When we think of museums, we usually picture pricey artwork and irreplaceable artifacts—not exactly a child-friendly environment! Fortunately, a new breed of discovery spaces has started popping up around town. Check out these hands-on destinations where kids are encouraged to step past the velvet rope. With experiences specifically geared towards younger learners, kids can gear up to be the next Buzz Aldrin, Indiana Jones, or Van Gogh. You’ll never run out of things to do with your kids at these museums.

1. New Children's Museum


Encounter an enormous wooden trojan horse, make your mark on the chalkboard, and go rock climbing! Little tots will enjoy the disco barn and building blocks, while older siblings can use their imagination to create something unique in the always-happening art classes. Food options and parking are both limited, so stop for food on your way and be prepared to pay for a spot in their nearby lot.

200 West Island Avenue
San Diego
Online: thinkplaycreate.org

2. San Diego Children's Discovery Museum


Hop on a sailboat to learn the science behind weather or travel through marketplaces to explore different cultures. Kids are encouraged to imagine and discover with a huge array of indoor and outdoor displays focused on scientific concepts, living creatures, and engineering. Younger kids even have their own dedicated area at the Toddler Tidepool. Parking is plentiful, entry is inexpensive, and families are welcome to bring their own food.

320 North Broadway
Online: sdcdm.org


3. Fleet Science Center


This is the place to be for science and space buffs. Kids ages 2 through 5 will have a ton of fun with the apparatuses in Kid City on the second floor, while older kids will enjoy the various exhibitions and Exploration Bar. Experiment with all the interactive stations and don't skip out on your chance to see a screening at the "planetarium." Parents will be wowed by the state-of-the-art 4K cinema projectors in the domed theater. Parking is free but can be tricky on weekends.

1875 El Prado
San Diego
Online: fleetscience.org

4. Model Railroad Museum


If your kids are Thomas the Tank Engine fans, just wait until they get a load of this! Mini trains show how routes work with fully-functional little towns. They have stools for kids to step up and get a peek at the more intricate setups, so they can get up close and personal with mini farm animals, carnival rides, and a tiny drive-in theater. History buffs will also appreciate displays showcasing the railroads throughout different eras.

1649 El Prado
San Diego
Online: sdmrm.org


5. Living Coast Discovery Center


Get your fill of wildlife in this peaceful museum center on the shore. Kids can learn all about sea life and then witness the feeding of a bald eagle or the swimming of baby sea turtles. Parking is off-site with a shuttle that buses passengers into the center, so be prepared to juggle your stroller and diaper bag. Light snacks are available, but visitors are encouraged to bring their own lunch for a picnic on the beach.

1000 Gunpowder Point Dr.
Chula Vista
Online: thelivingcoast.org

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