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8 American Children's Museums to Plan Your Vacation Around

Family Travel #MatadorKids
by Sarah Pittard Aug 27, 2015

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1. The Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA

In many ways, the Boston Children’s Museum is very traditional, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Three floors of exhibits will keep your kids busy for hours. Arrive in the early morning and head straight to the climbing zone in the lobby before the crowds arrive. After that, head to the construction zone where kids channel their inner Bob the Builder by taking on construction projects, balancing on a steal beam and riding a real tractor. Expect to spend at least half a day here on Boston’s Children’s Wharf and then head outside for fresh ice cream from the 40-foot tall Hood Milk Bottle.

2. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, IN

Hands down the best Children’s Museum in America, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has regular dinosaur and art exhibits, along with rotating cultural features like last summer’s awesome Terracotta Warrior’s display. The permanent displays go way beyond normal expectations and tackle hard issues like discrimination through sharing kids’ stories like Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White. And it’s all done in a way that children can understand.

3. The Strong Museum of Play, Rochester, NY

Have Sesame Street loving kids? At the Strong Museum of Play your kids can actually sit on the 123 Sesame Street stoop and call their favorite characters on a pay phone. After you’ve spent at least ten minutes explaining what a pay phone is, there will still be plenty to explore, including a life-sized doll house ready for a family tea party. Before you leave, head outside to walk the 9,000-square foot Discovery Garden and relax with your kids in the gorgeous gazebo.

4. The Miami Children’s Museum, Miami, FL

The Miami Children’s Museum is fun, whimsical and very Florida. Your little ones will love the Castle of Dreams, a two floor sandcastle complete with a slide and music. Next, you can head for the large cruise ship where you’ll learn to pilot and you can host your own limbo contest. A recent addition to this museum is a virtual aquarium where kids draw fish and other sea creatures that then come to life in the aquarium.

5. The Children’s Museum of Houston, TX

Located in the Museum District of Houston, the Children’s Museum of Houston wins points for interactive exhibits both indoors and outdoors. Kids can spend hours hanging out in Kidtropolis, a manufactured city where kids take on different jobs to earn money, manage paychecks and debit cards and try out daily life as an adult.

Next, you can head for PowerPlay, an interactive zone where kids can climb a 40-foot tower, have a dance party and make their way across a bouldering wall. Once you’ve all explored the 90,000 square feet of exhibits, you can go outside to experience Flow Works — a huge outdoor water exhibit. This one might be educational but you can still expect to have some very wet and exhausted children by the time you leave.

6. The City Museum of St. Louis, MO

Designed by a group of artists, the City Museum of St. Louis is great for all aged visitors. Kids love the eclectic design and ability to touch and explore without limitations. The museum is full of unconventional things like the world’s largest pencil and a bus that hangs off the roof. Your kids will get worn out climbing up a ton of stairs to slide down the 10-story slide, plus they’ll also be climbing through MonstroCity, an outdoor playground made of wire tunnels, cranes, bridges and 2 planes.

7. Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, New Orleans, LA

Don’t let its small size fool you, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is an awesome place to spend a few hours with your kids. Enter the world of bugs and insects and let your kids check out the earth’s smallest and sometimes grossest creatures. They’ll love Bug Appétit — a kitchen where samples of cricket cookies and other creations are served up to tiny guests and unfortunately their parents. And don’t miss out on the Butterfly Garden, it’s huge. Pro tip: dress your kids in bright colors and watch their faces light up as butterflies come to rest on their shoulders.

8. The Children’s Museum of Memphis, TN

After taking your kids to Graceland, the Children’s Museum of Memphis is the perfect place to explore. Although it is a smaller and more local museum, it’s a definite must-see for kids with an interest in aviation and planes.

FedEx is based in Memphis, Tennessee and its commitment to the Children’s Museum is really obvious. Your kids will love the FedEx Going Places exhibit where they can play with a real flight simulator, load packages onto an airplane (with a full-sized cockpit) and deliver the goods across America through the magic of their imagination.

This article was originally published on April 9, 2015

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