There’s nothing else quite like the local children’s museum when you have kids with serious energy they need to burn off. Kids love exploring all the hands-on exhibits, and parents love that their kids get to learn while having fun—a win-win! We’ve gathered up the best children’s museums in every state, as recommended by our readers. Keep reading to see them all.
1. Alabama: McWane Science Center, Birmingham
Since opening its doors in 1998, McWane Science Center has welcomed millions of visitors to learn about all things STEM from exciting hands-on experiences. Permanent exhibits include Itty Bitty Magic City (a play area perfect for kindergarteners and younger tots), Alabama Dinosaurs (featuring fossils discovered in the state) and NatureScope (discover birds and creepy crawly things).
2. Alaska: Fairbanks Children’s Museum, Fairbanks
The Fairbanks Children’s Museum is all about play-based learning, and kids have a blast with all the awesome hands-on experiences and programs. You can practice a little butterfly yoga, mingle with other parents and tots during special meetups and scale a rock wall, just to name a few.
3. Arizona: Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Phoenix
With over 48,000 square feet of play space, there’s enough to do at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix to keep your tots busy all day long. There are more than 300 play experiences spread over three floors, in addition to a range of classes about everything from fossils to art. Be sure to check out the Schuff-Perini Climber, a tree-like sculpture that gives kids a bird’s-eye view of the museum’s atrium.
4. Arkansas: Scott Family Amazeum, Bentonville
Your crew will love the Amazeum, an awesome interactive museum with a focus on art, science and Arkansas culture. Be sure to check out the climbable tree canopy, indoor cave and tinkering hub, in addition to daily activities like DIY workshops, day camps, and playgroups. There’s also a one-acre outdoor area with plenty to explore, including a rock wall and a giant rope structure.
5. California: Exploratorium, San Francisco
The Exploratorium moved to Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront in 2013, tripling the overall space to 330,000 square feet. Truly a hands-on interactive experience for ages 4-12, it’s hard to say what the kids will enjoy more—taking a sensory-loaded trip through the tactile dome, visiting the tinkering studio or trying out iconic experiments like the shadow box. The museum’s exhibits are built in-house and constantly evolving, which makes every trip special and unique.
6. Colorado: Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, Denver
The Children’s Museum of Denver boasts a nine-acre campus, with awesome exhibits like Altitude, where kids make their way up and around over three levels of Colorado heritage to reach the lookout at the tippy top, and Box Canyon, an indoor mountain range for smaller tots. Kids can also go grocery shopping in a mini farmers market, learn about the science behind bubbles, and let their imagination shine at the art studio.
7. Connecticut: Kidcity Children’s Museum, Middletown
Kids ages 1-7 will have a blast exploring Kidcity’s one-of-a-kind, hands-on exhibits, all of which are built by in-house artists. There’s a Fishery, where you’ll use conveyors to bring in the catch of the day; a Space Age Roadtrip, where friendly aliens take a trip on Route 66; and a medieval village called Middleshire, where kids can build a castle and keep watch for Vikings. Be sure to block out a good chunk of time for your visit—they’ll be entertained for hours!
8. Delaware: Delaware Children’s Museum, Wilmington
Your little explorers will have the chance to discover the worlds of science, math, and technology at the Delaware Children’s Museum. Monkey around in the Stratosphere, a cool climbing structure that overlooks the museum’s lobby; learn what an architect does and how buildings take shape, and let your tiniest tots play on a model train in the transportation-themed area.
9. Florida: Tallahassee Museum, Tallahassee
Although it’s not strictly a children’s museum, this gem located on beautiful Lake Bradford will be a hit for adults and kids alike. You’ll find an 1880s farmstead, historical buildings and a live collection of native wildlife, in addition to a zip line and adventure course for the thrill-seekers in your crew. And with living history events that teach important lessons about our country, it’s well worth getting a yearly membership.
10. Georgia: Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Atlanta
Atlanta’s go-to destination for kids offers awesome hands-on exhibits, a 3,000 square foot mezzanine, and a permanent performance space, all of which have a focus on STEAM-centered, play-based learning. Gateway to the World invites mini explorers to climb through the layers of the earth, while Step up to Science hosts a permanent lab with experiments conducted on a daily basis. Get an insider’s peek at the museum here.
