – The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, Ann Weisgarber
  • Tennessee – A Death in the Family, James Agee
  • Texas – Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger
  • Utah – The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff
  • Vermont – Where the Rivers Flow North, Howard Frank Mosher

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  • Virginia – Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
  • Washington – Border Songs, Jim Lynch
  • West Virginia – Rocket Boys, Homer H. Hickam, Jr.
  • Wisconsin – A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick
  • Wyoming – Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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50 Recipes, 50 States, 1 Very Hungry Blogger

A few weeks ago, I tried Nashville Hot Chicken for the first time. I have been to Nashville before and never heard of it…it took a trip to a local chain restaurant to learn about this amazing, comforting, soul-southing dish that would eventually inspire today’s blog post (it was The Yard House, if you’re curious! If there’s one by you, I highly suggest trying it). I mean, look at this. LOOK AT THIS DISH. Hot chicken, sweet potato pancakes (which could be a meal just by themselves)…this is happiness. Pure happiness.

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So today’s post is mostly inspired by the discovery of this Nashville delight, as well as a game my dad and I talked about playing several times (but actually never did…but I’m bound and determined to do it with my kids!).

So here’s what ya do. Get a map of the United States (or the world for adventurous eaters!)…like, a big one. Big enough to cover your kitchen table. Then use dice, a penny, or any small object you and your kids can easily toss and use the state or country it lands on to inspire your cuisine. Isn’t that fun?! It’s a great way to travel without spending a ton of money and a fun and clever way to introduce kids to new flavors and cultures.

Best of all, I’ve done some of the work for you! Below you’ll find 50 amazing recipes representing each state in the US (just click the picture to see the recipe!). So whether you land on Utah or Florida, you’ll have a tasty recipe you can make to get a feel and taste for every state in the US!

Happy Travels!

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One Recipe for Each State in the US

Alabama:  Fried Green Tomatoes
The Irondale Cafe, located in Irondale, Alabama was the inspiration for the Whistlestop Cafe in the film, Fried Green Tomatoes...and just like in the film, the Irondale Cafe is still known for whipping up some awesome fried green tomatoes.

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Alaska:  Roasted Maple Salmon
Salmon can be found almost anywhere along the coastlines of the United States, but no state gets better, fresher salmon than Alaska.  With natives who have created unique and flavorful recipes that you can’t find anywhere else (salmon candy, anyone?) Alaska is the place to go for fresh, delicious, healthy salmon dishes.

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Arizona:  Chimichangas
According to lore, the founder of the Tuscan, Arizona restaurant El Charro accidentally dropped a pastry in a deep fryer in 1922.  She supposedly yelled “chimichanga!” when it dropped, eventually inspiring the name of this popular dish.

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Arkansas:  Catfish Sandwich
Catfish abound along the banks of the Mississippi River, and the locals of Arkansas know how to turn this bottom-dwelling fish into a stand-out sandwich.  Fried, baked, or broiled, catfish dishes make Arkansas a unique destination for seafood lovers.

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California:  Avocado and Kale Toast
The health craze has hit California hard!  Basically anything containing avocado or kale can be considered “Californian”, and when you combine the two, dude…that’s like, totally bitchin’.

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Colorado:  Rocky Mountain Green Chili
Chili is a Colorado favorite.  Call it the cold weather or the fact that it shares space with some other wild west towns, but Colorado is home to some of the best green chili cooks in the US.

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Connecticut:  Steamed Cheeseburgers
A true Connecticut thing, steamed burgers and cheeseburgers use hot steam to cook the patties, resulting in a juicy burger that’s unlike anything you’ve ever eaten!  While you can make these at home, be sure to get yourself an authentic steamed burger next time you’re on the east coast!

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Delaware:  Vinegar Fries
You can find vinegar fries in other places, but no one does it quite like Delaware.  The unique flavor of these fries makes them a great side dish to fish.

