The Minnesota Museum Dedicated To SPAM

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Tired of the Bahamas? Of course you are! Looking for an educational, affordable, food-related vacation that's fun for the whole family? Sure! Come on down to the SPAM Museum. About an hour and a half car ride away from the Mall of America, zoom over to Austin, Minnesota and you'll find the SPAM Museum — the only place in America where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about SPAM (plus probably a little more). Admission is free, and the memory is priceless.

Few foods are the subject of as much heated and enduring controversy. But, one thing is undebatable: folks who like SPAM really like SPAM. The unlikely star has accrued something of a cult following over the years. Hop on Redbubble and you'll find a slew of SPAM-inspired clothing and stickers. Etsy sells mini SPAM can dangle earrings. For some light reading, fans can flip through "SPAM: The Cookbook" or any of its fellow canned-meat-centric publications. A 1970 Monty Python skit perhaps most accurately captured diehard fans' opinion of the food. ("I'm having SPAM SPAM SPAM eggs SPAM SPAM bacon sausage and SPAM.")

The word SPAM might be a conglomerate of "spiced ham" or, according to some lore, an acronym for "Scientifically Processed Animal Matter." But, true SPAM-heads know that the latter rumor is just propaganda spread by foodies whose third eye has (tragically) remained unopened to the beloved square can. SPAM rocks — and there's an entire museum dedicated to its glory. Here's what's inside.

Get silly and learn a slice of history at the same time

The SPAM Museum is a physical ode to the food and its history. (If you happen to speak with the regional vernacular of a Minnesotan, the name will sound like "SPAM myoo-SAM" in a delightful canned-meat-themed rhyme.) Under the expert care of museum tour guides called "SPAMbassadors," visitors can tour the brand's biography with a walk-through timeline of different product packaging, dioramas, and memorabilia — learning all about the history of SPAM. The combination of pork, potato starch, salt, sugar, water, and sodium nitrite first hit the market as a thrifty way to pass unwanted meatstuffs onto desperate consumers during the Great Depression. Pork shoulder? "Yuck," said foodies of the '30s. But, they were singing a different tune when Spam rolled off factory lines and onto household dinner tables on July 5, 1937. By 1959, it had already sold a billion cans of SPAM. Today, Hormel has cranked out more than eight billion cans of the stuff.

Measure your height in SPAM cans or take your photo with a statue of "Sir Canalot" the knight. Then, step inside the "SPAM Shack" filled with surfboards to celebrate SPAM's particularly devoted Hawaii fanbase. Foodies can pursue the "Wall of SPAM" showcasing all the different flavors like Tocino, Hot & Spicy, Hickory Smoke, and more, then put their SPAM knowledge to the test with the "SPAM Yourself" trivia game. If all this activity makes you hungry, you're in luck: There's even a food counter selling SPAM-inspired fare.

Whacky SPAM-themed oddities to take home

To top off a fun and informative visit, fans can swing by the museum's gift shop, which sells all things SPAM for the canned meat lover in your life. The SPAM SHOP has everything from tame offerings like crewnecks and umbrellas to oddities like fanny packs, bowling shirts, cycling jerseys, a Hawaiian shirt printed with surfing cans of SPAM, and a god-forsaken banjo-adjacent instrument called the "Canjo." (It's awesome.) Don a SPAM straw hat during the daytime and pull on some plaid paSPAMa pants for sleeping. (The museum doesn't call them "paSPAMAs" but they should, honestly.) There are even miniature diecast SPAM delivery trucks so you can recreate a warehouse drop-off. (So lifelike!)

The early bird gets the ticket to the SPAM museum: it's open from 10 am to 5 pm Monday-Saturday, and 11 am to 3 pm on Sundays. The gift shop is open during business hours. It moved locations in April 2016 and is currently located at 101 3rd Avenue NE Austin, MN. Out-of-state foodies, rest assured: The SPAM Museum also offers free virtual tours by appointment. The entire 14,000-square-foot museum takes one-to-two hours to get through, plus there's free parking and free samples. This museum lends a whole new meaning to "food tourism" — and this is your formal invitation to "spam" the museum with visitors hungry to learn more.