11. Hawaii: Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, Honolulu
Whether you’re an island dweller or just on Oahu for vacation, the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center is definitely worth a visit. Kids are encouraged to use their senses of touch, sight, hearing, and smell to gain a better understanding of the world around them. Exhibits include Tot Spot (a special play zone for your tiniest ones), Fantastic You (an up-close and personal look at the human body) and Rainforest Adventures (an exploration of rainforests and our precious natural resources).
12. Idaho: Museum of Clean, Pocatello
For a seriously unique experience, you’ve got to check out the Museum of Clean. There’s not just one focus here—everything from clean air to clean water to clean language is covered. Kids will love exploring the museum’s play areas and interactive features (and looking at a massive collection of vacuum cleaners is pretty fun, too!).
13. Illinois: Kohl Children’s Museum, Glenview
To folks living or vacationing in the greater Chicago area, Kohl Children’s Museum is just what the doctor ordered for beating the winter blues. With 17 permanent exhibits, kids are able to expend tons of extra energy by becoming veterinarians, nature explorers, chefs, mechanics and even Whole Food employees, all in one day. Don’t want to leave for lunch? Stop off at the Cosi for food and snacks.
14. Indiana: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis
Worthy of a vacation in itself, lucky families who visit the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis are in for five floors of energy-zapping activities and fun. As the biggest children’s museum in the world, it has almost 500,000 square feet of exhibition space, 11 permanent exhibits, and over 120,000 real artifacts. From the Dinosphere and All Aboard! to National Geographic Treasures of the Earth, there’s enough to keep you busy for a few days.
15. Iowa: Iowa Children’s Museum, Coralville
The Iowa Children’s Museum is all about inspiring kids to learn and grow through play, and their multi-sensory exhibits hit it out of the park. Aspiring chefs get to work in a pretend pizzeria; tots can learn basic physics lessons with race cars, tracks, and mazes; and train-obsessed kids can play with model trains weaving their way through Iowa. In case that’s not enough to tire them out, there are also special events for art-making, STEM learning and more.
16. Kansas: Cosmosphere, Hutchinson
Go on a space odyssey at the coolest museum in Kansas, a 105,000-square-foot space and science center that’ll keep your whole crew entertained for hours. Watch a jaw-dropping show in their state-of-the-art planetarium (there’s a show about black holes narrated by Liam Neeson!), browse the largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world and watch live demonstrations of science experiments.
17. Kentucky: Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Louisville
A visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is sure to be a home run, especially if you’ve got sports fans in your family. You’ll get to see how baseball bats are made (and you’ll get a miniature bat to take home), crawl through a giant glove, try your hand at a simulated pitching experience and hold bats that were used by baseball legends.
18. Louisiana: Louisiana Children’s Museum, New Orleans
With a visit to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, little ones will have the chance to learn about everything from reading and math to architectural ideas and the nuances of grocery shopping—all through super fun, hands-on activities and exhibits. Find out how to use a fulcrum or a pulley with the Simple Machines exhibit, head to Art Trek to explore a range of different media and techniques and go back in time to check out the recreated courtyard of one of New Orleans’ oldest buildings. With a fun mix of science, art and Louisiana-inspired activities, there’s really something for everyone.
19. Maine: Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Portland
Kids 10 & under will love spending the day playing and learning at this gem of a museum in Portland. The hands-on exhibits range from an exploration of the camera obscura to a kiddie-style farmers market (complete with bakery and fish market) to a special area that’s perfect for your tiniest tots. And since this is Maine, after all, there’s even a replica lobster boat where kids can learn about the state’s working waterfronts.
20. Maryland: Port Discovery Children’s Museum, Baltimore
Its three floors, 13 exhibits and loads of purposeful play make Port Discovery Children’s Museum one of the best indoor spaces in the Mid-Atlantic region for kids ages 0-10. Start the day in KidWorks, the three-story urban treehouse that will not only give their little bodies but also their minds, a major workout. Then, let your sous chefs whip up a quick meal at Tiny’s Diner and take a journey through Maryland’s rich heritage in Tot Trails.
21. Massachusetts: Boston Children’s Museum, Boston
There are 88,000 square feet of hands-on engagement at the Boston Children’s Museum. The focus on science, culture, health & fitness and the arts make this an ideal destination when it’s just too cold to be outdoors—a few attempts to make it to the top of The New Balance Foundation Climb, the three-story climbing structure in the center of the museum, will leave your kids tired and happy. Plus, visitors benefit from the scores of programs and activities developed by museum educators.