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Florida:  Key Lime Pie
Created and imported from Florida, Key Limes are a product of the Florida Keys and are often used in creating key lime pie.  Much smaller than a traditional lime, these limes pack a sour punch!

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Georgia:  Peach and Bourbon Cobbler
Lovingly named “The Peach State”, Georgia is home to these sweet and tasty fruits, and you can get a taste of this southern state with almost any peach recipe…but this one also features another southern favorite:  Bourbon!  Serve with cinnamon ice cream for a tasty treat any southern belle would love!

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Hawaii:  Spam Sliders
Spam is the chicken of Hawaii.  Used in practically every savory Hawaiian recipe, spam is a flavor that island dwellers love.  It’s a great pairing to pineapple and is tasty just as is after a few seconds on the grill.

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Idaho:  Finger Steaks
Often served with potatoes of some kind (shocker), finger steaks are just what they sound like.  Small pieces of steak are battered and fried and served like chicken nuggets.  A true Idaho favorite, these little finger steaks are fun and tasty to eat.

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Illinois:  Deep Dish Pizza
There’s a running joke that Chicago people don’t eat deep dish…only out-of-towners who come to Chicago for the first time.  I am living proof that this is not true.  I’m a born and raised Chicagoian who loves deep dish, but it’s not for everyone.  More like a pie with a thick crust and lots of sauce, this pizza is not for the faint of heart!  But it is a tasty treat that takes me home every time I eat it!

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Indiana:  Creme-Filled Doughnuts
Indiana is home to tons of doughnut shops (I WANT TO GO TO THERE) with each shop claiming they have the best doughnuts in town.  Skip all the drama and make your own at home!  Best of all, your kitchen is going to smell amazing!

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Iowa:  Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Iowa is true farmland…and pork is abundant here in the midwest.  Fry it up and serve it on a bun and you’ve got yourself a midwestern staple that is comically satisfying (I mean look at the size of that meat).

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Kansas:  Kansas BBQ Chicken
Every southern state wants to make their claim to delicious BBQ…and every one of those states has their own style.  Kansas style is sweet and spicy and great on chicken.  Make your own Kansas BBQ sauce and see if you can go back to the dry rubs of Texas!

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Kentucky:  Hot Brown Sandwich
Born at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, this sandwich features turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce, a Bechamel sauce made of Gruyere cheese.  Served on a piece of crispy bread, this is stick-to-your-ribs comfort food right here.

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Louisiana:  Beignets
It’s no surprise that the French had a large influence on Louisiana…and these light and fluffy beignets are a product of this influence.  Pieces of dough are fried up and covered…COVERED…with confectioners’ sugar and served up nice and hot.

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Maine:  Lobster Rolls
I feel like this doesn’t even need an explanation.  If you’re in Maine and you DON’T get a lobster roll, you’ve missed out on one tasty experience!

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Maryland:  Baltimore Crab Cakes
Granted you can easily find crab cakes in any east coast state, but Maryland takes crab cakes seriously.  For the freshest and best-tasting crab cakes, look no further than Boston.

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Massachusetts:  Ultimate Clam Chowder
Whether you call it chowda’ or chowder, there’s no denying that Massachusetts is home to come of the best chow on the planet.  Often served with potatoes and bacon, this soup will warm your insides on those cold northeastern winter nights.

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Michigan:  Easy Beef Pasties
Containing meat, a veggie, and potatoes all in one pastry, the Michigan pasty really is a meal all in itself.  Originally used by miners and laborers as a way to essentially eat on the job, these meals are hardy, filling, and comforting.  You can find authentic pasty shops all over Michigan, particularly in the northern parts of the state.

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Minnesota:  Minnesota Hot Dish
If Fargo taught me anything, it’s that Minnesota does not mess around when it comes to winter blizzards.  Since weather in Minnesota can be very sketchy, sometimes people are stuck with making a casserole from whatever is on-hand…thus, the Minnesota Hot Dish.  Often served with hash browns or tater tots, this is one casserole that will satisfy every guilty pleasure.

