The Best Children’s Museums in the Country
Discover hands-on fun and adventure for the whole family at any one of these kids-centric museums.
With kids in tow, it’s not always easy to find activities everyone enjoys while traveling. And what’s fun and engaging for adults can sometimes raise suspicion or lead to boredom with those younger members of the party. Compromises do exist: everyone gets along at the beach, and many historical sites and park museums across the country tailor content to a younger audience, for example. But the fact remains that some adult activities leave kids wanting something more relevant to their interests and age group.
Children’s museums are a great option to break up the typical travel schedule and get kids active in a different environment. They offer fun activities and experiences that engage children in learning while they play and explore. Take a look at a few of the best museums in the country and search for the one closest to you as you travel.
Note: most museums include up-to-date COVID-19 restrictions and policies on their website. Please review these to ensure you are updated on precautions and required reservations before your visit.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis — Indianapolis, IN
Let’s start in the middle of the country at the world’s largest children’s museum—The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. An iconic destination, you’ll recognize the location right away due to the physiologically accurate model dinosaurs stomping outside the building premises. Inside, kids can explore the many exhibits on all five floors of the museum, including Dinosphere, where kids can explore fossils found at Jurassic Mile, the museum’s dig site in Wyoming.
Their interactive exhibits allow kids to experience the subject matter first-hand—from ancient civilizations, to current cultural media like Ninja Turtles. Be sure to include these highlights with your visit:
- Carousel Wishes and Dreams—An original from 1917, this classic indoor carousel is a museum mainstay. Kids climb aboard painted jumper horses or ride comfortably on benches for a trip into the past.
- Take Me There—This semi-permanent exhibit changes content every few years to represent a different culture, previously featuring Egypt, China—and now Greece.
- ScienceWorks—Visitors to this exhibit practice scientific exploration as they take field notes, use different data streams, and learn real-life applications in different environments.
Please Touch Museum—Philadelphia, PA
The name says it all with the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. Hands-on learning is the focus, with many of their exhibits focused on STEM learning and exploration. Permanent exhibits like River Adventures, Rocket Room, and Please Touch Garden get kids involved and interact as they explore carefully designed experiential learning spaces.
The museum also features traveling exhibits that generally remain at the museum for several months after initial installation. Currently, the museum features The Pigeon Comes to Philadelphia! A Mo Willems Exhibit. Other exhibits and notables to check out are:
- Adventure Camp—an indoor treehouse focused on science exploration. Magnets, Morse code, insects, periscopes, and more!
- Albert M. Greenfield Makerspace Studio—Help kids learn through the process of invention. Kids use tools, workbenches, pegboards, and real-life supplies to create original inventions.
- Garden Grill Café—Stop by the cafe for soup, sandwiches, and other lunch items for a pause in a play-filled visit.
Kidspace Children’s Museum—Pasadena, CA
While traveling out west, make Kidspace Children’s Museum an in-town highlight of the trip. Located in sunny Pasadena, the museum takes advantage of the typically good weather with a 3.5-acre campus that features many outdoor exhibits. For example, Arroyo Adventure helps kids explore watersheds and geology in this fun and wet outdoor exhibit.
The museum also offers four unique summer camps that last five full days, where kids participate in creative learning experiences like designing a mission to Mars! They also encourage school visits to help teachers add experiential learning to their curriculum.
While visiting, be sure to check these out with your kids:
- Butterfly Season—Celebrating its 25th anniversary this spring, Butterfly Season is an outdoor feature where kids celebrate springtime and explore butterfly-themed projects, like adopting a caterpillar to watch its growth.
- Kidspace on the Road—for anyone home-schooling their kids, Kidspace Children’s Museum offers several teaching tools and resources, including digital classes.
Minnesota Children’s Museum—Saint Paul, Minnesota
For visitors to the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Children’s Museum in Saint Paul offers three floors of play and exploration. Celebrating 40 years of play this year, this museum’s exhibits spark joy and fun. Kids create their own space adventure, create studio art, explore an indoor, pretend town, and—most recently—meet dinosaurs!
The museum also takes advantage of outdoor exhibits, like Tip Top Terrace, which provides an interactive experience for kids on the top level of the museum. Kids try out a giant kaleidoscope, smell and taste plants, and use paint and water to explore.
- Forces at Play, 3M Gallery—Use sprayers and wash a car in the indoor car wash, try out ball launchers, and build with ramps and tubes in this fun exhibit that highlights engineering.
- Hands-on Resources—If unable to visit this season, the museum offers some helpful hands-on, online activities for you to try while traveling. Go through each step with your kids as you create a lava lamp at home, for example.
Other Great Museum Options
A lot of research, thought, development, and ingenuity go into developing the learning environments at children’s museums. The creativity and care are evident as you explore the abundance of exhibits designed specifically with child exploration and play in mind. As you schedule camping adventures this year, throw in some museum visits for a change of pace.
Luckily, no matter where you’re traveling on your RV adventure, there’s likely to be a children’s museum within a reasonable drive worth exploring. Below are a few additional museums scattered geographically to hopefully fall in place somewhere in your itinerary.