One of the things that makes the United States of America wonderful is its variety of cities and towns, each harboring its own distinct character and resonating unique vibes. Quirkiness is a language that many cities of America speak quite well including the grand city of New York, the clandestine New Orleans, the vibrant Kansas City and let’s not forget Austin and Portland as these two cities literally have “weird” embedded in their town mottos.
However, quirkiness is in the quirky eye of the beholder and can be found in places you would never guess. So, if traveling across America and basking in its peculiarity is on your bucket list then this article on the top 10 quirkiest cities in America is for you. These off-beat treasures harbor such unique elements that will wow you to the core.
Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America – A Quick Glance
Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America – An Overview
1. New Orleans – The Most Peculiar among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Among the quirkiest cities in America, New Orleans is the one that is the most peculiar of all. Synonymous with the word quirky, the city is widely known for its voodoo shops, jubilant funerals, and nonstop festivals that include everything quirky from the San Fermin Festival to the Oak Street Po’Boy Festival. With its queerness and peculiarity, New Orleans was a shoo-in to win the quirky category. In fact, the off-beat, peculiar culture is so dominant in the city that it’s become mainstream, so much so that even the spas in the vicinity offer Voodoo massages, complete with chants and scents of absinthe.
To bask in the quirkiness of the city, you can visit the Pharmacy Museum which is a slightly creepy but equally fascinating little establishment. The museum lies right in the French Quarter and is filled to the brim with all sorts of wacky exhibits like old bottles of heroin that were legally sold in 1898 as painkillers, a tank of leaches with a text explaining how they were used in order to treat various diseases as well as a chloroform inhaler which was used during childbirth. Basically, anything that falls in the realm of “strange but true” can be found in this quirky museum.
Speaking of museums, foodies take note: The Southern Food & Beverage Museum and the Museum of the American Cocktail and be found lounging together on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. You only have to pay $12 to explore both of these quirky museums and check out the culinary history of the region, all the while glimpsing food and drink-related artifacts. Visitors also have the opportunity to dine on-site at Toups South, a restaurant that is run by a former Top Chef contestant. Also, what’s more peculiar than death? To explore your quirky, dark side, you can visit the Museum of Death which harbors coroners’ medical instruments, Mason family artifacts as well as crime scene photos.
Moreover, when in New Orleans a place that is not to be missed is the Voodoo Museum which lies in the French Quarter and has been telling the history of voodoo culture in New Orleans for nearly 50 years. You can also pay your respects to the voodoo queen Marie Laveau, who you will find resting in the St. Louis Cemetery. St. Louis Cemetery is a famous above-ground cemetery that is frequented by people from all around the state to witness the resting place of the notorious Voodoo Priestess.
2. Austin, Texas – The Weirdest among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Forgive our hearing, did we hear you say weird or Austin? Ah! Doesn’t matter, both are the same. The city of Austin has a reputation for being a bit weird, to put it mildly. And just to prove how seriously this quirky reputation of Austin is taken, an association of local businesses even used the promotional slogan “Keep Austin Weird” for a while. This is the kind of city, where if you will go hunting for gnomes and fairies in the park, no one will bat an eye. One of the least weird things that this city does is celebrate the birthday of Eeyore, from AA Milne’s Winne the Pooh books.
Start your quirky tour of one of the quirkiest cities in America by visiting the Cathedral of Junk in South Austin. This Cathedral of Junk is the work of artist Vince Hannemann aka the Junk King. The staggering structure is made up of everything junky from road signs to car bumpers to crutches and CDs. Started in the year 1988, the Cathedral of Junk has been constantly growing ever since then and is literally in the artist’s backyard. Therefore, if you wish to visit the place you can do so by appointment only.
The weirdest of the weird thing that resides in the quirky city is the Hippie Hollow Park. The park lies a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Austin, on the shores of Lake Travis, and is a clothing-optional park. Apart from the fact that you might find many humans in the park in their natural, God-given attrite, Hippie Hollow is a pleasant place harbouring nature trails, swimming areas, and drinking fountains on a 109-acre span of land.
