5 of our favorite museums

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The Chicago History Museum earns top marks for local history museums.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is replacing this week’s “Wealthy Wednesday” because, by now, you should be filthy stinking rich, ergo, you need to know what to do with all that sweet, sweet cheddar.

Caitlyn, by training, is a public history grad. I’m not going to explain the difference between a “public historian” and an “historian,” but you can rest assured that when we tell you something is a good museum, it probably is.

That’s why we’re dishing out five of our favorite museums to you, free of charge. We visit museums a lot, so expect to see more rundowns like this in the future.

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Did we mention we like the Chicago History Museum?

Chicago History Museum, Chicago (Lincoln Park): We’ve been to loads of museums, but local history museums tend to fascinate us and this museum is the cream of the crop in that category. Step aboard an old elevated train (or “L”) car, swing by an exhibit on Chicago sports history (I particularly like the panel titled “Wait Til Next Year” … as a Maple Leafs fan, I can empathize), view Chicago history through a series of intricate dioramas or visit one of the seasonal exhibits. If you never make it beyond the Magnificent Mile or the Field Museum area, you’re missing out on one of the gems of Chicago culture.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores: The estate of Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, is a marvel to behold. Situated on Lake St Clair, just northeast of Detroit, this mansion, designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, also features a pool house, power house and a play house, the latter of which is a 2/3-scale Tudor-like house with miniature furnishings. It will make you sad the next time you come home to your child’s Fisher-Price home. Visit when it’s warm outside to take in the beauty of the gardens and lake.

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Not just for the ladies … the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto: Normally, I would poo-poo the idea of visiting a museum dedicated to shoes, but the exhibit, “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture,” is pretty fantastic. Follow the history of “sneakers” from when they were known as plimsoles in 1873 to the gaudy and outrageous sneakers of today from the likes of Prada, Nike and more. Located on fashionable Bloor Street, make sure you dress the part – it’s the Keystone (for my Indy friends) or Bloomfield Hills (for my Detroit friends) of Toronto.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston: I don’t like art museums. Perhaps it’s because I’m culturally bankrupt or just don’t “get it,” but, beyond contemporary or pop (e.g., Warhol) museums, they’ve never appealed to me. However, the Isabella Gardner Stewart Museum is one art museum that can separate itself from the pack. Complete with a huge indoor courtyard and unique display spaces, this museum does enough to keep my oft-distracted mind focused on a plethora of art, including paintings, sculptures, rare books, furniture, textiles and more.

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Tours of spice factories sound lame, but they’re not.

Grenada spice tours, Grenada: We realize this sounds like the most boring “museum” idea ever, but we visited both a nutmeg production factory and a spice factory during our trip to Grenada. Both (there are many such tours on the island) give you a better appreciation for that nutmeg or cinnamon you use in your baking, detailing the long history of spices on the island, including how Hurricane Ivan destroyed more than 90 percent of Grenada’s nutmeg trees in 2004, devastating the local economy.

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