Looking for unique things to do in Idaho? Take a trip to the Idaho Potato Museum ... this one of a kind museum is a fun destination for kids and adults alike!
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Have you been to Idaho? I visited for the first time recently and was blown away ... it's such a gorgeous state. From soaring mountains to beautiful lakes, the scenery is breathtaking.
I hadn't really known or thought much about Idaho before this trip. To me, Idaho = potatoes, and that was about it.
Now that I've been there, I realize how much I've been missing out. This state is definitely worth exploring more, and I've even created an Idaho bucket list, which has been growing longer and longer.
I'll be writing more about this state in the future, but to be honest, Idaho really is all about potatoes. And I love potatoes! So on my recent road trip through the state, I definitely wasn't going to miss the Idaho Potato Museum, and neither should you!
Idaho Potato Museum
If you're looking for creative, off the beaten path things to do in Idaho, the Idaho Potato Museum is a must!
The state of Idaho and the ever popular potato are synonymous for good reason. Idaho has been the #1 potato producing state for 50 years. It's farmers grow 30% of potatoes produced in the U.S. That's a lot of potatoes!
This is one veggie that has changed the world, and I can't think of a better place to learn more about this tasty tuber than the Idaho Potato Museum.
If all this sounds a little boring, trust me, this clever food museum is anything but. Sure, you'll learn plenty about potato history and production. This museum has its tongue firmly planted in cheek though, and everything you'll see here is presented in a fun and entertaining way.
The Potato Museum is located in Blackfoot, Idaho, the Potato Capital of the World. This small town grows more potatoes than any other single place.
It's a cute little town, and it's definitely worth checking out the colorful murals in downtown Blackfloot before you leave. If you happen to visit the museum on the third Saturday in September, stop by nearby Shelby for Spud Day! This annual celebrations features fun activities like a Senior Citizens Pancake Breakfast, Parade, Spud Picking Contest, and Spud Tug.
As you walk into the museum (which is located in an vintage train depot), you'll be greeted by a life size cutout of Marilyn Monroe. The story goes that Marilyn showed up at a holiday party in 1951, looking amazing as always. A columnist pointed out that with her stunning figure, she'd look good even if she was wearing a potato sack.
This prompted Marilyn's PR agent to have a dress made from a burlap sack, which she wore for a photo session. The original sack was made by Long Produce in Twin Falls, Idaho, and the owners thanked her for the publicity. She responded by sending an autographed photo, which they displayed in their office and used for publicity.
Grab a selfie with Marilyn on your way into the museum!
Potato Museum Exhibits
After, you pass Marilyn, you'll walk into the gift shop. You'll pay your admission and enter the museum here.
As you walk into the museum, the first thing you'll see is a display about the history of the potato.
A Quick History of the Potato
If you think of the potato as a European food, you may be surprised to learn that potatoes were first grown in Peru about 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.
After the Spanish destroyed the Incan Empire, they brought the potato back to Europe. It took a while for the potato to catch on, but the cheap source of nutrition was eventually embraced and led to an explosion in population growth.
In the early 1800s, lack of genetic diversity left the potato vulnerable to disease, and potato blight began spreading in Central and North America. By the middle of the century, the blight had spread to Europe where crops were even more susceptible to the disease. Ireland was particularly dependent on the potato, and by the early 1900s, the Great Famine caused Ireland to lose more than half of its population, either to death or mass emigration.
The potato was first grown in Idaho in the 1800s. Due to the rich volcanic-ash soil and abundant water, potato production soon thrived in Idaho. Today, more potatoes are grown in Idaho than anywhere else in the U.S.!
After you've learned a little about the potato's history, you'll enter a room filled with potato-related artifacts.
This was my favorite part of the museum. There's little bit of everything here, from international potato products to novelty souvenirs. We spotted potato-adorned clothing, toys, postcards, and even super heroes and comic books. You'll also see vintage photos from local potato harvests.
And then there are the potatoes themselves! The museum has a collection one-of-a-kind potatoes, such as a heart-shaped potato and a potato inside a potato. Which left me wondering ... how exactly did they know there was a potato inside the potato? I guess there are some things we may never know.
A Potato Signed by Dan Quayle
Who remembers Dan Quayle (President George H.W. Bush's VP)? Then, you may also recall that he became infamous for misspelling the word potato. Basically, he told a kid in a spelling bee that he needed to add an "e" to the end of potato (making it potatoe).
Quayle was already known for his kooky statements such as "I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future," and "I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix." (There are many more if you want a good laugh!) And he was often mocked by the press and the public alike for being incompetent, so the potato fiasco didn't exactly help his case. (To his credit, it was partially the school's fault.)
Anyway ... looong story short, the Idaho Potato Museum has a potato signed by Dan Quayle on display, alongside a somewhat snarky letter written to Quayle by Idaho's governor. Notice the P.S. on the letter: "There is no 'e' in Idaho either." Ha ha.
The Potato Museum is also home to a large number of potato-related items that have been donated by collectors.
There's a Mr. Potato Head collection that's super adorable, as well as what may be the world's largest collection of potato mashers. They also have a collection of spud spikes. I'd never heard this cooking tool before, but they're nails that you push into potatoes to make them bake faster and more evenly.