Of course, a weird place is not complete without a weird museum. Therefore, when in Austin satiate your hunger for quirkiness by visiting the Museum of the Weird, which used to be a gift store selling all kinds of weird stuff like suits of armour, shrunken heads, and Fiji mermaids. However, the owners of the shop Steve and Veronica Busti, realized that there was more value in sharing their weird finds rather than selling them, and apparently the world agreed. So, a journey that began from a weird shop turned into a full-blown Museum of the Weird, the admission tickets of which cost about $12 for adults and $8 for kids.
3. Portland, Oregon – The Most Legendary among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Among the top quirkiest cities in America, the one that harbours a legendary community of hipsters and is known for being pedestrian and unicycle-friendly is Portland. As soon as you roll into Portland you will be surrounded by a unique vibe and friendly locals who take immense pride in their weird nature and eccentricities. Maybe you think weird had a bad connotation but that is not the case with Portland and its quirky people. Here, the word weird more resonates with the word lovable than with abnormal.
The quirky city is filled to the brim with weird activities one of them being the Zoobomb. Every Sunday in Portland, Zoobombers assemble at a big hill near the Oregon Zoo and bomb down it on minibikes or kiddy bikes. Basically, anything unusual goes, you can even come riding a unicycle and no one will stop you.
The Zoobomb isn’t the only quirky activity Portlanders like to do, every August the locals and tourists alike get together to put on the Adult Soap Box Derby. Taking place on the scenic extinct volcano that is Mt. Tabor Park, the Adult Soap Box Derby includes participants who create colourful homemade contraptions on wheels and fly down the big hill amidst the oohs and ahhs of the audience.
4. Providence, RI – The Oddest among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Saying that Providence, RI is a bit of an oddball is putting it mildly. Founded by the tolerance-advocating Rodger Williams, Providence is one of the quirkiest cities in America and offers an effortless combination of friendliness, culture, sophistication, and of course quirkiness. In the peculiar city, you will find more than a mere symphony and theater scene. Here you will be able to experience the all-puppet Big Nazo Theatre, where you will have a hands-on experience with the alienesque creatures. You can also immerse yourself in raucous musical joy by hearing the Extraordinary Rendition Band which is a local marching band featuring accordions, washboards, and sousaphones.
The city is also widely regarded for its sandwiches and burgers, but being a quirky city, of course, Providence had to add a little quirk of its own to its food. Only in Providence do the hot dogs also distinguish themselves. At the Olneyville New York System the savvy order is “three all the way with coffee milk”. This hot dog order comes with everything, mustard, chopped onion, meat sauce, and a glass of odd yet wholesome state drink.
5. Albuquerque, New Mexico – Most Enticing among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
When it comes to the top quirkiest cities in America, Albuquerque is the most enticing one, a city that will not let you get bored. Even its name “Albuquerque” had quirky in it, so of course the city is a unique and peculiar gem. The city is also a celebrity as it was the very place where the hit TV show Breaking Bad was filmed that was in its right, quite quirky to say the least.
Fans of the series can visit Albuquirky (not a spelling mistake, mind you) and opt for ABQ Trolley’s Bad Tour to explore Walter White’s version of the quirky city. You can even try piñon-accented coffee with faux-meth sprinkled Blue Sky doubt at Rebel Donuts if you are feeling a bit too quirky and want to have your own Breaking Bad moment.
You can also stay at the Hotel Parq Central which was a psychiatric hospital in its olden days and now has transformed into a luxurious hotel complete with a rooftop Apothecary Lounge, that sells pre-prohibition cocktails and a full selection of interesting bitters like blood orange, celery, and Aztec chocolate. Albuquerque keeps getting curiouser and curiouser as you explore it in depth.
6. San Francisco, California – The Most Fabulous among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
When talking about the quirkiest cities in America, leaving out San Francisco is considered a sin in Quirkland. This wonderfully fabulous city gave the world hippies and harbors a lawless and wild reputation that dates back to 1849. San Francisco is the kind of city that has been celebrated for its diversity and attracts outcasts from different parts of the world. To get your quirk on you can attend the city’s peculiar festivals like Up Your Alley and the Folsom Street Fair.
You can also visit the Columbarium which is run by the Neptune Society and is the final resting place of thousands of deceased residents of San Francisco. Each cubicle housed in the Columbarium harbouring the remains of a loved one showcase the unique personality of the deceased person. The neoclassical design of the building is another alluring aspect of the Columbarium.
