International Banana Museum: California’s Happy Place

At first glance, the area surrounding California’s Salton Sea is strange, eerie, and desolate. The Salton Sea is a steadily dying lake that is contaminated by toxic farm runoff. Since the once popular Salton Sea began to decline in the 1970s, artists and other eccentric, creative folks have flocked to the lake’s shores in an effort to foster a sense of hope, joy, and renewal. One of the Salton Sea’s most unusual yet beloved attractions is the International Banana Museum.

Banana museum

International Banana Museum owner Fred Garbutt grew up near the Salton Sea, and was searching for a way to draw visitors to his family’s small commercial property. When Garbutt saw that the world’s largest collection of banana memorabilia was for sale, he decided that a room full of bright yellow tropical fruit was the perfect way to attract a steady stream of visitors and invoke happiness.

Banana Museum

Banana museum

Banana museum

Garbutt’s small museum features banana earrings, plastic banana combs, and plenty of statues and paintings of hungry monkeys in hot pursuit of bananas. The International Banana Museum’s entire collection is housed in one room, but guests still spend hours perusing every last banana-themed picture, trinket, and writing implement. A vintage banana-themed turntable that is still in working order is one of the museum’s most popular items.

The grand highlight of the International Banana Museum is the snack bar. Visitors rave about the museum’s banana ice cream, frozen chocolate-covered bananas, and banana milkshakes. If the dystopian shores of the Salton Sea get you down, the International Banana Museum is the ideal place for a tropical pick-me-up. It is nearly impossible to feel down in a room that is filled with wall-to-wall yellow, and dedicated to one of nature’s sweetest and most joyful fruits. Move over Disneyland—the International Banana Museum is California‘s one true happy place.

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