Want to try this unique kitchen tool out for yourself? You can buy a spud spike here or pick one up in the gift ship during your visit!
The World's Largest Potato Crisp
Another unique thing you'll find at the museum is the World's Largest Potato Crisp!
It's basically a giant Pringle and was created by food engineers at Proctor & Gamble in 1991. This giant potato crisp measures 25 x 14-inches and is the equivalent of 80 regular-size Pringles.
Are you craving potatoes yet?
Potato Growing and Harvesting Equipment
In the next section of the museum, you'll learn how the potato is grown and harvested from start to finish.
Here, you'll find a collection of farming equipment that has been used throughout the years. You'll see everything from harvesting machines to tractors to potato sack makers (I'm sure that's the technical term!).
Just wait until you see how farming innovations have improved the the potato growing process over the years. Let's just say that if your ambition is to be a potato farmer, be thankful you are living in the 21st century!
Did you travel to the Idaho Potato Museum with kids? They'll love the Potato Lab, and so will you!
If you remember, the museum is located in an old train depot. The lab is located on the original freight platform ... pretty cool, right?
In the lab, you're able to try fun experiments, hold a Mr. Potato Head Race, and even play computer games designed by the Idaho Potato Commission.
Other Things You'll See at the Idaho Potato Museum
There are so many cool things to see at this museum that it's hard to include them all in one post. Here are a few of the other things you'll want to check out.
As you walk around the museum, keep your eyes peeled for signs of the vintage train depot like below. And there's Marilyn again, too!
The Potato Cinema
Step into the museum's theater to watch one of four short films about Idaho potatoes.
We watched a film about McDonald's french fries and how they're made ... from real potatoes, in case you're wondering! It was actually really interesting and left me craving fries.
A Ton of Potato Facts
Most of all, you'll learn all sorts of unique potato facts during your visit ... from how potatoes changed the world to how many french fries it would take to circle the earth's equator. (Find the answer below.)
Let's just say that the humble potato is way more fascinating than you ever knew!
Idaho Potato Museum Gift Shop
Before you leave, make sure to browse the museum's Spud Sellar Gift Shop.
It's filled with all sorts of cute and kitschy Idaho potato gifts. From cookbooks to coffee cups to magnets, they have something for every potato lover. And they pack your purchases in an authentic Idaho potato sack ... how cute is that?
The museum also offers "free taters for out of staters", so don't forget to claim yours before you leave. Sadly, they were out they day we visited.
Idaho Potato Museum Cafe
The cute Potato Station Café is well worth a visit, as well. You'll find it in the same building as the museum.
Stop by for a snack or meal. You can get fries (regular or waffle), order a spud from the baked potato bar, and more.
The fries I tried were delish, and I also indulged in an Idaho Spud Candy, which was basically a marshmallow-filled chocolate (covered in coconut). I'm not the biggest marshmallow fan, so I'll stick with the fries next time!
Giant Potato Selfie
It would be almost impossible to miss the giant baked potato in front of the museum.
Before you head out, don't forget to take a selfie. The museum even provides a phone holder so you can get everyone in your potato pic.
Planning Your Trip to the Idaho Potato Museum
I hope you enjoyed reading about this fun, quirky food museum! You really couldn't find a more perfect road trip destination, so add it to your Idaho bucket list.
Here's a little info to help you plan your visit:
- Location: The museum is located at 130 Northwest Main Street in Blackfoot, Idaho. Blackfoot, which is located in southern Idaho and grows more potatoes than any other single place, is known as the Potato Capital of the World.
- Hours: From September through May, the museum is open from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Saturday. In June, July, and August, the museum is open from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Saturday. The museum is closed on Sundays, Thanksgiving, and from Christmas through New Year’s.
- Admission: Fees are: adults ($4.00); seniors, AAA, and military ($3.50); children 5 to 12 ($2.00); children 4 and under (Free); and groups of 15 or more ($3.00 each). Call ahead to schedule a group tour: (208) 785-2517.
- Cafe: The museum has a small restaurant serving delicious french fries, a baked potato bar, sweet treats, drinks, and more. Make sure to stop in after your visit to the museum. The cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
- What You'll See: The museum, which is located in an old railroad depot, is home to a wide range of exhibits. You'll discover the history of the potato and how it came to be grown in Idaho, learn about the growing and harvesting process, view unique collections of potato-related paraphernalia, watch videos, explore the Potato Lab, and more. Not from Idaho? Before you leave, make sure to collect your "free taters for out of staters."
- How Much Time to Allot: Planning on spending about an hour at the Potato Museum. If you're really into potatoes or agriculture, give yourself more time. And add on a little time to enjoy a bite in the cafe before you leave.
- Learn More: Visit the museum's website to learn more about this unique destination.
If you enjoy visiting museums, here are a few others you'll also want to explore:
- Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico - Learn about Puerto Rican art and culture at this amazing museum in San Juan, PR.
- National Palace Mexico City - Headed to CDMX? The gorgeous National Palace, with its massive Diego Rivera murals, is a must see!
- New Orleans Pharmacy Museum - Discover the truly fascinating (and creepy) history of pharmacy and healthcare.
- Mardi Gras World - Can't make it to Mardi Gras? No worries, you can see the parade floats being produced right at this colorful NOLA museum.
What is your favorite one-of-a-kind museum?