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Mississippi:  Mississippi Mud Pie
Chocolate lovers rejoice!  This ooey gooey pie is a slice of heaven.  Thought to have originated in Mississippi, this pie often is served with ice cream and is the perfect ending to a light summer meal.

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Missouri:  Toasted Ravioli
St. Louis holds claim on the creation of toasted ravioli.  A delicious appetizer or snack, toasted ravioli is often made with cheese-filled pasta, seasoned and baked and served with fresh marinara sauce.

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Montana:  Huckleberry Buckle
Montana and Idaho are great places to find the tasty huckleberry.  Similar in taste to the blueberry, the huckleberry is used to make everything from medicines to jams.

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Nebraska:  Classic Ruben
Thought to have come from Omaha, the Ruben is a popular sandwich consisting of corned beef and sauerkraut.  Often grilled on buttered rye bread, this sandwich can be found in several restaurants across the country…but a homemade one is always best!

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Nevada:  Shrimp Cocktail
Though Nevada doesn’t have a traditional food, the shrimp cocktail is somewhat symbolic of the Vegas culture.  A great appetizer or light dinner, the shrimp cocktail can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like it to be!

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New Hampshire:  Slow Cooker Apple Maple Pork Tenderloin
Known for apples and maple syrup, New Hampshire is the place to go for hearty and tasty dishes…and this yummy recipe combines them both.  Served with potatoes and peas, this dinner will fill your kitchen with delectable aromas.

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New Jersey:  Italian Hoagie
A large Italian population makes New Jersey the place to go for great Italian food in the US…and the hoagie (or hero or sub) is a New Jersey staple!  Filled with meat and cheese and delicious Italian spices, this sandwich is worthy of at least a few fist pumps!

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New Mexico:  Green Chili Stew
New Mexico is home to the green chili pepper, and this stew is a great way to highlight the flavors of this tasty ingredient.  Use whatever meat you’d like in this stew and serve alongside tortillas or cornbread for a dinner your family will love.

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New York:  New York Style Cheesecake
Cheesecake may look light and fluffy, but this dessert is anything but!  Decedent and creamy, New York style cheesecake often features a simple strawberry glaze and garnish to finish it off.

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North Carolina:  Pulled Pork (or Chicken) Sandwiches
Another state trying to lay claim to amazing BBQ, North Carolina has it’s own style of treating pork and chicken.  Featuring a tangy sauce made from a few spices and vinegar, North Carolina BBQ is a unique and delicious take on this southern favorite.

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North Dakota:  Plum Kuchen
Kuchen comes from the large German influences in North Dakota.  You can make it with almost any fruit you’d like, and every Dakota grandma has her own go-to recipe.  Served in bar form or as pie slices, this dessert is a Dakota claim to fame.

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Ohio:  Buckeye Peanut Butter Balls
These Buckeye candies are an Ohio favorite.  Featuring two of my favorite flavors, chocolate and peanut butter, you can find these tasty treats at almost any Ohio football game.

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Oklahoma:  Stuffed Fried Okra
Part of the state meal of Oklahoma (yes, that’s a real thing), fried okra is a southern favorite.  Sometimes battered and fried, sometimes stuffed and battered and fried, because–why not?–fried okra makes a great side dish if you can find it in your local grocery store.

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Oregon:  Beer Marinated Chicken Drumsticks
Oregon is home to several amazing breweries, making these beer marinated drumsticks a wonderful taste of the west coast.  Serve with an ice cold IPA for a true Portland experience.

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Pennsylvania:  Cheese Steak Sandwich
Pennsylvania dwellers take their cheese steak sammies seriously.  With several restaurants offering up the same sandwich, each spot has loyal customers that swear that their restaurant offers the best option.  Thankfully, you can avoid all the back and forth and just make amazing cheese steak sandwiches right from the comfort of your own home!
PS – How come no one on The Office ever ate a cheese steak sandwich?  Not even Kevin!!  Missed opportunity, NBC.  😉

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Rhode Island:  Spicy Calamari
Another popular east coast snack, calamari is best served in Rhode Island.  Rhode Island calamari features a lighter coating and sometimes has a little spicy kick.