22. Michigan: Impression 5 Science Center, Lansing
In 1972, Impression 5 became one of the first hands-on science centers in the country, and they’ve been a Michigan favorite ever since. With a focus on dynamic, interactive activities that encourage kids of all ages to play, create and challenge their understanding of science, it’s well worth the trip. Learn about oral health with giant dental tools, step into a full-size body bubble, become a naturalist for the day and more.
23. Minnesota: Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul
The Minnesota Children’s Museum’s mission is to spark learning through play, and you’ll see what they mean after one visit. Kids will love exploring The Scramble, a four-story vertical adventure with a spiral slide and a netted catwalk. Let them get creative making their own stories at Imaginopolis, and join in on Our World, a mini-city with everything from a post office to a farmers market.
24. Mississippi: Mississippi Children’s Museum, Jackson
Kiddos will have a blast playing the day away at this Jackson gem. The 40,000-square-foot museum houses five galleries of educational, interactive exhibits and weekly programs that focus on everything from literacy to science to Mississippi heritage. Learn about healthy eating in a cute kitchen, make a masterpiece in the art studio and find out about the state’s agriculture.
25. Missouri: City Museum, St. Louis
We recommend wearing comfy clothes for your day at the City Museum because you’ll definitely be crawling, sliding and climbing. With lots of interesting architectural features like old chimneys and salvaged bridges, it’s captivating for kids and adults alike. Venture through hidden tunnels, monkey around on fun jungle gyms and zoom down indoor slides—your little explorers will love it all.
26. Montana: Children’s Museum of Bozeman, Bozeman
Offering hands-on exhibits, summer science camps, after-school activities, and educational programs, the Children’s Museum of Bozeman is a cultural hub. Kids can make slime in the science lab, collect eggs from chickens on the farm, tinker with electric circuits and more. Even your tiniest tots will love their special zone that offers plenty of space for rolling, crawling and climbing.
27. Nebraska: Lincoln Children’s Museum, Lincoln
Spend the day exploring the Lincoln Children’s Museum’s three floors and 23,300 square feet of hands-on exhibits and imaginative programs. Check out Cuckoo Construction, the museum’s largest exhibit yet, which gives kids a chance to help build walls and watch foam bricks fall. Chill out in the Grow Zone, an interactive garden perfect for tiny tots. Cruise over to the water exhibit, where you can watch the rain fall from the clouds above and build dams to hold the water back.
28. Nevada: DISCOVERY Children’s Museum, Las Vegas
The three-story DISCOVERY Children’s Museum opened in 2013 and is home to nine themed exhibition halls filled with interactive hands-on core exhibits. It’s hard to miss The Summit, a 70-foot tower with 12 levels of engaging, hands-on play. Kids can lift a car with a lever and (if they make it!) take a peek at the amazing roof at the very tippy top. Check out a mini Hoover Dam in Water World or watch your tiny tods wander around Toddler Town—a desert-themed space complete with trains, tunnels, and art zone. If you make it to the third floor, which is dedicated to art, exploration, and curiosity, consider it a successful visit.
29. New Hampshire: Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, Dover
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is all about hands-on discovery, and you’ll get what they mean when you see their amazing exhibits. Engineer a flying machine and launch it from a 30-foot tower, venture into a cave to read glow-in-the-dark books and find secret paintings, dig for Triceratops fossils and more. Between the exhibits, STEAM Lab drop-in sessions and junior science classes, there’s enough to keep you coming back for more all year long.
30. New Jersey: Liberty Science Center, Jersey City
Inspire your budding scientists and engineers with a visit to Liberty Science Center, home to 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater and lots more. Catch a planetarium show, check out views from the Hubble Space Telescope and meet some of the animals that live in the Hudson River. Train-obsessed kids can even learn, play, and solve problems with Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends.
31. New Mexico: Explora Science Museum & Children’s Museum, Albuquerque
Spend the day learning about science, technology, engineering, art, and math through fun hands-on activities at Explora. Experiment with balls and ramps to slow down the effects of gravity, make a masterpiece out of recycled materials and discover the unique characteristics of water. Be sure to check out their events calendar, offering everything from music jams to adults-only evenings.
32. New York: The Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester
The truth is, a family could spend more than an entire day at The Strong: The National Museum of Play. With items from the Rochesterian Margaret Woodbury Strong’s extensive doll and toy collection, the museum has grown into a massive and impressive 100,000-square-foot destination for interactive fun and learning for kids of all ages. Stellar permanent exhibits include Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street?; American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good vs. Evil, and Reading Adventureland. The museum is also home to the National Toy Hall of Fame, and when you add on-site restaurants, a carousel and easy-as-pie parking and it’s a destination worthy of a family road trip!
