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12 of America’s Best Motorcycle Museums

The motorcycle culture in America is unique throughout the world...

The motorcycle culture in America is unique throughout the world, it being deeply rooted in our history and our cultural identity. One of the best ways to honor and celebrate that history is by paying a visit to one of America’s best motorcycle museums. Scattered all over the country, each tells a fascinating story of how we arrived at our incredible modern-day machines.

Motorcycle museums offer a truly special experience: a journey back in time, and an illustrative way of seeing how we arrived where we are with the marvels of machinery we currently have to ride. Beginning with bicycles with an engine strapped onto them to today’s motorcycles with state of the art technology, there’s a whole timeline of development on display at many of these motorcycle museums.

Museums aren’t merely about history. Often they also tell a story of human creativity, perseverance, and daring experiments. These experiments weren’t always successful, and didn’t always end well for the pioneers who initiated them, but they did lead to great discoveries and new ways of thinking about two-wheeled transportation. And, of course, the joy of riding modern-day motorcycles.

Here are what we think are the twelve most captivating motorcycle museums in the U.S.A.


Harley-Davidson Museum - Milwaukee, WI

The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, looks and feels like an enormous labyrinth filled with fascinating motorcycling treasures. From the oldest Harley-Davidson motorcycle in existence to the newest models of today, this museum tells an extraordinary story that began over a century ago and still continues today.

Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson were avid cyclists, and it was that passion for two wheels and freedom that united them. After starting the Harley-Davidson company in 1903, they produced their very first motorcycle which was, in essence, a bicycle with a motor. Six years later, Harley and Davidson designed the first V-twin engine, followed by a first overhead-valve engine known as the Knucklehead in 1936.

The rest, as they say, is history. And that history is displayed in incredibly creative ways at the Harley-Davidson museum. From more traditional bike and memorabilia exhibits to optical illusions where a motorcycle, completely taken apart, looks like it’s in one piece from a certain angle, this museum will tickle Harley-Davidson fans. There's a special exhibition of Harley-Davidson models where you can not only touch but also sit on the bikes. This museum showcases the incredible history and the true American spirit of entrepreneurship and ingenuity, as well as the richness of American motorcycling culture.


Getting there: The Harley-Davidson museum is easy to reach in the southeastern corner of the intersection of the 94 and 794 in Milwaukee. You’ll need a whole day to thoroughly explore the museum. Consider staying in the Milwaukee area for the entire weekend and exploring the roads around Lake Michigan. And if you want to make it a truly unforgettable experience, join our special Route 66 Tour because there’s just nothing quite like riding the length of the legendary Route 66 after enjoying an exclusive VIP experience at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Chicago, Milwaukee AirportMilwaukee Downtown, Palatine, Madison.

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Wheels Through Time - Maggie Valley, NC

Exploring the Wheels Through Time Museum located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, feels like entering the strange and magical dungeon of a motorcycle wizard. Each section of the museum has a theme of its own. The Chopper Graveyard, for example, looks like an authentic garage straight from the iconic movie Easy Rider, filled with jaw-dropping, modified Harley-Davidson and Indian machines from the 1960s. Hillclimb Hill, another themed mini-exhibition, unveils the history of the early American hill climbing races, complete with a small replica of a typical hill littered with motorcycle chains and surrounded by extremely rare 1930s Excelsior, Indian and Harley-Davidson models.

Other exhibits, such as Military Might, American Racer, and Board Track America, among others, all tell a different story of each decade, motorcycling trends, racing techniques, or bike builds. It’s told in a way that truly immerses you in the culture and spirit of the time, so make sure you plan to spend a whole day -- or even the whole weekend -- at Wheels Through Time because it takes a while to truly see and experience it all.

Through Time has a world-class collection of over 350 rare Indian, Harley-Davidson, Henderson, Yale, and many other makes and models of motorcycles from the early 1900s to 1990s as well as memorabilia, adding to its magical atmosphere.

Getting there: The Wheels Through Time museum is located on the outskirts of the Maggie Valley township, right off Route 19. Riding there is an adventure all of its own. Maggie Valley rests right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smoky Mountains, offering nearby scenic and famous rides such as the Tail of the Dragon, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Rattler, and the Cherohala Skyway.

The town of Maggie Valley has several mom and pop style motels and diners, so you might want to spend several days there exploring the Wheels Through Time museum, the local ambiance, and enjoying its stunning scenery and rides.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: AtlantaGreenville, Smoky Mountain H-D - Knoxville Airport, Rock Hill.

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


AMA Hall of Fame Motorcycle Museum - Pickerington, OH

A very special place for motorcycling history, the AMA Hall of Fame Motorcycle Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, is a Mecca for fans of the all-American bike and rider. From vintage dirt bikes to dazzling 1990s custom builds, memorabilia, and intriguing stories about the AMA Hall of Fame inductees, this museum is a must-see for everyone who appreciates American motorcycling in all its forms: track, road, and trail.

