America’s 10 Best Children’s Museums

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Take the kids to your closest children’s museum, where they can learn about their world while having a fantastic time.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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    Please Touch Children’s Museum

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Babies can play alongside their older siblings at this museum specially designed to keep them both entertained at once. In the popular Wonderland exhibit, 1-year-olds can pick out giant flowers in the Fairytale Garden while their 5-year-old siblings can have a pretend tea party with Alice at a giant table nearby. Older kids can try out musical instruments from around the world while the younger ones crawl on lily pads that make nature sounds. Everyone can take a spin on the antique carousel or take in a live theater show. Best for kids ages six months to six years.

    pleasetouchmuseum.org

    Kohl Children’s Museum

    Glenview, Illinois
    This museum is tops in pretend play. Kids can nurse sick stuffed animals back to health at the Pet Vet exhibit, work as a construction worker laying tiles, or drive through a car wash. A two-acre outdoor space offers mazes, a painting wall, and a giant kaleidoscope. Best for kids ages six months to six years.

    kohlchildrensmuseum.org

    Children’s Museum of Houston

    Houston, Texas
    Forget kiddy pools or water tables; here your children can create aqueducts, race boats, and turn on geysers in a Texas-sized outdoor play area. Kids can also learn about money by taking a temporary job as a police officer, chef, or artist and take their paycheck to the store to figure out how many groceries it will buy. For little ones under 2, there’s a Tot Spot equipped with balls, cushy stairs, mirrors, and doorbells. Fun for kids six months to 10 years.

    cmhouston.org

    Madison Children’s Museum

    Madison, Wisconsin
    Environmental awareness is the big focus of this green museum. Housed in an environmentally friendly building, it features a rooftop garden where kids can get their hands dirty planting, collect chicken eggs, and learn about homing pigeons. Those under 5 can then explore the tree house or little huts. Crawlers have their own special padded play area made from local natural materials. The entire museum is cleaned with natural products, and the café offers healthy foods. Great for kids ages six months to six years.

    madisonchildrensmuseum.org

    Minnesota Children’s Museum

    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Toddlers can feel their way around the Habitots exhibit, featuring a cave, prairie, pond, and forest. The space allows young children to safely investigate a creative, interactive, and experiential world made just for them. Animal programs let children interact with live turtles, snakes, and rats while learning about their natural habitats. Kids can also create artworks, paint their own faces, play with hula-hoops, and listen to stories. Recommended for kids six months to six years.

    mcm.org

    Boston Children’s Museum

    Boston, Massachusetts
    Pre-schoolers can prepare for the future by catching a pretend bus, putting books in a backpack, and playing school at the Countdown to Kindergarten! exhibit. From the end of May to September, 2011, the museum will feature a Wizard of Oz traveling exhibit where kids can create tornadoes, play with color prisms, and explore the Wicked Witch’s castle. Parents also can benefit. Scientists from MIT are available to give child development advice, or ask if your child wants to play a game as part of a study. Best for kids six months through age 8.

    bostonchildrensmuseum.org

    Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Mister Rogers fans can visit replicas of his Neighborhood at this Rogers-inspired museum. The whole family can take a ride on the Neighborhood Trolley and peer through the window of the house from the “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” TV show. The museum is also home to a Curiosity Lab, where kids can take apart household appliances to see how they work (better here than at home!). Kids can even put on shows with their friends in the museum’s theater. Fun for kids ages six months to six years.

    pittsburghkids.org

    The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

    Indianapolis, Indiana
    One wing of the museum has been transformed into an Egyptian village, where children can try on Egyptian clothing, learn about the local money, and shop for local foods. But this is just one of 13 thrilling permanent exhibits. Animal lovers can help cartoon characters Dora and Diego search for baby animals in the rain forest. Stargazers can visit the planetarium. And transportation enthusiasts can take virtual train rides. Good for kids ages six months to 10 years.

    childrensmuseum.org

    National Museum of Play

    Rochester, NY
    Kids can ogle fish at a vast aquarium or follow the flight of butterflies in the butterfly garden at this upstate New York museum. The Sesame Street exhibit, with a piano kids can pound, is particularly popular. Older kids can star in a cooking show at the play TV studios and check out the National Toy Hall of Fame. Great for ages 2 to 8.

    nationalmuseumofplay.org

    Children’s Museum of Phoenix

    Phoenix, Arizona
    Everything in this imaginative museum is hands-on. Burgeoning chefs can learn how to make pizzas at the kids’ kitchen, or shop like mom and dad at the market. They can also spin their wheels at the Pedal Power exhibit or create masterpieces at the Art Studio. Children under 3 have their own special area full of fuzzy balls and other fun things for little fingers to feel. Great for kids from six months to 10 years.

    childrensmuseumofphoenix.org

    Sources:
    Parents.com, geoparent.sheknows.com, Association of Children’s Museums, News.travel.aol.com (and museum websites above)

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    Your Comments

    • Hyathrifty

      HENRY FORD MUSEUM AND GREENFIELD VILLAGE, DEARBORN, MI. MY KIDS LOVE(D) IT.

    • Cesar Guevara

      What about Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC? It’s a great place for kids

    • Allison

      These are great museums! I was a little sad to not find any museums from my state. Oregon has OMSI which should have made this list! Also – a little smaller but The Gilbert House is also AMAZING!