The 10 Best Children’s Museums in America

In a country that loves innovation and learning it is no surprise that America is home to over 200 children’s museums and it is no wonder that millions of visitors flock to them every year as they offer incredible exhibits, engaging facilities, hands-on learning and fun for adults too. Nearly every city has a children’s museum, but if you want to experience the best of the best, we have rounded up our top 10 in America. From the largest children’s museum in the world to a renovated fish market, there is no excuse not to visit one of these incredible museums in America.

10. Please Touch Museum -Philadelphia, PA

With a name like “Please Touch”, it’s no wonder this is one of the best children’s museums in all of North America. This museum truly invites children to learn through playing and interacting with exhibits. Each section of this museum is designed to create learning opportunities that are completely fun and interactive. The six-themed exhibits include a mini Philly neighborhood, an Alice in Wonderland exhibit, a mock supermarket, construction zone and medical center. Kids love the halls of doors and mirrors, circular mazes and fairytale garden. Don’t forget about taking a ride on the 1908 carousel before you leave. With fair admission prices and enough fun to last all day, don’t miss out on this awesome museum.

Photo by: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr
Photo by: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr

9. Port Discovery -Baltimore, MD

This 80,000 square foot museum resides in a renovated fish market and is truly one of the anchors of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It just so happens that the Walt Disney Company Imagineers designed many of the exhibits here, so you just know they have to be pretty amazing. Kids interested in farming will love the Down on the Farm exhibit where they can milk cows, plant seeds and brush the tail of a real horse. For the active explorer don’t miss the three-storey treehouse where they can crawl through tunnels, explore a whole room of balls and cross narrow rope bridges. The HiFlyer hot air balloon is one of the favorites as kids get to experience a 15-minute ride above the Inner Harbor. Travel back in time to Egypt in the 1920’s, read one of the 3,000 books or join in a sing-along at this incredible children’s museum.

Photo by: Paul Roth via Flickr
Photo by: Paul Roth via Flickr

8. COSI: Center of Science and Industry -Columbus, OH

This is one of the few children’s museums that actually keep adults just as entertained as their kids and is a welcome relief from the normal kid’s museums. COSI has established themselves as a leader in innovation and features a number of awesome exhibits, including a working television station. The daily live show is a hit among all visitors and features such acts as real rats playing basketball. The 10,000 square foot area for kids under first grade was designed by early education experts and is perfect for the little ones to crawl, play and learn. From exploring space and energy to learning how the mind works to playing with gadgets, this museum takes visitors on a journey through science and innovation. A bit more expensive than others on this list, it is well worth it to visit.

Photo by: COSI Colmbus' Dynamic
Photo by: COSI Colmbus’ Dynamic

7. Minnesota Children’s Museum -St Paul, MN

Over six million parents and kids have visited this museum since it set up shop in downtown St. Paul and it remains one of the most loved children’s museums in all of North America. Here it is all about immersive experiences and encourages children to run and crawl through representations of Minnesota’s different natural habitats. This museum is actually promising to get even better with a $28 million renovation and expansion that is set to be complete in 2017. For now though it is pretty awesome and offers an array of experiences including a water-centric exhibit that allows kids to race boats down flowing streams and make their own recycled paper. A pretend neighborhood and art on the rooftop are hits among the kids. Watch for this museum to become even better in the next few years, but make sure to visit now to experience how awesome it already is.

Photo by: minnemom via Flickr
Photo by: minnemom via Flickr

6. Boston Children’s Museum -Boston, MA

This award-winning museum has been operating for over 100 years and offers plenty of fun for the whole family. This museum welcomes guests with its huge 40-foot high red-and-white milk bottle out front. It is one of the only museums to really focus on toddlers and preschoolers, with attractions such as the rock climbing wall that caters to kids aged three to five years old. A favorite permanent exhibit with kids is the Construction Zone, an exhibit allowing children to jackhammer, walk on high beam girders and ride in a real bobcat. Back in 2007 this museum became the city’s first “green” museum with its eco-friendly addition and landscaped waterfront park. The fully functional Japanese house, the three story climbing structure and the countdown to Kindergarten room are all huge hits among visitors. Families are welcome to bring in food into the lunch room or dine outside on the Milk Bottle Plaza, a great alternative for budget conscious families.

Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr
Photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism via Flickr

5. Children’s Museum of Denver -Denver, CO

It first opened in 1973 in a converted school bus but since has expanded into one of the best children’s museums in all of North America. Kids who love to build things will head right over to the assembly plant where they can use screwdrivers, saws and clamps to create their own one of a kind creation, which they can then take over to the art studio to paint. The fire station has to be a favorite as it features a real fire truck, 911 call centers, dispatch station and even a fire pole. The new outdoor adventure is a whopping 30,000 square feet of dynamic outdoor fun featuring ruins and forts, caves, hills, bridges and streams. A zip line, sand dunes, tunnels and waterfalls will keep kids running all day long. Stay tuned for new exhibits coming in late 2015, such as a teaching kitchen, three story climber, hands-in water lab and extreme energy station.

Photo by: Chlidren's Museum of Denver
Photo by: Chlidren’s Museum of Denver

4. The Strong -Rochester, NY

It calls itself the national museum of play and this awesome 100,000 square foot museum certainly makes well on that promise. One of the most popular exhibits with both kids and adults alike is the year-round indoor butterfly garden that features lush tropical plants and over 1,000 free-flying tropical and native butterflies. Between the aquariums, the toys hall of fame and the reading adventureland, it can be hard to choose what to visit first. Wee ones will go nuts for the Sesame Street exhibit as well as the life-sized dollhouse. Comic book heroes, e-games, a rock wall and a theatre complete with a stage are just a few of the permanent exhibits that kids go wild for. There are also plenty of food choices in the spacious food court or a sit-down style restaurant in the atrium, making sure everyone’s needs are met.

Photo by: Lee Ruk via Flickr
Photo by: Lee Ruk via Flickr

3. Children’s Museum of Houston -Houston, TX

This elaborate children’s museum recently doubled its size to 90,000 square feet and features both inside and outside exhibits. Kidtropolis is a highlight for kids, a huge pretend city where kids run the show and features its own bank, news center, vets office and more. It was designed to help kids understand occupations and economics and go with the expectation that your kids will never want to leave. Several outdoor galleries include a weather station and watery flow station which is a hit on those hot and humid days. The invention convention encourages budding inventors to create their own gadgets while the TV studio lets kids see themselves on camera, read scripts from the anchor desk and work the control panel. The smaller kids under three won’t be left out as they have their own padded play area and awesome ball bit. A bargain at just $9 for adults and kids, this museum is definitely worth checking out.

Photo by: sikeri via Flickr
Photo by: sikeri via Flickr

2. Brooklyn Children’s Museum -Brooklyn, NY

This New York City landmark is the world’s first and oldest children’s museum and remains one of the best in North America. It features over 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and costs only $9 to explore. The Neighborhood Nature exhibit is a hit among kids as they can explore the natural habitats that can be found throughout the nation, such as woodland fields and ocean tide pools. Youngsters will enjoy the 1,700 square foot totally Tots Area where they explore the sand spot, baby patch and peek-a-boutique. The museum features nearly 30,000 natural history specimens and cultural objects that will thrill both parents and kids. The coolest thing about this museum may just be the entrance, located underground in the side of a hill through an authentic 1905 New York City trolley kiosk.

Photo by: Rubenstein via Flickr
Photo by: Rubenstein via Flickr

1. Children’s Museum Indianapolis -Indianapolis, IN

It is hailed as being the best children’s museum in all of North America and the massive facility that measures over 472,000 square feet does not disappoint. It sits on 29 acres and is the largest children’s museum in the entire world. The Dinosphere exhibit is perhaps the favorite of all and features a working paleontology lab, hands-on simulated fossil digs, life-size simulated dinosaurs and one of the largest collections of real fossils and dinosaur art in the nation. Also this museum has a working 1927 carousel, the largest water clock in North America and a 130-seat planetarium. It is all about hands-on learning here and children are encouraged to touch, play and learn as they make their way through this huge museum. If you happen to be out of town visiting, make sure you spend at least an entire day here.