The beautifully designed exhibition gallery features legends like Evel Knievel, Steve McQueen, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren, Gary Nixon, Mary McGee, as well as motorcycling's many other luminaries. “Where heroes live on” is the official tagline of the museum, and visiting it means not just learning about history but honoring it.

The main floor of the museum features the gallery of the Hall of Famers, and the motorcycle exhibitions here change from time to time. Currently the museum is hosting an exhibition of enduro motorcycles titled “Six Days — U.S. International Six Days Enduro Teams and the Chase for the World Trophy”. Before going, make sure you check their website for latest updates and news.

Getting there: The museum is located right off Interstate 70 outside of Columbus, Ohio. If you’re coming in from the Southeast, make sure to ride route 536, dubbed “Ohio’s Tail of the Dragon”. Follow the turn off onto 536 just outside Hannibal, then join the 78 near Cameron. There’s nothing but twists and turns in between.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: ColumbusDayton, Steel City H-DCincinnati.

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Solvang Motorcycle Museum - Solvang, CA

If you’ve ever wondered what a private collection of vintage race motorcycles (both track and motocross) would look like, wonder no more: head to Solvang in California and check out the small yet impressive Solvang Motorcycle Museum. Privately owned by Virgil Elings, the collection includes bikes from the 1910s to present day, across all makes and models but with a focus on racing.

If you’ve never seen an early twentieth-century motorcycle with wooden wheels, or a miracle like the Belgian FN built in 1910, one of the world’s oldest running motorcycles, then Solvang will be a fantastic museum to visit and explore. It has a minimalist look compared to the bigger museums like the Wheels Through Time or the AMA Museum, but the collection of rare vintage bikes at the Solvang Motorcycle Museum is well worth the trip.

Getting there: Solvang is an easy day’s ride from of Los Angeles. If you plan to spend a whole weekend in the area, consider extending your ride to one of the nearby National Parks –Yosemite, Sequoia, or Death Valley -- all offering scenic rides and stunning natural landscapes.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Los Angeles, Bartels Harley-Davidson, Lancaster, Harbor City.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


The Shop - Ventura, CA

The Shop in Ventura, California, is all about American motorcycles. A treasure cove of rare, all-American vintage bikes such as the 1900s Indian, Harley-Davidson, Pope, and Thor motorcycles, The Shop is well known amongst riders as the spot not to miss while in California.

Besides being a curious museum of vintage machines, The Shop also serves as a workshop and tools distributor. Need a part or a spare tool for your 1940s Indian? The Shop is where you’ll get it, as well as a wide array of accessories, books, and vintage motorcycle manuals.

Getting there: Ventura is located almost midway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, so whichever way you’re coming in you are in for a beautiful coastal ride. If you have some time to spare, be sure to explore the nearby Los Padres National Forest area which offers some great motorcycle riding or head up scenic Route 1 along the California coast for a spell.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, Lancaster, Harbor City.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Petersen Automotive Museum - Los Angeles, CA

Although the Petersen Automotive Museum– one of the world’s largest automotive museums - is dedicated primarily to cars and the automobile culture, motorcycle enthusiasts will find stunning exhibitions of bikes here as well.

Currently the museum is displaying a Custom Revolution collection featuring new custom motorcycles. With cutting edge technology and incredible designs, the fusion of the old and the new, and innovative, creative ways of looking at custom motorcycle builds – the Custom Revolution collection is a sight to behold. Here, motorcycles are easily beheld as functional works of art.

This particular exhibition ends soon, however, so make sure to check the Petersen Automotive Museum webpage for details on their new and upcoming exhibitions.

Even if you prefer two wheels to four, the museum is worth a visit when you’re in Los Angeles. After all, this is the most car-centric city in the world and experiencing its car culture in the Petersen Automotive Museum brings a whole new depth and understanding of both four and two-wheeled machines, their history, and their place in our present-day society.

Getting there: The Petersen Automotive Museum is located near Beverly Hills on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.  You can quite easily spend a whole day exploring the museum or combine this museum with the Solvang Motorcycle Museum or The Shop in Ventura to round out a weekend trip.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, Lancaster, Harbor City.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum - Birmingham, AL

Rows upon rows of motorcycles are stacked in shelves on top of one another in the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Its large, spacious, multi-story heaven of motorsports history in Birmingham, Alabama, has a creatively displayed exhibition that leaves every visitor in wonder and awe.

The sheer size and scope of the museum makes visitors feel like they are entering the lofty halls of motorcycling history. Here, motorcycles are treated as works of art and they are carefully restored and maintained by a highly skilled team making Barber Vintage Motorsports a “living museum”. Most of the exhibits, though suspended in their shelves and paddocks, are road-ready.

