Idaho Potato Museum
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho (130 NW Main St.)
When to visit: Open 10 am – 5 pm Mon-Sat most of the year (closed Sundays)
Cost: $6 for adults, $3 for kids
Time needed: 20-30 minutes
There’s a giant potato in Blackfoot, Idaho, just waiting for your selfie! It sits outside the Idaho Potato Museum, a facility dedicated to everything about the famous Idaho potato.
The museum itself has lots of exhibits about the hardy root vegetable, its history, and its importance to the state. It also has fun artifacts like the world’s largest Pringle (25 inches wide!) and an actual potato signed by former vice president Dan Quayle, the same guy who once infamously forgot how to spell “potato.”
You can take a pic with the giant potato statue without going inside the museum, but if you find yourself road tripping through this part of Idaho, you should certainly stop inside.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Idaho Potato Museum, from its hours and ticket prices to the types of exhibits you can find inside.
The Giant Potato Sculpture
Idaho, of course, is the biggest potato grower in the U.S., producing about one-third of all potatoes grown in the country. Five million tons each year! So it makes perfect sense to locate a potato museum here.
The first thing you’ll see as you drive up to the museum is the giant potato outside. It’s a baked russet potato topped with sour cream and a slab of butter.
Most everyone who visits the museum makes sure to pose with the potato out front for an awesome photographic memory.
Here’s something very cool. The museum realizes that sometimes people want to take selfies or timed shots of their entire group. So they installed this phone holder on the sidewalk. Just insert your phone, set the timer, and then run over and take your pic in front of the giant potato.
That way, it’s not necessary to hassle passersby or other museum-goers to take your pic! More places should be installing these phone holders, pronto.
Exhibits Inside the Potato Museum
The Idaho Potato Museum stands in a building that was once a train station for the town of Blackfoot. The 5500-square foot building was constructed in 1913. Eventually, Union Pacific donated the building to the city of Blackfoot, and the museum opened in 1988.
Today, the Idaho Potato Museum has a gift shop, a cafe, and a basic museum with exhibits. When you walk in, the lobby is the gift shop. Peruse all sorts of potato- and Idaho-themed gifts, such as plush potato toys, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys, books, games, and other fun stuff.
After paying, move into the exhibit area. This part of the museum features a lot of informational boards with titles like “Origins of the Idaho potato” and “Growing potatoes today.” These boards display photos of potato farms and random potato-related fun facts.
Here’s one of the fun facts: Did you know that Marie Antoinette would put potato blossoms in her hair as she walked through the countryside to convince the people of France to grow and eat potatoes?
The exhibits go into great deal about everything you could possibly want to know about potatoes. A “Why Idaho?” poster explains how the state’s fertile Snake River Valley is ideal for growing spuds due to its short summers with hot days and cool nights, and its mineral-rich volcanic soil.
There’s a Pringles exhibit which is actually quite fascinating. You can see very old canisters (they appear to be from the ’80s and ’90s) showing the old logo and product design, as well as specific flavors that the company no longer makes (such as Light Ranch, and White Popcorn Corn Crisps.)
One noteworthy glass case here holds the world’s largest potato crisp. It’s 25 inches wide and 14 inches long, and weighs in at 5.4 ounces. That’s a third of a pound!
This crisp was certified as the world’s largest by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s starting to crack since it’s been under glass for decades now. The single crisp contains the equivalent of 80 normal-sized Pringles, or about 920 calories.
The other featured item on display is a now-shriveled potato autographed by former Vice President Dan Quayle. Quayle was mocked in 1992 for mistakenly telling students in a spelling bee that potato was spelled “potatoe.”
Two years later, radio hosts in California got Quayle to sign the potato while he was doing a book signing. That spud eventually made its way here to Blackfoot inside a case at the Idaho Potato Museum. It has lost much of its mass over the years, but you can still clearly see the VP’s sharpie signature. Now that’s quirky!
