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One way to hit the right note on a family road trip is by exploring a music museum. While the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Grammy Museum, the Experience Music Project and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum top the music museum charts, there are plenty of lesser-known gems that spotlight specific aspects of the music world.
Blue Ridge Music CenterThe Blue Ridge Music Center provides a glimpse into the region of America that famed musicologist Alan Lomax described as the country’s richest breeding ground of traditional music. The center’s Roots of American Music Museum reveals the multi-cultural nature of the Appalachian along with showing how local legends like the Carter Family and Ralph Stanley have influenced contemporary music. Located along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax, Va., this scenic center also offers visitors a little outdoor exercise on its hiking trails and entertainment with its daily free midday music performances.www.blueridgemusiccenter.org
The Kazoo MuseumDid you know that the kazoo is one of few instruments that originated in America? The Kazoo Museum stands as an amusing shrine to this popular little noisemaker. Situated in the coastal city of Beaufort, S.C., the museum is home to more than 200 kazoo-related items — from unusually-designed kazoos to rare kazoo recordings. Besides checking out the museum’s colorful kazoo collection, visitors can also tour the Kazoobie Kazoos factory. There they can see how the instrument is made and even get the chance to make a kazoo to take home — although it might make for a noisy car ride. www.kazoomuseum.org
The Museum of Making Music (MoMM)Innovation is the focus of this Carlsbad, Calif.-based museum (located minutes away from Legoland). Founded by NAMM (The National Association of Music Merchants), MoMM covers milestone moments in American music business and showcases historic instruments (including a 1927 Theremin) and the pioneers who created or played them. In each of the museum’s galleries, visitors have the opportunity to play “breakthrough” instruments such as a Fender Telecaster guitar or a Gibson mandolin, plus there’s an interactive studio with more instruments — such as a MiniMoog, electric drums and a Slaperoo — to play. www.museumofmakingmusic.org
Rebel State Historic SiteMany curious attractions can be discovered when you exit the Interstates. Take, for example, the Rebel State Historic Site, located off Interstate 49 near Natchitoches, La. Civil War buffs can be interested in the gravesite commemorating the Unknown Confederate Soldier, while music fans can visit the Louisiana Country Music Museum. Designed to resemble a guitar, this small museum actually covers a range of regional roots music and has exhibits on Hank Williams and Governor Jimmie Davis (an actual Louisiana governor who had a hit with “You Are My Sunshine”). Guests can also pick and pluck on instruments like a dobro and banjo at its “musical petting zoo.” www.crt.state.la.us/parks/irebel.aspx
Rhythm! Discovery CenterIf you have kids who like to bang on things, then this Indianapolis museum is a place to visit. The epitome of a hands-on experience, the Percussive Arts Society-run center welcomes guests to touch and play its collection of more than 150 drums and other types of percussion instruments from around the globe — and from out of this world (there’s a Celestaphone made out of meteorites). Wondering what ranks among guests’ favorite things to do at the center? A drum roll, please. Banging an 8-foot gong drum is one popular attraction as is the “Shimmer Wall,” where you can play five bass drums and observe their sound walls. http://rhythmdiscoverycenter.org