The museum has a stunning collection of 1,400 motorcycles made anywhere between the early 1900s and present. Exhibitions frequently change, but on any given day visitors can see over 650 motorcycles on display. In addition to the two-wheeled wonders, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum also houses exquisite cars such as Lotus and Ferrari. If you’re into Formula-1, not just Moto GP, this museum will feel like Disneyland for adults.

Getting there: The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is located just outside Birmingham, Alabama, and you can easily access it by taking Interstate 20. If you’re heading east afterward, explore the backroads towards Chattanooga and cut across the Little River Canyon National Preserve and the Lookout Mountain, a beautiful mountain ridge offering spectacular views and lots of twisties.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Opelika, Columbus Georgia, Morrow, Atlanta.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations

The National Motorcycle Museum - Anamosa, IA

Located in the rolling hills of Iowa just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The National Motorcycle Museum houses over 450 motorcycles from the US, Europe, and Japan, as well as thousands of pieces of curious memorabilia. Open year-round, the National Motorcycle Museum is filled with iconic vintage motorcycles, movie posters, racers’ outfits, jumpsuits, helmets, neon signs, and so much more.

Motorcycles originated from bicycles, and to honor that history the National Motorcycle Museum has a section dedicated to over 75 rare vintage bicycles. History timelines and the earliest designs are all on display here, helping visitors understand the evolution of motorcycles from bicycles.

Custom bobbers and choppers also have a special place at the museum, making it one of the prime destinations for custom motorcycle lovers. Here you can find some of the works by custom-building heavyweights like Arlen Ness, Big Daddy Roth, and Jesse James. And the best part is you can get really close to the bikes because there are no barriers, cages, or glass between visitors and the motorcycles.

There are separate sections for European motorcycles, from British Nortons to German BMW’s to Italian Moto Guzzis, and an impressive amount of hill climbing, motocross, and enduro bikes.

Customized 50s and 60s choppers with dazzling lights and crazy paint schemes, vintage Harley-Davidsons, Indians, Thors, and Sears bikes, Evel Knievel’s bicycle, Steve McQueen’s ride, a small section of a restored board track with motorcycles suspended on it, a real 1920s Shell gas station, the National Motorcycle Museum feels like a wonderland of the finest, most interesting and iconic moments in America’s motorcycling history. It’s a must-see place for anyone who loves bikes.

Getting there: The National Motorcycle Museum is located on the eastern side of Cedar Rapids, just off Route 151. You’ll need several hours to explore the museum, and if you feel like going for a ride later, head west towards Des Moines to enjoy Iowa’s beautiful rolling hills.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Des Moines, Ames, Chicago, Milwaukee Airport.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum - Colorado Springs, CO

Nestled on the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains just outside of Colorado Springs, the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum is a small, boutique-like space housing over 75 vintage motorcycles ranging from antique Excelsiors and Triumphs to vintage Indians, Harley-Davidsons and BSAs. The exhibition includes memorabilia such as apparel, helmets, posters, photographs, toy bike models in original packaging, and framed newspaper clippings.

The museum has its own unique Hall of Fame dedicated not just to the prominent stars of motorcycling, but also to the everyday people who have significantly contributed to the development and constant evolution of bikes. This museum has a bit of a “cluttered attic” feel to it, but the museum is a curious pace to visit and well worth the ride if you’re in the area.

Getting there: The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum is located just off Interstate 25 north of Colorado Springs. If you have a whole weekend to explore the area, consider visiting the Ouray and Telluride areas in the nearby San Juan mountains or riding the spectacular Million Dollar Highway (US-550). You could also consider immersing yourself in the spirit of the Wild West at one of the authentic saloons in Silverton, Colorado. Silverton is the adventure capital of the USA.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Denver, GreeleyGrand Junction, Durango.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Esta Manthos Indian Motorcycle Collection - Springfield, MA

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History in Springfield, Massachusetts, hosts a unique exhibition of vintage Indian motorcycles from Esta Manthos’ collection. Over 26 rare Indian bikes, memorabilia, and photographs are on display in this little corner of Springfield’s motorcycling history.

Indian "motocycles" were once made right here in town. From 1901 to 1953, the Hendee Manufacturing Company, later renamed the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company produced racing, hill-climbing, board track, military and police machines before closing its doors and being sold and re-branded in the sixties. You can still see the 1904 Indian, the bike designed and owned by Oscar Hedstrom, co-founder of the Indian motorcycle company, at the museum. The collection also features an exceptionally rare 1912 board track bike with its original Wall of Death tires, a restored 1929 Scout, and a 1927 hill-climber.