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South Carolina:  Shrimp and Grits
A true South Carolina stable, shrimp and grits can be found at almost any restaurant in the south.  Rich and comforting, this dish is just as comforting as it is delicious.

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South Dakota:  Chislic
Featuring cubed red meat served on a skewer, chislic is a dish commonly served in South Dakota.  The meat is often grilled or fried and can be anything from beef to lamb.

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Tennessee:  Nashville Hot Chicken
A local specialty of Nashville, hot chicken is basically fried chicken with a spicy batter.  Often served with a side of ranch dressing, this spicy chicken is a serious game changer!

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Texas:  True Texas Brisket
There’s no better place to get beef brisket than Texas.  I mean, look at that slice!!  Served just as is or piled high on a sandwich, Texas brisket is a meathead’s happy place.

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Utah:  Funeral Potatoes
A popular Mormon dish usually served at after-funeral dinners, Funeral Potatoes feature all the things that make your soul happy:  potatoes, cheese, cream, and butter.  These potatoes are great if you need a little pick-me-up, no matter what the reason!

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Vermont:  No-Bake Vermont Maple Syrup Cookies
Do yourself a favor and throw out any syrup you have that’s not directly from Vermont…because once you taste the real thing, you’re not gonna go back.  These no-bake cookies allow the real flavor of Vermont maple syrup to shine through and they’re sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

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Virginia:  Peanut Soup
Yes, it sounds weird…but peanut soup is a Virginia staple, and has been since the days of colonial Williamsburg.  Thick and satisfying, this soup is great for cold winters and is also a popular staple in African cooking.

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Washington:  Sweet Rainier Cherry Pie
Cherry pie may seem pretty universal, but pie made with Sweet Rainier cherries…that’s 100% Washington state!  Sweet and beautiful in coloring, Sweet Rainier cherries grow in Washington state and are tasty baked, cooked, or fresh off the tree!

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West Virginia:  Pepperoni Rolls
A strange, yet satisfying food, pepperoni rolls can be found all over West Virginia.  They all feature pepperoni slices baked inside loaves of fresh bread and can come with any variety of cheeses or other additions.

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Wisconsin:  Bratwurst Beer Cheddar Pretzel Pot Pie
I think I’d be hard-pressed to find a more Wisconsin-themed recipe.  Bratwurst…beer….cheese…pretzels….this pot pie features all the amazing flavors of this dairy state…and served with a nice stout, this pot pie will help you get through even the toughest midwestern winter.

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Wyoming:  Cowboy Chili
The cowboy state deserves a proper cowboy recipe.  Bursting with bold and strong flavors in a hearty stew, this cowboy chili is a guaranteed winner the whole crew is sure to enjoy.

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Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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7 of the Best Breweries in the Midwest

Besides sports and snow, the Midwest is king in beer. With new breweries popping up every day, the Midwest has claim on some of the best beers in the nation. As a brewer’s wife, I have had my fair share of hoppy, malty, delicious beverages, and I’ve gathered for you a few of my favorite must-see breweries.

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The great thing about the breweries listed here is that they all can and distribute, and you should be able to find most of these at your local liquor store…but nothing quite beats getting a fresh beer at the tap room!

You could easily hit up all of these on an epic beer-cation (we did 3 Floyds, Founders, New Glarus, and New Holland in one trip), or make a short weekend of it and visit a couple breweries in a given region. Ale Asylum and New Glarus are somewhat close to each other, as are Revolution and Half Acre. Founders and New Holland are a short drive from each other and 3 Floyds is easily reached in a few hours from Chicago.

