The Bay Area is an epicenter of the eccentric and unique. All walks of life can be found in the wildly eclectic city of San Francisco and, naturally, there's something to cater to all interests. Major metropolitan areas offer all sorts of sights and sounds, but the Bay Area goes the extra mile in offering attractions that are a bit off of the well-trodden path. While some museums have an unfair reputation for being dry or mundane, these locales are nothing if not, well, interesting.

A players piano / photo by Daderot / CC0

Musée Mécanique – Fisherman’s Wharf

With the rising interest in barcades and generational nostalgia, arcade games are seeing their fanbase expand on either side of the age spectrum. With that increased interest, people are turning towards the roots of arcade games and San Francisco's Musée Mécanique meets that need, acting as a time capsule of gaming and amusement history. Musée Mécanique has one of the largest collections of antique arcade games as well as coin-operated musical instruments and other oddities. The space is huge but is still utterly filled with amusements. Walking through it is like walking through a combination of an indoor carnival and an arcade from yesteryear. Visitors can see (and even use) some of the machines on display; get your fortune, measure your sex appeal, and test your skills. It's an all-ages museum that genuinely appeals to all ages. Stop in and see Laffin' Sal, from San Francisco's ill-fated Playland-at-the-Beach and the Musée's most iconic item.

The Lab – Mission District

A safe haven for artists and art lovers alike, The Lab is a space that supports the underrepresented and the underprivileged. They believe in and foster the true spirit of artistic endeavors. Founded in 1984 by San Francisco State University Alums Alan Millar, John DiStefano, and Laura Brun, the space has matriculated thousands of artists of all races, creeds, and orientations. Exhibitions range from traditional visual studies like painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography. But their reach also extends to digital media, performance, and experimental work. The Lab has a year-round rotating calendar of exhibitions. In one of the most recent shows, attendees embarked on a boat cruise out on the water for a drag and noise-core extravaganza. With a strong sense of community and inclusion, The Lab is hospitable space that still challenges norms and pushes the boundaries, just the way true artistic progress was meant to be.

photo by Amy Snyder / CC BY-SA

The Exploratorium – North Beach

Ever wanted to be vacuum sealed in a garbage bag? Most would say "no", of course, but at the Exploratorium people can explore firsthand the feeling of atmospheric pressure shifts in a safe and fun way. The Exploratorium is a museum for the curious. It doesn't focus on any one topic or theme in particular, rather, it explores the idea of exploration itself. Patrons can observe and engage in hands-on exhibits that delve into perception, physics, and the environment. The Exploratorium was founded in 1969 by physicist Frank Oppenheimer and it has been a place of educational enrichment under the guise of a fun house.

CuriOdyssey – San Mateo, CA

When it comes to learning, there's no such thing as too much of a good thing. CuriOdyssey is a science and wildlife center that is a serious science playground. Even though it was officially dubbed CuriOdyssey in 2011, the museum itself has been in existence since 1953 under the name San Mateo County Junior Museum. What sets this museum apart from the rest is its live animal exhibits. In addition to its science and perception exhibits, the facility includes natural habitat areas that house a variety of animals that are indigenous to the state as well as a few out-of-towners. Keeping with the hands-on nature of the place, they offer interaction with some of the animals. Visitors can view otter and bobcat feedings and learn about wildlife on exhibit from trained professionals. Keep a close eye on this museum as they will be opening a new exhibit on March 25th called The Nature of Patterns.

Wall of pez dispensers / photo by Ingrid Taylor / CC BY

Burlingame Museum of Pez – Burlingame, CA

Few candies have as big of a cult following as Pez, since few candy companies offer toy accessories that double as collectibles. Pez came into this world in 1927 and in the following years got creative with its famous dispensing mechanism. Pez dispensers contributed to the popularization of franchise accessories. Dispensers of Looney Toons, DC, and Marvel characters helped launch the brand into major toy markets worldwide. And those franchises likewise benefitted from the partnership. The Burlingame Museum houses a copy of nearly every dispenser ever produced by the official brand. Emphasis on "official" because as funny as it sounds, bootleg Pez dispensers are made and sold all the time. Yes, people are actually making knock-off Pez dispensers. Whether you're into sugar pellets or not, the Burlingame Museum of Pez is quite a display.

Cartoon Art Museum – Russian Hill

Since the inception of films, animation has grown along with it. From comics to the zoetrope, cartoons have always occupied a huge chunk of visual entertainment. The Cartoon Art Museum (CAM) is the result of a grassroots effort to preserve and celebrate cartoons and comics. Founded in 1984 by Troubador Press publisher Malcom Whyte and a handful of enthusiasts, CAM has grown into a permanent collection of over 7,000 pieces. The space also features guest and touring pieces from private collectors and pieces from other spaces. Since 1998 CAM has presented its own award that recognizes life time achievements of cartoon legends. The Sparky Award is from the nickname of one of its first awardees, Charles M. Schultz, creator of The Peanuts. The first year also honored Chuck Jones and John Lasseter, the creators of Looney Toons and Pixar. The Cartoon Art Museum recently shut their doors on their Yerba Buena location but will reopen in a new space in the Russian Hill neighborhood.