Esta and her husband Charles Manthos were avid Indian enthusiasts who founded the original Indian Motorcycle Museum in Springfield. After their passing, the collection was transferred to the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History where visitors can enjoy the artfully displayed rare vintage Indians today.

Getting there: The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History is easily accessible from Route 291 or 91, heading towards Edwards street. Once you’ve visited the museum, you can head north and enjoy the Shelburne Falls Loop – one of the most scenic motorcycling routes in Massachusetts.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: EllingtonBostonFoxboroNew York-Staten Island.  

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Motorcyclepedia - Poughkeepsie, NY

Motorcyclepedia, located near Poughkeepsie, New York, is unique among museums and has of the most extensive collections of its kind in the United States. With over six hundred vintage motorcycles on display, Motorcyclepedia is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of two wheels.

The museum has the largest and most extensive collection of vintage Indian motorcycles in the world, exhibiting bikes made from 1901 through to 1953. A passion for Indian motorcycles was what originally inspired the creator of the museum, Ted Deuring, to start collecting two-wheeled machines in the first place, and it shows: the Indians have a very special place in the museum.

Chopper City is one of the museum's great exhibits, featuring custom motorcycles and choppers from the 1950s and 1960s, including wonderful works of motorcycle art from Arlen Ness and Ron Finch. Artfully added memorabilia as well as neon signs make visitors feel like they’ve been transported back in time.

The Circa Timeline showcases such rare vintage bikes as the Flying Merkel, De Dion-Bouton, Pope, and many others dating back to the 1800s. The oldest running motorcycle in North America, the 1897 De Dion-Bouton, also resides here. On the lower level of the museum there is a large exhibit of police and military motorcycles ranging from presidential motorcade machines to army dispatch bikes.

Perhaps the two most spectacular exhibits are the original motordromes from the Kamikaze Pit in Germany, known formerly as the Wall of Death, displayed at the museum. Board tracks, or motordromes, where motorcyclists raced along a wooden wall and performed stunts, reached their heyday in the 1930s with hundreds of motordromes being set up all over the country, usually at carnivals and fairs. The Motorcyclepedia Museum has two indoor and one outdoor Wall of Deaths on display.

In addition to some great exhibits, the museum routinely hosts events so be sure to check their website before traveling to get there.

Getting there: Motorcyclepedia is located south of Poughkeepsie, New York, just off Route 87 near the Hudson River. It will take a few hours to explore the museum, so if you’re able to make it a weekend, ride North up the Taconic Parkway and enjoy the scenery of the Catskills a mere 75 miles away.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: New York-Staten Island, Long BranchNewarkBergen County.

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum - Miami, OK

Situated on historic Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma, just outside Tulsa, the Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum is all about vintage bikes which have a curious history of their own. “When we choose new additions to the collection, we consider just about anything with a good story,” said Chris Martin, Curator of the museum.

Featuring British bikes, Japanese bikes, old Harley-Davidsons, a collection of vintage Indian Motorcycles, an Evel Knievel room complete with Knievel’s van, apparel, and x-Rays of his broken bones, the Helmet Wall displaying the evolution of helmets from the 1900’s to now, the Route 66 Vintage Iron Museum has something for everyone. Most bikes on display are accompanied by key memorabilia to emphasize the individual story of each machine.

The museum has a bit of a “barn find” feel to it, making the visit a distinctive and authentic experience. The Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum also has a large gift shop generously stocked with Route 66 collectibles, apparel, and other must-have souvenirs relating to the museum as well as the historic highway.

Getting there: The Route 66 Vintage Iron Museum is located just off Route 66 near Miami, Oklahoma. It may seem obvious that Route 66 is your best bet to getting there… after all, the Miami-Arcadia route on Route 66 has been dubbed “the most nostalgic road trip” to take in the area. If you’re headed in the other direction, make sure to ride the Talimena National Scenic Byway, a truly stunning ride in Oklahoma offering winding curves and beautiful scenery.


Nearby motorcycle rental locations: Chicago, Saint Charles H-D, Indianapolis, Terre Haute.

See more rental locations: view our map of motorcycle rental locations


Conclusion

Each of these motorcycle museums is exceptional in its own way. These wonderful oases of motorcycling history, culture, and heritage can take you down memory lane or perhaps inspire you to set out on a voyage of your own, be it a road trip across the country or an inner journey of discovery.

For a tailored experience, you can mix and match these museums in any way you like – combine a few visits on the same weekend, include them in your itinerary on a larger road trip, or visit them separately on different rides. Nearly all of these museums are located on or near scenic local rides, offering not just a journey back in time but also a fantastic taste of local flavor.

Take advantage of the opportunity to explore America’s rich transportation history and honor the memory of those who have come before us. Engineers and riders alike have pushed the boundaries of two-wheeled achievements and have performed the seemingly impossible; delivering us the awesome machines we ride today as well as a rich history full of technological advancements.