And if you decide to travel to any of these breweries, do yourself a favor and take a tour! The New Glarus Hard Hat Tour is well worth the $30…and the tour at Revolution will excite beer nerds of all kinds. Most also offer food, so gather up your friends, jump in the car, and enjoy a beautiful summer day at one of these fine Midwest brewpubs!

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Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI
Popular Brews: All Day IPA, Dirty Bastard, Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Tours: Brewery Tours are offered Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Founders also offers a dinner series, beer tastings, and classes in beer making and evaluating.
Food Served: Yes.
Website: www.foundersbrewing.com

If you’re making a trip out to the Founders Brewery, do yourself a favor and go on a guided tour. See how the beer is made, packaged, and promoted in their amazing state-of-the-art facility. There’s also stunning artwork that decorates their workspace, including beer bottle chandeliers and living wall art made of hops. After your tour, stop into the Founders taproom (it’s beautiful!) and have a snack and a tasty libation.

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Revolution Brewing, Chicago, IL
Popular Brews: Anti-Hero IPA, Eugene Porter, Bottom Up Wit, A Little Crazy
Tours: Brewery Tours are offered Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. You can also organize private tours for groups up to 30 people.
Food Served: Yes.
Website: www.revbrew.com

A Chicago favorite, Revolution Brewing is a popular hang out for locals. A huge taproom make this a great place for parties and gatherings, and beer is almost on a constant rotation so there’s new stuff quite often. It was also the filming location for the 2013 movie, Drinking Buddies. With several award-winning brews and an awesome location to boot, Revolution Brewing is a must-see brewery for hop heads.

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New Glarus Brewing, New Glarus, WI
Popular Brews: Spotted Cow, Moon Man, Serendipity, Fat Squirrel, Totally Naked
Tours: New Glarus offers free self-guided tours during operation hours. For the real deal though, sign up for the Hard Hat Tour, a near 3-hour behind-the-scenes tour of this amazing world-class brewery. The Hard Hat Tour fills up fast though, since it’s only offered on Fridays…so plan ahead. If you can get tickets, believe me, it’s well worth it!
Food Served: No. But you can take your beer out to the hop garden and enjoy a lovely view of New Glarus.
Website: www.newglarusbrewing.com

I have been to this brewery several times and it still amazes me every time we visit. Besides the fact that the beer is probably some of the best in the country, the brewery itself looks like it was dropped into Wisconsin straight out of Germany. With lovely scenic views and a facility that is sure to impress, a visit to New Glarus Brewing is well worth the trip this summer!

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3 Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, IN
Popular Brews: Zombie Dust, Alpha King, Gumballhead, Robert the Bruce
Tours: Brewery Tours are offered on Saturdays.
Food Served: Yes. (and it’s AMAZING!)
Website: www.3floyds.com

A true treasure in Munster, 3 Floyds is, in a word, eclectic. Their brewpub is tiny and they don’t accept reservations, so plan ahead if you’re on a tight schedule. However, their food is some of the best I’ve had in a while and well worth the wait. If you need to grab and go, you can visit the Beer To Go station and grab your favorite brews that may be hard to find at liquor stores. 3 Floyds also hosts the infamous Dark Lord Day, a one-day festival that is the golden ticket for many beer enthusiasts.

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Half Acre Beer, Chicago, IL
Popular Brews: Daisy Cutter, Gone Away IPA, Space (taproom only)
Tours: Brewery Tours are offered every Saturday. A small fee gets you in the tour, three beer samples, and a pint glass.
Food Served: Yes.
Website: www.halfacrebeer.com

With two facilities in Chicago, Half Acre is quickly expanding and growing into a popular location for beer fans. A recent decision to offer food at the brewery has helped increase foot traffic, especially in the summer months. Not unlike other breweries, Half Acre also offers beers you can only get at the taproom, including Space, one of the best IPA’s I’ve ever had.

