Children’s museums are no longer just nice-to-haves. Communities large and small have discovered that family-friendly museums provide a year-round attraction for residents and visitors, adding stature to a city and making a statement about the citizenry’s commitment to providing an optimum learning environment for the next generation. Parents especially appreciate that today’s museums for youngsters highlight interactive experiences that captivate young imaginations. Here are eight awesomely entertaining museums around the country that offer children hours of fun.
The largest children’s museum in the world, this behemoth of a museum in Indianapolis, IN offers a day-long learning adventure that attracts a million visitors a year for its mummified dinosaur and Take Me There, where children “fly” to an exotic land and are immersed in the culture. Special exhibits this year include Inside Hollywood Film & TV and Transformers: Robots in Disguise.
Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio
One of the nation’s premier children’s museums, COSI’s 10 classic exhibits include space exploration where children use a computerized flight simulator to land on the moon. COSI is also famous for its daily live show featuring rat basketball. Coming in spring 2015 is Top Secret, where kids must crack codes.
This inventive children’s museum kicks off the fun with MonstroCity, an outdoor, four-story interactive jungle gym. Inside is a museum of museums, including enchanted caves, an aquarium where kids can crawl beneath swimming sharks, a 10-story spiral slide and Beatnik Bob’s, a trip into the '50s world of corn dogs and bumper cars.
A family favorite in the suburbs of Dallas, this bizarre hall is chock full of gross, weird stuff kids love, like two-headed animals. Exponential fun includes Louis Toussaud’s Wax Museum, Enchanted Mirror Maze and Laser Maze Challenge, a Mission Impossible race where kids weave their way through beams.
Port Discovery, Baltimore, Md.
Set sail for Port Discovery in Baltimore, Maryland. A perennial favorite, Search for the Lost Pharaoh’s Tomb time travels to 1920s Egypt where children must decipher hieroglyphics. Most popular is Wonder of Wonders, a complete water room where kids can build contraptions in Plumbers Park and even encase themselves in a giant bubble. A Lego Castle Adventure debuts in the spring of 2015.
The Lunchbox Museum, Columbus, Ga.
Located in Columbus, Georgia, the LunchBox Museum is a kid favorite, even big kids. Tucked in back of an antiques mall, this retro room celebrates a hallowed tradition from bygone school days with 2,500 original metal lunch boxes and thermos depicting all the cool characters from the Lone Ranger to Bionic Woman. Duplicates are for sale in the Barter Room.
The Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm, Fargo, N.D.
Fun in Fargo, ND. Located in the oldest brick house in the Dakota territories, this ag-focused museum’s new star attraction is Henrietta A. Holstein, a life-size animated cow with plumbing that kids go crazy to milk. Other fun on the 55 acres includes miniature train rides and the Yunker Bunker mini-golf course that teaches the topography of the state.
The New Children's Museum, San Diego, Calif.
A children's delight in San Diego, CA. The focus here is on the arts through thematic exhibitions designed by contemporary artists that encourage children to play and learn about a subject in a creative way. At present is FEAST: The Art of Playing with Your Food. There's also an area called Wobbleland with a giant kitchen sink and life-sized fruits and vegetables for toddlers and children to play around.