Other exhibits at the Idaho Potato Museum feature a selection of vodkas, which are produced from Idaho potatoes; a giant wall of hundreds of potato mashers from the past century; and a basket of Mr. Potato Head toys for the kids to play with.
A larger room contains a lot of farming equipment, including a full-size tractor, a potato sorter conveyor belt from the 1890s, a potato cutter from the ’60s, and even a sewing machine used to make potato sacks.
There’s even a “potato virtual reality” booth! If you’re wondering what the heck such a device does, well, you put on a headset, and you’re taken to the front seat of a tractor in the field. You can look around in all directions to see the machine as it collects potatoes.
Want some more potato fun facts?
-94% of all potatoes grown in Idaho are russet potatoes, the basic brown, oval-shaped spuds typically used for baked potatoes or french fries. Much smaller numbers of red, Yukon gold, and fingerling potatoes are also grown in the state.
-The average American eats 110 pounds of potatoes annually. (No doubt I’m skewing that average with my generous consumption of chips!)
-Potatoes are 80% water and 20% solid.
-The potato originated from high elevations in the Andes Mountains of South America. Native people cultivated them around 200 BC and learned they could dehydrate them to make a high-carb, high-protein food.
-Potatoes are now grown in all 50 states and more than 120 countries around the world.
-In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown in outer space! The Chinese developed the technique, and NASA created the technology to make it happen. See, Matt Damon growing potatoes on the surface of Mars in the film The Martian wasn’t far-fetched, after all!
The Potato Station Cafe
After walking through the museum, go down the hall and take a peek into the Potato Station Cafe. The cafe has a small number of lunch foods if you want a quick bite.
I was hoping the cafe would have exotic and strange potato-themed foods as part of its menu, but instead they just feature the basics like tater tots and fries. Not much imagination there.
Wikipedia claims the cafe serves potato bread and potato cupcakes, but I didn’t see those. I did see chocolate-covered potato chips, but they were just from a bag, not made in-house. And the bags cost $9 each.
The cafe has a separate entrance and is considered a separate business, so folks who are so inclined can get food there without paying for entrance to the museum.
Outside the Potato Museum
The giant potato isn’t the only thing worth seeing outside the museum. Since the museum is located in a former train depot, the rail tracks are still located behind the building, along with a small parklet with additional pieces of potato-making equipment.
This equipment is some of the coolest stuff at the museum. You’ll see potato harvesters from the ’30s and ’50s, a 1940s John Deere pick planter, an old wooden horse plow from the early 1900s, and many other machines that are still in pretty good condition all these decades later.
Some of the old devices required horses to pull them, while the more modern equipment could be pulled by a tractor. You can easily see the technological progress made by looking at how the machines advanced over time.
Logistics of Visiting: Hours, Parking, Prices
The Idaho Potato Museum is located in downtown Blackfoot. The town is 2 hours (133 miles) east of Twin Falls and close to 4 hours east of Boise. Blackfoot is a town of about 12,000 people.
Admission to the Idaho Potato Museum costs only $6 for adults and $5.50 for seniors, military members, and AAA members. Kids ages 5-12 are charged $3, while younger kids are free.
Downtown Blackfoot is a walkable stretch of businesses, including a few restaurants and bars, in case you want to linger in town after the museum.
As of this writing, the hours for the Idaho Potato Museum are 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday. The museum is closed Sundays. Those hours are in effect from September through May.
During summer, however, the museum extends its hours. From June through August, the potato building is open 9:30 am to 7 pm.
The museum has a free parking lot with a decent number of spaces. In the unlikely event that it fills up, nearby street parking is plentiful.
The museum is a must-visit if you’re on a cross-country Route 20 road trip, or if you’re visiting the famous Craters of the Moon National Monument.
If you enjoy quirky, offbeat museums, make sure to check out my articles about the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana; the Tequila Museum in Mexico City; the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas; and the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.
And make sure to read about the giant Mr. Potato Head statues in Rhode Island!
Would you stop to take a selfie with the giant potato at the Idaho Potato Museum?