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Ale Asylum, Madison, WI
Popular Brews: Hopalicious, Bedlam!, Ambergeddon, Madtown Nutbrown
Tours: Brewery Tours are offered every Sunday. Includes a special sampling and a free pint of your choice.
Food Served: Yes.
Website: www.aleasylum.com

One of many breweries in Madison, Ale Asylum is a favorite for hop heads and chips and salsa fans. Strong and bold IPA’s and tasty late-night snacks make this a favorite hang out for visitors and locals alike. When you’re done there, head on down the street to Karben4 Brewing, another great brew pub pumping out tasty Wisconsin brews.

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New Holland Brewing, Holland, MI
Popular Brews: Dragon’s Milk, the Hatter series
Tours: Joint tours of the brewery and distillery are offered every Saturday.
Food Served: Yes.
Website: www.newhollandbrew.com

A nice brewpub in a sweet little town, New Holland Brewing offers good drinks and good food. Located in the sweet and quaint town of Holland, MI, this large-scale brewery produces beers that are big in flavor. With seasonal offerings and beers to appeal to more refined tastes (session beers, high gravity beers, barrel aged, and funky and sour beers, for example), this brewpub aims to challenge the pallet and present new and unique flavors on an ever-growing beer list.

Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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9 Clever Ways to Keep Your Food Cold in the Summer

HAPPY 4th OF JULY!

If you’re a citizen of ‘MURICA, chances are you’re donning your red, white, and blue attire and heading to your local firework display or BBQ cookout, picnic basket in hand. And if you’re traveling with fruit, deli salads, meats, cheeses, desserts, or the like, you’re probably wondering how to keep your food cold, despite boiling July temperatures. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re just trying to keep your edibles cold in transit or you need them cold for outdoor entertaining, these picnic and entertaining hacks will help you keep your cool and refreshing treats, well, cool and refreshing.

Summertime Hacks!
How to Keep Your Food Cold

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Place bottles of water in the freezer and use them to keep food cold when traveling. If frozen at least a week in advance, the bottles could stay frozen for up to a day, much more economical than that gas station ice that lasts about 2 seconds.

Keep drinks cold by placing them in a mixture of water and ice. Using just ice won’t distribute the cold as evenly as water will, so placing your drinks in an ice bath will keep them colder longer.

Full coolers tend to stay cold longer, so if your cooler has empty space, fill it with ice.

If traveling by car, keep your food/cooler in the passenger area. The temperature is usually cooler inside the car than it is in the trunk.

Create an ice bowl by putting a medium-sized bowl inside a larger bowl, then fill the larger bowl with water and freeze. Serve your salad or fruit in the insulated bowls.

If possible, freeze part of your dish. If you’re serving a fruit salad, mix in frozen blueberries before you head out the door. They should defrost in about 30 minutes.

Fill small water balloons with water and pop them in the freezer. Use them around your food to keep your table cold and decorative!
Side note, add some food coloring to the water before you freeze it. Peel the balloon off the frozen water for an amazing winter (or summer) decoration.

If you’re traveling a long distance, consider waiting to assemble your dish until you arrive at your destination. Mayonnaise, for example, can be kept at room temperature until the container is opened. It might also allow for easier travel if you don’t have to worry about your bowl tipping over. Just cut and package everything and assemble when ready.

Like your fridge, a cooler will stay colder if the lid stays closed. Avoid opening and closing the lid of your food cooler by keeping drinks and food in separate coolers, if possible.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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12 Weird and Wacky Museums

For some reason, the human race is hell bent on paying homage to weird and wacky things. Creative minds have turned trash into treasure and have collected, gathered, and displayed some bizarre oddities, including hair, bananas, toys, trash, and yes, even some certain male reproductive organs…

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If touring the country for The World’s Largest Things isn’t your bag, perhaps a trip to the Banana Museum is more up your alley…or if you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps a trip to the Mutter Museum to see some weird and wacky medical wonders is for you…

From the east to the west, the coast to the coast, here are 12 of the weirdest, wackiest, and best museums in the US!

 

The Hammer Museum
Haines, Alaska
Dedicated to the history of man’s first tool, the Hammer Museum houses roughly 1,500 hammers, dating back to the cave man days.