33. North Carolina: Discovery Place Science, Charlotte
A visit to Discovery Place is a must for opening little eyes to the wonders of science. From World Alive, where guests can wander through a rainforest and an aquarium, to Think it Up, a “thought studio” of multisensory colors, sights and sounds, and back to Project Build, where anyone can be an architect for a day, every inch of Discovery Place is dedicated to making learning fun and interesting. The tiniest family members have their own special place for discovery, in Kidscience, and the IMAX Dome Theatre screens family-friendly movies and short films perfect for all ages.
34. North Dakota: Dickinson Museum Center, Dickinson
Science-loving kiddos will enjoy learning about dinosaurs and more at the Dickinson Museum Center. Check out fossils that were discovered in the area, see their collection of rocks and minerals and pay a visit to Prairie Outpost Park, where you’ll find historic buildings and a coal car. Kids will love playing in the augmented reality sandbox, too.
35. Ohio: COSI: Center of Science and Industry, Columbus
With over 300 interactive exhibitions, a seven-story extreme theater and Little Kidspace, created just for kiddos ages 0-5, there’s enough educational fun to keep the entire family entertained for days at COSI. Encounter Poseidon at Ocean, the playground depicting the mysteries of the sea. Check out the Energy Explorers exhibit, which teaches families about energy and making smart choices. Try to lift your own weight in a pulley chair in Gadgets. With the range of traveling exhibits and classic features, every COSI visit can be a different adventure.
36. Oklahoma: Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum, Seminole
Since 1993, the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum has been a favorite destination for Oklahoma families. The museum is based on an imaginary town, where kids can explore many careers, all from a pint-sized vantage point—they can become a judge, doctor, artist, news anchor, meteorologist, actor, pilot, EMT or firefighter for the day. Plus, you can get lost in the 12,000-square-foot Castle Maze, see aquatic life native to the state and take a ride on a miniature train.
37. Oregon: OMSI: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland
OMSI is a can’t-miss museum in Portland, where kids and adults alike can immerse themselves in all things science and technology. Use “human power” to take a virtual trip through Portland, craft your own world using an augmented reality sandbox and experience the sights and smells of the world’s only permafrost research tunnel. Be sure to check out their cool camps and classes too, on topics ranging from kitchen chemistry to web design.
38. Pennsylvania: Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia
The name says it all. What other place has the singular mission of encouraging young visitors to touch everything? Start a visit at the huge Monument to Play—a 40-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty’s Arm and Torch (made out of toys). Move your kids towards Roadside Attractions, where they can repair cars, collect tolls, create fantasy vehicles and take a trip to the future. Watch fairy tales come to life at the Story Castle and take a spin on the historical, century-old Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel, before dropping down the rabbit hole to visit Wonderland, all in the same afternoon.
39. Rhode Island: Providence Children’s Museum, Providence
Kick cabin fever to the curb with a visit to the Providence Children’s Museum, home to hands-on, play-based exhibits and programs that explore culture and all things STEAM. Check out Play Power, where you can send objects soaring through air tubes and construct magnetic mazes; The Climber, a kid-favorite two-story-high climbing maze; and Coming to Rhode Island, an interactive time-traveling adventure that introduces kids to people who immigrated to the state. Their events calendar also has loads more fun in store, including live theater and art sessions.
40. South Carolina: The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, Greenville
Spark your kiddo’s curiosity with a visit to The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. With 19 interactive exhibits, there’s enough to keep any kid entertained for hours. Build dams and learn about water in Reedy River Bend, report the news or weather in the WTCM Studio and monkey around on a multi-story climbing structure. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a tasty meal at Seedlings, the in-house farm-to-table restaurant.
41. South Dakota: Children’s Museum of South Dakota, Brookings
Make a day of it with your whole crew at the Children’s Museum of South Dakota. In the exhibit Our Prairie, kids can learn about the region’s past and role-play the daily tasks of living on the land over one hundred years ago. Head to Sensations to experiment with patterns, textures, shapes, and colors and collaborate on hands-on activities. Then cruise over to KidStreet to pick up your mail, tune up your car and make sandwiches and ice cream sundaes. There’s also a cozy MiniExplorers area that’s perfect for your tiniest tots.
