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8 Great Halls of Fame Honoring Inventors, Mascots, Cowgirls, and More

Everyone knows about Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and even people who aren’t baseball fans likely remember the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, from those scenes at the end of A League of Their Own. What you may not know, however, is that there are a lot of other halls of fame throughout the United States, honoring just about every sport, not to mention titans of industry, important inventions, iconic cars, and even the toys we all grew up with. Here are eight halls of fame you probably haven’t heard of.

Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting, Phoenix, Arizona

Credit: Hall of Flame Fire Museum/ YouTube

Perhaps the country’s most cleverly named hall of fame, Phoenix’s Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting is a tribute to the heroes who fight fires and keep communities safe. Originally established in 1961 in Wisconsin, the museum houses firefighting equipment from as far back as 1725 across six impressive galleries, a theater, and a restoration shop. In addition to 130 fire trucks and vehicles, the galleries house gear, tools, equipment, extinguishers, art, and artifacts from numerous countries. There are also hands-on exhibits and programs that teach kids about fire safety.

Perhaps most notably, the museum houses the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes. The space recognizes American firefighters who have received awards for heroism, as well as those who have died in the line of duty. It also includes a tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11, and exhibits detailing the work of women firefighters and volunteer firefighters.

Pinball Hall of Fame, Las Vegas, Nevada

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Currently located a bit off the strip in Las Vegas, the Pinball Hall of Fame is slated for an imminent move to a bigger and better location just steps from the world-famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Though the new venue will nearly triple the museum’s space and allow for an even broader assortment of about 700 vintage pinball and arcade games, the current space has its own appeal. Opened in 2006, the facility highlights restored games from the heyday of pinball in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside newer pinball machines and arcade games from the 1990s.  

The spot is a cult favorite in Las Vegas that owes its popularity almost entirely to word-of-mouth amongst gamers and pop-culture buffs. Run by veteran arcade operator Tim Arnold and a team of volunteers, the museum is family-friendly and the games are in working order and ready to play — so bring plenty of quarters!

International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, Rhode Island

Front entrance of International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum
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Housed within the historic Newport Casino — a Shingle-style athletic complex on Newport’s Bellevue Avenue that dates back to 1880 — the International Tennis Hall of Fame overlooks 13 grass tennis courts. These aren't just any courts, though — they hosted the earliest U.S. Open tournaments in the late 19th century and are now open for public play.

Inside, the Hall of Fame celebrates more than 250 tennis champions and some of the sport's most iconic matches. You'll also find a vast collection of modern and antique tennis artifacts ranging from art and apparel to equipment and trophies. The oldest bits of ephemera date back to the 12th century, but thoroughly modern exhibits celebrating the game include video highlights of more contemporary masters such as Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Billie Jean King.

National Toy Hall of Fame, Rochester, New York

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The National Toy Hall of Fame is located in the Strong, Rochester’s museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. Here,, kids of all ages (and their young-at-heart chaperones) can create artistic masterpieces on a giant Etch A Sketch, explore a virtual tower of bubbles, and visit an interactive portrait gallery of toys. An indoor tropical garden that’s home to hundreds of butterflies, a family of turtles, and a toucan is another must-see, as are exhibits on American comic book heroes and Sesame Street.

The Hall of Fame itself celebrates toys that are widely recognized, long-lived, innovative, and impactful in fostering learning and creativity. Since 1998, dozens of toys have been inducted, including Crayola crayons, Barbie, the Frisbee, Monopoly, Jenga, Legos, and the Magic 8 Ball.

National Inventors Hall of Fame, Alexandria, Virginia

Credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame - NIHF/ YouTube

Located within the campus of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the National Inventors Hall of Fame highlights the work of more than 500 inventors, engineers, and scientists who hold patents to significant technologies. There are exhibits about well-known inventors such as Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, of course, but, the real magic is in discovering the less-famous folks behind the stuff we use every day — think ballpoint pens, wrinkle-free cotton, FM radios, and the Band-Aid.

Free to visit, the museum includes a digital portrait gallery where you can learn more about the inductees' lives and accomplishments, a variety of displayed artifacts, and interactive kiosks that explain the processes of trademarks and patents. And, in an effort to support the next generation of inventors, the facility also offers programming for youths — including a summer camp and partnerships for college students.

Mascot Hall of Fame, Whiting, Indiana

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David Raymond is the original Phillie Phanatic — the fluffy green creature representing the Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball team. He's also behind Whiting’s Mascot Hall of Fame, an interactive children’s museum on the shores of Lake Michigan. The facility offers 25,000 square feet of fun for kids of all ages. Shoot T-shirts out of a cannon, build your own mascot, or take the stage in a mascot audition — the space is a whimsical wonderland devoted to the mascots of North American sports.

While the museum is relatively new, having opened in 2018, the organization behind it has been honoring mascots since 2005. Each year, mascots are nominated across a series of categories from various sports and leagues. Only those that have existed for 10 years or more — and routinely give groundbreaking, crowd-pleasing, and inspiring performances — are eligible for induction.

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas

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Located in the Will Rogers Memorial Complex in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, alongside the Cattle Raisers Museum and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame spans 33,000 square feet, all in tribute to the women of the American West and other female trailblazers. The Hall of Fame, which inducts new honorees each year, spotlights a diverse roster of rodeo champions, ranchers, entertainers, artists, writers, and pioneers — women such as Georgia O’Keefe, Sacagawea, Sandra Day O’Connor, Annie Oakley, and Dale Evans.

In addition to the Hall of Fame, visitors can peruse a rare photography collection, rodeo memorabilia, interactive exhibits on ranching and land stewardship, and a study on cowgirls in the media — think dime novels, honky tonk music, and Hollywood Westerns.

Corvette Hall of Fame, Bowling Green, Kentucky

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Not many cars have their very own hall of fame and museum, but the Chevrolet Corvette is one of the most iconic vehicles ever produced. Located just across the highway from the only GM factory that produces the sports cars, the National Corvette Museum features a racing simulator; a space highlighting Corvette models from each generation; a tribute to mid-century Americana, car-culture, and the Corvette’s earliest days; and an exhibit on the infamous sinkhole that formed in the middle of the museum in 2014. Meanwhile, the Hall of Fame pays tribute to the most influential individuals in the history of the Corvette, from designers and engineers to hobbyists and race car drivers.

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