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The Museum of Miniatures
Tucson, Arizona
The Museum of Miniatures features 300 miniature houses and room boxes, as well as other collectables. This museum also houses the country’s oldest mini house, created in 1775.

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Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum
McLean, Texas
Featuring 2,000 variations of wire, this museum gives visitors an inside look at fencing, wire tools, and historical memorabilia. And with two giant spheres of barbed wire greeting visitors on the way in, this is one museum where you want to tread carefully.

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International Banana Museum
Mecca, California
Yup, it’s just what it sounds like. Salt n’ pepper shakers, hangers, ties, staplers, candles, toys, harmonicas, cookie jars, ash trays, squirt guns, videos and so much more…all banana themed! There are so many things in this museum that you’re sure to find something new each time you’re there.

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Morbid Anatomy Museum
Brooklyn, New York
There is a certain beauty in death, and the Morbid Anatomy Museum prides itself on finding it. Medical journals, embryological models, natural history specimens, and more are housed here, and a variety of exhibits keep the morbidly minded coming back time and again.

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The Vacuum Cleaner Museum
St. James, Missouri
Clean freaks rejoice! The Vacuum Museum is home to more than 600 vacuums, all in working condition. Starting in the early 1900s and working up to today, this museum even houses some celebrity vacuums, too!

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The Mutter Museum
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Crowned America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mutter Museum contains preserved collections of anatomical specimens, medical instruments, and medical oddities. Popular artifacts include Dr. Joseph Hyrtl’s human skull collection, jaw tumor of President Grover Cleveland, and Einstein’s brain.

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The Circus World Museum
Baraboo, Wisconsin
I’m not a huge circus person, but this museum is awesome! Located on the site of the original Ringling Bros. Circus, this museum features wagons and vehicles from international circuses and also puts on a show here and there for the kids.

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The Kazoo Museum
Beaufort, South Carolina
One of America’s only homegrown instruments, the kazoo has a history beginning in the 1800s. With nearly 200 kazoos on display, the Kazoo Museum is a fascinating adventure for kids and adults alike.

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National Museum of Funeral History
Houston, Texas
One of man’s oldest traditions is celebrated at the National Museum of Funeral History. Discover what funerals are like for Popes, explore the amazing cultural traditions of De Los Muertos, learn about various embalming techniques, visit Presidential funerals, and check out the amazing collections of coffins, caskets, and hearses.

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The National Mustard Museum
Middleton, Wisconsin
Wisconsinites know their mustard. With more than 5,600 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries, this one-of-a-kind museum is truly the king of condiments.

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Leila’s Hair Museum
Independence, Missouri
Founded by a former hair dresser, Leila’s Hair Museum features an impressive collection of part pieces made entirely from human hair. Jewelry, wreaths, and brooches make up the majority of the collection, and visitors can also see rare collectables with locks of celebrities’ hair.

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BONUS! If you think the US has weird public displays of collections, you should see what the world has to offer:

The Dog Collar Museum
Kent, United Kingdom
Featuring 130 historic pieces, the Dog Collar Museum has artifacts dating back to the late 15th century.

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The Hair Museum
Avanos, Turkey
Thousands of strands of hair lines the walls of this museum…most accompanied by notes and images. In fact, visitors are encouraged to add a few strands of their own hair to the expansive collection before leaving.

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Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
Delhi, India
With models dating back to 25,000 B.C.E., the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets is truly a wonder to behold. Just make sure you know which ones work!

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Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Explore once-used torture devices on display at the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, accompanied by historical engravings of real-life events.

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Icelandic Phallological Museum
Reykjavik, Iceland
This museum is dedicated to all things penile. With more than 215 members standing erect, this museum is truly one-of-a-kind.

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The Museum of Broken Relationships
Zagreb, Croatia
Revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins, this museum houses rings, clothing, Valentine’s Day gifts, and many more.

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Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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