To glimpse something utterly peculiar visit the California Academy of Sciences and see a 4-story indoor rainforest. What makes this 4-story rainforest unique is that every floor of the rainforest is unique in its own right harboring plants and animals from different rainforests around the world. Not to mention that you can visit Alcatraz, the most notorious prison in the USA, while on your trip to San Francisco.
7. Baltimore, Maryland – The Outcast among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Baltimore is a city that shows off its quirkiness with its own quirky dialect and has long celebrated its own outsider status. The city has made “being an outsider” its entire personality, so much so that the American Visionary Art Museum showcases a wide range of outsider art such as the broken glass and glitter rendition of George Washington by the Baltimore Glassman aka Paul Darmafall.
Speaking of George Washington, have you ever had an urge to see his pearly whites? Weird question, but nevertheless if you ever had such an urge, you can fulfill your dream by visiting the National Museum of Dentistry and glimpsing his famous dentures that were made of a variety of materials including metal, gold, lead and believe it or not bone and ivory from hippos. You can also dine in quirkiness by visiting the ever-so-peculiar Papermoon Diner which has offered a stunning collection of pop suture paraphernalia and delicious food since 1994. Today, the quirky diner is filled with mannequins leaning against walls and lounging on the floor like psychedelic gnomes.
One of the weirdest attractions that Baltimore is home to is the Nutshell Studies of Unexplainable Death. The Nutshell Studies of Unexplainable Death is home to 18 miniature death scene dioramas offering visitors an extraordinary glimpse into the mind of a master criminal investigator.
8. Kansas City, Missouri – The Most Outside the Box among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
These Midwesterners might have struck many readers as non-sense and thrifty but that does not make them dull, in fact, it makes them quirky. Kansas City is known wildly for its museums and sense of history although some of it is slightly outside the box. Visit the 1950s All-Electric House, which was originally built to offer a glimpse into the future.
Or tour the Arabia Steamboat Museum where you can explore a fascinating array of pre-Civil War artifacts that were recovered about 132 years after the boat sank in the Missouri River. You can also go on a quirky shopping spree by visiting the Weird Stuff Antiques. As the name indicates this is a shop that harbours all things weird and quirky from furniture to collectibles, to clothes, to records, and vintage cards. Weird Stuff Antiques is alike a garage sale on steroids harboring a definite weirdness factor.
Just outside of Kansas City lies Independence which is a peculiar place in its own right. The quirkiest tourists of all can visit Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence which houses 150 wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of jewelry made from or containing real human hair. You will also be able to find buttons and art made from human hair in the museum as well as famous locks of Marilynn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln.
9. Seattle, Washington State – The Most Unique among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Seattle is a unique place, to say the least. It is the city where according to census numbers, dogs outnumber children. So, when visiting the quirky city, follow the four-legged crowd to visit places with good vibes and quirkiness. Norm’s Eatery & Ale House is the kind of place where you will be able to satiate your hunger for quirkiness all the while calming down your grumbling stomach. At Norm’s, you can also dine with your four-legged friends.
However, when it comes to quirky things in Seattle, nothing beats the quintessential Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. After the Great Fire of 1889, an entire labyrinth of hidden streets was built underneath Seattle and today this labyrinth is open for exploration. Step back in time as you trawl through hidden passages, and alleyways, glimpsing rooms that once characterized the Emerald City.
If the underground tour failed to give you the heebie-jeebies and the quirky feels, how about you dial things up by embarking on a Seattle Terrors Haunted Dark History Walking Ghost Tour? This tour is one of the most unique things to do in Seattle and takes you through Emerald City’s grisly history, bringing you through mortuaries, haunted theaters, streets, and cemeteries.
10. New York City, New York State – Most Eccentric among the Top 10 Quirkiest Cities in America
Quirk and New York City go hand in hand. The city was weird and freaky way before those two words were considered cool. To admire freaky folks who prided in their nature way before the word unique and cool were associated with freaky, visit Coney Island Circus Slideshow where you will get to witness contortionists and fire-eaters doing what they do best, being quirky.
The city of New York has no shortage of wacky and outlandish adventures and one of them that is surely going to entice you is the Burlesque show, Company XIV troupe. This show will transport you to a whole other universe where aerialist will twirl form the ceiling in Lady Gaga sky-high heels and muscular men will appear in tutus.
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