Learning is fun. No, really. At least it can be—you just need to know where to go. These 11 awesome museums for kids are a great start.
1. THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PLAY
Founded in 1968, the National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York is one of the world’s only museums dedicated solely to the art of having fun. Both historically important and a rollicking good time, within the museum’s exhibition space visitors will find more than 72,000 toys (from teddy bears to train sets), more than 200 arcade games, a butterfly garden, a 1700-gallon coral reef aquarium, and the famous 123 Sesame Street stoop.
2. THE ROALD DAHL MUSEUM AND STORY CENTRE
About 40 miles northwest of London is Buckinghamshire, the charming county in which Roald Dahl lived and wrote for nearly 40 years. It's also where The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre now pays tribute to his gloriumptious career with three interactive galleries: Boy, which traces the author’s school boy days; Solo, where you’ll find his actual Writing Hut; and The Story Centre, which aims to ignite the creative spark in all who visit.
3. DINOSAUR RIDGE
Roam in the footsteps of the dinosaurs—literally—at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado. Walk the 1.5 mile Dinosaur Ridge Trail to discover hundreds of dinosaur tracks (some of them 100 million years old) and a dinosaur bone quarry. Or opt for the Triceratops Trail, which features its own collection of prehistoric tracks (that are different from Dinosaur Ridge’s), including what might be the footprints of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Douglas Muth, Flickr
Opened in 1997, Berlin’s Computerspielemuseum is the world’s first computer game museum, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The museum’s continually evolving collection boasts more than 22,000 computer and video games, including addictive classics like Dig Dug, Tetris, and Donkey Kong (not to mention gaming-related artwork, documents, and more than 10,000 journals).
5. INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM
Budding 007-types will appreciate the undercover nature of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. As the country’s first and only public museum dedicated to the spy game, this all-ages institution asks visitors to leave their true identities at the door (like all good spies, you’ll adopt a cover identity) and immerse themselves in the tricks of the espionage trade with access to hundreds of spy gadgets, tips and tricks from actual spies, and special exhibits like “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.”
6. SCIENCE CENTER NEMO
Amsterdam’s Science Center NEMO is comprised of five floors of interactive exhibit space where kids can get their hands dirty and brains full. They'll learn about a wide range of fascinating topics, including the truth about puberty, the ways in which technology can combat pollution, and the secrets about extra-terrestrial life.
7. PLEASE TOUCH CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The name says it all: At Philadelphia’s Please Touch Children’s Museum, hands-on experimentation isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected. Founded in 1976, one of the museum’s most unique aspects is that it’s geared toward children under 7 years old. In the museum, kids can design and construct their very own neighborhoods in City Capers, use their own bodies to create the feeling of flying in Flight Fantasy, or experience the sights and sounds of the jungle at Rainforest Rhythm. Bonus: The museum has its very own carousel, which is more than 100 years old and is housed in a dedicated 9000 square foot glass pavilion.
8. BOSTON CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
It’s hard to beat an original, and when it comes to the world collection of children’s museums, the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the first (officially, the world’s second oldest) and also one of the largest. And educating today’s youth is a key component of its staying power. Through its permanent collection and rotating exhibits, the museum addresses issues of science, math, art, literacy, health, wellness, and the environment. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is Arthur and Friends, which puts kids smack dab in the center of Marc Brown’s beloved book series and helps them to better understand reading, emotions, and problem solving.
9. MONTRÉAL BIODÔME
A deeper understanding of the world awaits at the Montréal Biodôme, which helps both kids and adults to more intimately experience the delicate nature of our varied ecosystems. Opened in 1992, the museum’s perfectly manicured exhibitions—including the hands-on Fossil Affair, which invites kids to learn about evolution—make it easy to turn a day of learning into a day of fun.
10. PRETEND CITY CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Playing make-believe is many a kid’s favorite pastime. And at the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, California, they’ve constructed a teeny tiny city within a city to let kids while away the day moving among the museum’s 17 interactive exhibits, which include a beach, amphitheater, construction site, post office, and grocery store (all of which teach young’uns such essential skills as critical thinking, problem solving, organization, and teamwork).
11. NEW YORK TRANSIT MUSEUM
Kids who love trains will relish the opportunity to descend into one of New York City’s late, great subway stations (it was decommissioned in the 1920s) and immerse themselves in all things train at the New York Transit Museum. Opened in 1976 for the country’s Bicentennial celebration, the museum has managed to maintain the public’s interest for nearly 40 years now, thanks in large part (no doubt) to such cool collection pieces as a 12-seat bus, a child-sized trolley, and a refurbished 1960s “Fishbowl” bus cab.