Idaho Potato Museum Southwest of Yellowstone - My Yellowstone Park

Idaho Potato Museum Southwest of Yellowstone

Get a great selfie next to a giant potato and discover the stories behind this unsung hero of a vegetable, including VP Dan Quayle's potato incident.
Author:
Publish date:
Potato field at sunset

Potato field at sunset

Can you guess which vegetable saved Europeans from frequent famines?

The potato. And there’s no better place to learn more about this magnificent, dirt-encrusted vegetable than at the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho.

“We have a big display on how it changed the world,” says Tish Dahmen, executive director of the Idaho Potato Museum. “Before the potato came to Europe, it had regular famines because the people were dependent on grains.”

Once Europeans started eating them, they made all sorts of dishes out of them. Along the way, scientists discovered just how nutritious potatoes actually are. Dahmen is quick to point out that whole milk and potatoes contain almost all the necessary daily nutrients you need, including B6, iron, potassium, carbohydrates, fiber and vitamin C.

Baked potatoes

History of the Potato

The museum tells many stories about the potato, and you’ll walk out knowing more about how it shaped the arc of history than you ever imagined. For instance, after the Spanish conquered the Incas in Peru, they brought the curious tuber that had been cultivated in South America for 7,000 years to Europe during the late 1500s.

While Europeans were suspect at first, the plant eventually took root in the fields and minds of many, serving as the sole subsistence food for 30 percent of the population in Ireland (which became a massive humanitarian crisis when a devastating potato blight destroyed potato crops beginning in 1845).

Two years after the Irish potato famine was under way, American pioneers planted a crop of potatoes in Salt Lake City and by 1860 William Goforth Nelson recorded planting and harvesting potatoes in the Cache Valley area of Idaho where potatoes are still grown today. You can learn tidbits like this and more about how Idaho became the potato capital of the country in the museum.

See Potato in Guinness Book of Records

Potato chip in a can

You also can see a world record. In 1990, Pringles made the world’s largest potato crisp. It’s 23 inches long and 14.5 inches high. For those who think a potato crisp and potato chip are the same thing, think again. A chip is something sliced off of a potato. A crisp is made from potato parts. Next time you eat a chip or a Pringle, examine it closely. You’ll see the difference.

Famous Potatoes

Mr. Potato Head toy exhibit at the Idaho Potato Museum

Mr. Potato Head toy exhibit

One of the most famous potatoes is the toy Mr. Potato Head, originally a set of parts that children stuck into a real potato in the 1950s. Today the plastic potato toy is more popular than ever with a starring role in the Toy Story movies. The toy exhibit is one of the most fun in the museum. 

But don’t miss the potato signed by former vice president Dan Quayle. Vice President Quayle’s infamous misspelling of the word “potato” became fodder for broadcast newscasters, spurred on jokes from late-night talk shows and emboldened elementary school children to feel momentarily superior to one of the most powerful men in the nation. 

It was June 15, 1992, when Quayle incorrectly corrected a 12-year-old’s spelling of “potato” by adding an “e” to the end of the word during a spelling bee. The signed and slightly shriveled potato came to the museum byway of a Californian disc jockey who asked Quayle to sign the potato.

Potatoes Are for Eating and Drinking

Pouring shots of vodka

Seeing the extensive collection of potato peelers and mashers and reading about potatoes may have you craving potatoes. Stop at the museum’s Potato Station Cafe for a potato-themed snack, ranging from a baked potato to potato salad and French fries.

But before you leave the museum, you’ll learn something else. Potatoes aren’t just great for eating. You can drink them, if you are 21 or older. They are used to make vodka. In the museum, you can learn more about the process to take this vegetable out of the ground and transform it into cocktail-worthy substance. It actually takes 9.2 potatoes to make a bottle of potato vodka. Who knew?

Get a Potato Selfie

Posing for a potato selfie at the Idaho Potato Museum

Posing for a potato selfie

As a giant ode to the wondrous vegetable, the museum has an enormous baking potato in front of the building, which once served as the Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot. Staff worked with a Boy Scout on his Eagle Scout project to install a selfie stand, so you can put your phone on the stand and then climb on the spud to get a photo. It just may end up being one of your favorites.

“There’s more to this humble spud that you can ever imagine,” Dahmen says.

For more information:
208-785-2517
130 Northwest Main Street, Blackfoot, ID 83221
idahopotatomuseum.com

Related

A young visitor experiments with one of Archimedes's creations at the Museum of Idaho

Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls

On the way to Yellowstone, encounter  world-changing inventions by a Greek mathematician.

Idaho Museum of Natural History

Idaho Museums

Visit the Rexburg Teton Flood Museum and the Idaho Museum of Natural History.

Trail End State Historic Site, Sheridan, Wyomin

Wyoming Museums

Great museums to visit on your Yellowstone vacation from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center to the Teton Flood Museum and everything in between. Wyoming museums in Casper, Meeteetse, Cheyenne, Gillette, Evanston, Dubois, and Jackson Hole.

Chuckwagon dinner at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Smithsonian-Affiliated 5-Museum Complex

Watch your dinner get prepared at a chuckwagon. It’s one of many experiences at this Smithsonian-affiliated complex that’s home to world-class exhibits.

Utah Field House Dinosaur Garden in Vernal. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust

Utah Museums

Visit museums in Salt Lake City an Vernal for planetariums, dinosaur history, and western heritage exhibits.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Courtesy photo

Top Museums - 6 On the Way Plus 2 Inside Yellowstone

Get out of the car and learn something at these amazing museums on the way to the park. Plus... two museums inside Yellowstone.

Art from the National Museum of Wildlife Art. in Jackson Hole. Courtesy photo

National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson

Perched above the Elk Refuge and two miles from Grand Teton National Park, the National Museum of Wildlife Art features more than 5,000 items of animal art.

Apatosauruses and other dinosaurs roamed Wyoming

5 Top Places to See Dinosaurs in Wyoming

Discover the Wyoming landscapes and dinosaurs that inspired Disney-Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur on your next trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Kids enjoy climbing and playing in interesting rock formations at Castle Rock State Park near the City of Rocks National Reserve

7 Undiscovered Southern Idaho Gems near Yellowstone

After Yellowstone, dip into southern Idaho to explore attractions, including two national park sites, you won’t find elsewhere.