42. Tennessee: Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga
Located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, the Creative Discovery Museum is totally worth a visit. Their permanent exhibits include Buzz Alley and Bee Garden (watch real bees hard at work!), Culinary Corner (make healthy snacks using ingredients from the museum’s rooftop garden), Lookout Tower (get a bird’s-eye view of Chattanooga) and Excavation Station (grab a shovel and get digging in the sand). Be sure to check out their events calendar for the latest goings-on, from a snow day celebration to a honey harvest.
photo: courtesy Children’s Museum of Houston
43. Texas: Children’s Museum of Houston, Houston
With 14 permanent galleries and exhibits, a cafe, a library, and a family learning center, you’ll be bowled over by the 90,000 square feet of play available at the Children’s Museum of Houston. May we suggest starting at Kidtropolis, a city built and run by kids from the ground up on a daily basis, and moving on to How Does It Work? where your budding scientists have access to a ton of hands-on experiments, like creating a roller coaster and sending messages via fiber optics.
44. Utah: Treehouse Children’s Museum, Ogden
Since 1992, Treehouse Children’s Museum has been a favorite for kids ages 1-12 (and their families, too). The exhibits encourage playing imaginatively and making new stories—there’s the Big Red Barn where you can “milk” a cow and collect eggs from chickens, and there are areas based on different countries so you can dream up an international journey. There’s even an Oval Office where tots can pretend to be the president.
45. Vermont: Montshire Museum of Science, Norwich
Founded in 1974, the Montshire is now one of the busiest museums in northern New England, and for good reason. It’s dedicated to teaching visitors about natural and physical sciences, ecology and technology through its 140 hands-on exhibits. Kids will love getting a look at the inner workings of toys; examining seeds, bones, and plants under a microscope; experimenting with different types of instruments, and playing with different types of bubbles. This one’s sure to be a hit with adults and kids alike.
46. Virginia: Amazement Square, Lynchburg
With four floors and nine galleries of hands-on, interactive exhibits, Amazement Square is an amazing place to spend the day. Start off by exploring Amazement Tower, a climbing structure with slides, ladders, tunnels, and a zip-line that spans all four of the museum’s floors. Then get creative in the Kaleidoscope Gallery, where kids can paint on the walls and rock out on stage. Toddlers will also love playing in Shipwreck Cove, a special under-three area with a pirate ship and a coral reef.
47. Washington: Hands On Children’s Museum, Olympia
The most visited children’s museum in Washington, it’s our go-to for hands-on science and art learning. With more than 150 exhibits, you’ll never run out of things to do—kids can shop in a mini farmers market, send scarves through a 25-foot AirWays Maze, make and float their own boats and lots more. Be sure to check out their events, too, including free first Friday nights and art studio sessions.
48. Washington, D.C.: National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.
Go on an architectural adventure at the National Building Museum. Kiddos can learn about design, construction and engineering through the museum’s two distinct areas. The Building Zone (for ages 2 to 6) lets them stack and balance faux bricks, drive a miniaturized bulldozer and romp around a “green” playhouse, while the other area, Play Work Build, has foam blocks of varying sizes, allowing adults and children alike to build and demolish their own creations. Click here to find out more (plus get the scoop on more of our favorite kid-friendly museums in the DMV).
49. West Virginia: Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum, Wheeling
Located in beautiful Wheeling, kids of all ages will love exploring the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum. You’ll find interactive, operating model train layouts, along with toys you’ll remember from your childhood—dolls, dollhouses, toy soldiers, playsets, trains, planes, and ships, just to name a few. Kids will have a blast taking a peek into the past (and seeing how far toys have come!).
50. Wisconsin: The Building for Kids Children’s Museum, Appleton
Foster your kids’ curiosity with a visit to The Building for Kids Children’s Museum. They’ll have the chance to climb into a 10-foot human heart, make a masterpiece using blocks, become a firefighter for the day, build boats and lots more. Check out the events calendar for more fun activities, like toddler playtime sessions, STEM workshops and story times.
51. Wyoming: Jackson Hole Children’s Museum, Jackson
The Jackson Hole Children’s Museum is all about fostering a love of learning through collaborative play and creative problem solving, and with their interactive exhibits and exciting programs, the littles will definitely be on board. Become a pilot for the day, go shopping in the Mountain Market, build a cool creation on the Magnet Wall and snuggle up for some quiet time in the Book Nook.
— Susie Foresman & Gabby Cullen
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