1 THE HENRY FORD MUSEUM, DETROIT
In one of Detroit's outlying suburbs, the Henry Ford is home to an astonishing haul of modern history. The bus on which Rosa Parks made her world-changing civil rights protest is there, as is the car in which JFK was assassinated. The Greenfield Village outside has remarkably transported buildings such as the courthouse in which Abraham Lincoln practiced law and the bike shop where the Wright Brothers made the first plane brick by brick. See thehenryford.com
On the surface Magna in Rotherham, England, seems like a bog-standard interactive science museum – all buttons to press and engagingly-presented physics. But it's the setting that makes it exceptional. Magna is inside the former Templeborough Steelworks, one of the largest buildings on earth. The regular Big Melt show, which sets clanking machinery and roaring furnaces into action for a simulated steel pour, is proper hairs on the back of the neck stuff. See visitmagna.co.uk.
3 TEMPLE SQUARE
Temple Square in Salt Lake City is to Mormons what the Vatican is to Catholics. To the unaffiliated, it is both surprisingly open and visually stunning. The huge, granite temple looks like it has been built by Disney and overshadows even the silver-domed, auditorium-style tabernacle. Go inside the latter to see the ostentatious 11,623 pipe organ, and hear the soaring sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. See lds.org.
4 THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME
Cleveland, Ohio, was allegedly where the term "rock and roll" was first coined, and the Hall of Fame has made its way there. There's a predictable barrage of memorabilia, but it's accompanied by explorations into the back stories of inductees ranging from Paul Simon to David Bowie. For music lovers, it's possible to spend days deep down the rabbit hole. See rockhall.com.
5 THE MUSEO NAZIONALE DEL CINEMA
Turin's spectacular Mole Antonelliana, with its spiralling pagoda-esque top and Greek temple-like interiors was originally designed as a synagogue. Now it's the National Museum of Cinema, and charts the history of film-making amongst lots of props and memorabilia. But the regular sound, light and special effects shows suddenly turn the building into something magical. See museocinema.it.
6 THE GUGGENHEIM BILBAO
The poster child for rejuvenating an unfashionable city through a single attraction, Bilbao's Guggenheim is primarily known for its sinuous Frank Gehry-designed building. But the collection inside – primarily post-War European and American paintings and sculpture – is hugely impressive too. Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly and Jeff Koons get strong representation. See Guggenheim.org/bilbao.
If Australia has an equivalent of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, it's the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart. Privately-funded, MONA won instant and continuing plaudits for its sense of daring. Bold, jarring installations – such as a chocolate sculpture of the remains of a suicide bomber and a machine that turns food into excrement – make it one of a kind. See mona.net.au.
8 THE ZOLLVEREIN
A giant former mining colliery in Essen, deep in Germany's Ruhrgebeit industrial heartland, the Zollverein has been turned into a highly unlikely cultural hub. Aside from a dramatic heavy industry look, expect a Norman Foster-sculpted design museum, numerous galleries, an observation wheel in the coking plant and a pool inside old shipping containers. See zollverein.de.
9 THE ARS ELECTRONICA CENTER
In the generally ignored Austrian city of Linz, the Ars Electronica Center focuses on up-to-the-minute technology and its implications, but often puts an arty, highly thought-provoking twist on it. This can involve using digital pens to explore world cities by various data breakdowns, and somewhat frightening installations put together through the data individuals readily give to social media companies. See aec.at.
10 THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS
Croatia's capital Zagreb is usually ignored in favour of the coast, but this splendidly original museum makes the detour inland worth it. It's relatively simple – everything on display is an item relating to a break up of a relationship, whether a dress, a teddy or packet of condoms. Each comes with a story told by whoever donated it – and those stories run the gamut from hilarious to absolutely heartbreaking.