Head to Head: Two Museums, One Winner – Wanaka Edition

I started this blog not only as a personal chronicle of our travels, but also in hopes that I would be able to share knowledge with other travelers. Information makes travel easier.  Plain and simple. But in today’s day in age, when anyone can write a review of anything and post it online, I feel like information can become skewed.

I’ve noticed this happening more so in New Zealand than anywhere else I’ve been, thus far. A restaurant will have rave reviews and 4.5 stars on Google, but will leave us scratching our heads (or scraping our tongues) post-meal. Who are all these palate-less bozos who’s bar for excellence isn’t even on par with my mediocrity? I am not trying to self-aggrandize here, but I have traveled a fair amount… 27 countries (and counting) over two decades. My experience traveling, coupled with my background in the food industry brings me to consider myself a fairly reliable source for discerning taste. In the realms of food and travel, anyway.

So, in order to further along the purveyance of good information for travelers, I am starting a new series where I will compare two similar establishments and let you know my honest opinions on both. Only one will predominate.

Let the clash of Wanaka niche collection museums commence!

National Toy and Transport Museum

Toy and Transport Museum

Google Review Rating: 4.1 (37 reviews)

This fairly highly rated museum sits just outside of town. It has to be located on the outskirts, as there would not be enough room in the town center for this much… crap. I’m not going to take my time here, this place sucks. This is possibly the worst “museum” experience I have ever had. The $18NZD fee just added to my anger as I walked through the first hangar. Yes, hangar. This complex consists of four enormous buildings as well as a large rusty car-filled field.

My first issue with this establishment is the fact that it is not a museum. To me, a museum should have some sort of educational aspect to it. If I am going to spend an hour of my day wandering around looking at a bunch of old shit, I want to at least be able to learn why it is culturally significant enough to deserve my time. The National Toy and Transport Museum has none of this. Absolutely no information, at all, about what you are seeing.

My second issue, is that it is completely disorganized. It feels as though someone with a serious hoarding problem annexed a small airport. There is no rhyme or reason to anything. The main building has mismatched glass case after mismatched glass case full of everything from Barbies to Star Wars memorabilia to piggy banks. Some things are vintage, like classic Barbies, but some things seem to be only a few years old. Adding to the already cluttered and dusty atmosphere are numerous vehicles in varying states of disrepair, just littering the floorspace. What is the point?

Toy and Transport Museum

Toy and Transport Museum

Toy and Transport Museum

I quickly lost interest and barely made it through the second building. Called the Fire Station, it houses an enormous collection of retired fire trucks, as well as tons of miscellaneous garbage literally covering the walls – bicycles, spoons, old appliances, etc… There is so much stuff the perimeter is the only passable walkway. The trucks are parked so close together it is impossible to move between them and get a good look at what’s in store.

Toy and Transport Museum

Toy and Transport Museum
Yes, that is a golf cart on top of an armored vehicle.

Toy and Transport Museum

The only highlight was the steamroller outside the second building, allowing me to act out one of my favorite moments in cinematic history.

Toy and Transport Museum

I can’t help but feel these items could be better served elsewhere. This would be a reclaimed artist’s dream! So many of the materials present could easily be recycled, like the glass and metal. Instead of gathering dust in a tiny corner of the globe, some real good could come of it. I’m not saying that all these items are not worth the time or appreciation, but you don’t need all the Barbies ever manufactured to understand its global impact. You only need a few… and a placard explaining why.

Warbirds and Wheels

Google Review Rating: 3.7 (11 reviews)

Right next door to the Toy and Transport Museum is this little gem. With far fewer reviews and a lower overall rating, it would be easy to see why someone would overlook Warbirds and Wheels in favor of the former. However, it would be to their disappointment. This is, in my opinion, a far superior experience.

Warbirds and Wheels

Warbirds and Wheels is a small niche museum, but is highly effective. This is how classic cars should be on exhibition. Each one is in gleaming condition and perfectly situated around a room with ample walking space. The vehicles are accompanied by plaques telling the story of how the specific vehicle came to reside in Wanaka, as well as a bit of general information about the make and model. This is a curated space. Each car is perfectly placed for easy visibility, and the room has the perfect u-shaped flow, returning you to the entry/exit point at the end of the exhibit.

Warbirds and Wheels

Warbirds and Wheels

Warbirds and Wheels

Warbirds and Wheels

The qualm apparent in most of the negative reviews is that it is overpriced. At $20NZD, it is just barely more expensive than its neighbor. It seems these visitors felt there was not enough on display to reconcile the price tag, and suggest visiting the Toy and Transport Museum instead. Are you crazy? I would rather look at a beautiful, polished collection at a fraction of the size than an enormous, overstuffed, unkempt pile of junk any day. Perhaps if you don’t enjoy taking your time examining the beauty of vintage automobiles then Warbirds and Wheels is admittedly not for you (yes, I’m talking to you, person who spent 5 MINUTES here).

Warbirds and Wheels

Warbirds and Wheels

It is a small collection, however, it is the finest display of classic vehicles J and I have seen since we’ve been in New Zealand. And we’ve seen a fair amount. (Hey Kiwis, why are you so in to classic cars? Just curious). Attached to the museum is a little 50’s nostalgia diner, complete with juke box and US license plates decking out the walls.

Final Thoughts.

If it isn’t already TOTALLY obvious, skip the National Toy and Transport Museum and spend that 20 spot at Warbirds and Wheels, instead.

Warbirds and Wheels

I guess it does come down to what interests you more as to which museum would suit you… Nope, Warbirds and Wheels, 100%. And for anyone thinking they’ll just visit both, I can’t imagine a single person who would give both stellar reviews. You either appreciate the care taken to preserve pieces of history, of you like looking at piles of crap. Because if you go to both, you will certainly leave with that sentiment. I mean, the pictures must speak for themselves, right?

Warbirds and Wheels

 

All photos below Stars Wars Legos are by J. Howell Photography 🙂


 

Been to any museums that were totally not worth the hype? Let me know in the comments so I can avoid it!

Add yours

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