For anyone who's ever wanted to visit odd places—such as the world's first nuclear power plant, a cemetery or a museum for mechanical puzzles—next Saturday might be a day to mark on the calendar.
May 6 is Obscura Day, organized by Atlas Obscura, a website devoted to documenting places and things charming and alarming but usually left out of standard guidebooks. This year, Obscura Day will include more than 170 special programs, expeditions and tours in the U.S. and around the world. Many events are free but require a ticket, while some charge admission and are based on availability.
"We sometimes forget that there's always something around the corner that could surprise you or amaze you," said David Plotz, CEO of Atlas Obscura. "This is our day where we want to make explorers out of everyone."
Below are a few of the more offbeat choices, compiled by CNBC ahead of Obscura Day:
In Somerville, MA, the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) currently features the "Dopplehangers" exhibit celebrating paintings that, intentionally or not, represent well-known people. Obscura Day visitors may bring in artwork and have a curator determine if the work is good enough to be considered museum-quality bad art.
"MOBA just couldn't pass up an opportunity to work with like-minded organizations in presenting quirky, interesting, intelligent ideas," said Louise Sacco, MOBA's permanent acting interim director.
On the University of California San Diego campus in La Jolla, CA, there will be an interactive, behind-the-book tour of the Geisel Library, named for Theodor Geisel and home to the Dr. Seuss collection.
The jam-packed tour includes access to the 3D CAVEkiosk, which offers virtual reality visits to archaeological and at-risk cultural sites around the world; a musical recital featuring the library's toy piano collection; and a chance to play with Theremins—an eerie-sounding early electronic instruments.
For Obscura Day, the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover, DE has organized a special tour of its collection of phonographs, "talking machines," memorabilia, and recordings celebrating E.R. Johnson, the founder of the Victrola Talking Machine Company. The museum also honors Nipper, the real dog who served as the model for "His Master's Voice," a painting depicting a dog listening to a gramophone who went on to become an iconic brand image.
In Butte County, ID, the Experimental Breeder Reactor-I, which back in 1951 was the first power plant to produce electricity using atomic energy, is now a national historic landmark and a museum. In advance of its traditional Memorial Day season opener, the museum will offer special Obscura Day guided and self-guided tours of the on-site nuclear reactor, the reactor control room, radiation detection equipment, and more.
Puzzle fans will have a chance to learn about the Slocum Mechanical Puzzle Collection at the Lilly Library in Bloomington, IN with the Curator of Puzzles as their guide. The collection includes 4,000 puzzle-related books, and over 30,000 hand-held objects that must be manipulated to 'solve' or achieve a certain goal. On Obscura Day, the puzzle curator will share the history of the collection, lead visitors through the exhibit 400-puzzle exhibit and may offer clues to help solve some of the puzzles.
Guides tours will be offered at Pasaquan, a restored 7-acre visionary art environment in Buena Vista, GA that features the work of self-taught artist Eddie Owens Martin, who went by the name of St. EOM (pronounced 'ohm'). On the National Register of Historic Places, Pasaquan's treasures include six major structures, more than 900 feet of masonry fence, painted totems, sculptures and more—all bearing artwork St. EOM created over 30 years. The artist took his own life in 1986.
In Brooklyn, NY, Ryan Matthew Cohn will lead Obscura Day visitors through his cocktail bar set inside the House of Wax, which is filled with more than 100 anatomical models he salvaged from a 19th-century German wax museum.
"Fetal abnormalities, body modification, genital disease… We'll go section by section and talk about what's significant about certain pieces," said Cohn. "And then everyone will have a cocktail and sit down."
Self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryer will be welcoming visitors to the 3-acre garden in Bishopville, SC he began working on in the early 1980s.
It is now a wonderland filled with more than 300 plants and trees that have been transformed into abstract and whimsical-shapes that are now topiary treasures.