Photo by: Snassek via Flickr
Photo by: Snassek via Flickr

The Top Things to See and Do in Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Most travelers wouldn’t rank Minneapolis Minnesota highly on a bucket list of their top places to visit. The city’s bleak, dreary cold winter weather tends to be where most minds wander and images are conjured. However, the truth is far different. In actuality, Minneapolis is a destination with a rich variety of sights to see and places to visit for tourists. From natural beauty and scenery to arts and entertainment, there’s something everyone can enjoy in the Twin Cities. Here are 10 things to see and do in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

10. Lake Nokomis

One of several lakes in Minneapolis, Lake Nokomis is named in honor of Nokomis, the grandmother of Hiawatha, hero of the poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’. The lake is located at the southern part of the city and when initially purchased in 1907 it was a very shallow 5 feet deep, in its deepest spot. Thanks to some dredging, the lake has taken on a different look in more modern times.

More recently, Lake Nokomis has undergone a preservation project to create more native vegetation along its shores in addition to a number of artificial ponds being added to areas where flooding was such a regular occurrence. Locals use the lake for fishing and sailing, with the surrounding area including facilities for jogging, softball, cycling and other sports. Lake Nokomis makes for a perfect afternoon getaway for a family picnic, some physical activity, or just a little relaxation.

Lake Nokomis

9. Weisman Art Museum

Located on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, the Weisman Art Museum was designed by renowned Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and was completed in 1993. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River it’s one of the major landmarks on campus.

The building features a two-face style design, with a brick façade blending in with the existing brick design on the campus side, and a curving, angled, brushed steel on the opposite –a style that Gehry is well known for. This complex design is said to act as an abstract of a waterfall and a fish (you can be the judge). The museum is often referred to as a “modern art museum” and the more than 20,000 image collection features works by Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer, Charles Biederman as well as Native America pottery and Korean furniture.

Weisman Art Museum Minneapolis

8. Minneapolis Skyway System

The Minneapolis Skyway System is an interlinked collection of closed pedestrian footbridges that allows for easy navigation and foot travel throughout the city. For a city known for having colder temperatures, these covered walkways offer a chance for walkers to step out of the cold, and into the climate controlled warmth of the skyway.

The system connects 69 full city blocks over 11 miles of downtown Minneapolis. It should be noted that the skyways are privately owned in Minneapolis, so there are no uniform opening or closing times. The 8 miles of skyway connect to a number of different buildings including restaurants, hotels, banks, government offices, shopping malls, and the sports facilities at Target Center and Target Field. Several condominiums and apartments are also connected to the skyway, allowing local residents the chance to live, work and shop downtown without ever having to leave the skywalk system.

Photo by: Thunderchild7
Photo by: Thunderchild7

7. Target Field

One of the newest baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball, Target Field opened in 2010 and is home to the Minnesota Twins. The stadium was home to the 2014 MLB All Star game, and since opening has been consistently considered to provide one of the best fan experiences in baseball thanks to a design that provides excellent vantage points, amazing amenities and special features.

With a capacity just under 40,000 Target Field is an open-air design that provides great sightlines for spectators from anywhere in the stadium. This field also scores high in amenities featuring some of the best and most diverse food retailers in the league. One of the more unique features to the stadium is the Budweiser roof deck in left field; it’s designed for standing room and includes the only bonfire in MLB. The field also includes three prominent sit-down bars and restaurants, each specializing in local cuisine.

Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

6. Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre is located in downtown Minneapolis, and is one of four beautifully restored theatres on Hennepin Avenue. Originally opened in 1921 and known as the Hennepin Theatre, the building technically features two separate structures. The first being a long lobby, and the second the actual auditorium.

The restoration of the lobby features six terra cotta bas-relief sculptures, while the auditorium is adorned with a number of decorations including 30,000 squares of aluminum leaf. Inside, the building seats 1500 guests on the main floor, and an additional 1100 on the three-level balcony. During the time period from 1979 through 1988, musician Bob Dylan owned the theatre before selling it to the City of Minneapolis. Today the theatre plays host to many performances throughout the year including musicals, concerts and plays. Check out what’s playing during your visit and consider taking in a show at this great historical venue.

Photo by: Jason Riedy
Photo by: Jason Riedy

5. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an 11-acre park located near the Walker Art Center, which operates the garden in conjunction with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. The garden is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the United States, with 40 permanent fixtures and a number of temporary pieces that are switched out periodically.

The sculpture garden first opened in 1988 and expanded again in 1992. You might recognize the centerpiece of the garden; the famed ‘Spoonbridge and Cherry’ fountain designed by husband and wife sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The site also includes the Cowles Conservatory, which features more flora and sculptures including a piece by Frank Gehry, as well as a pedestrian bridge connecting to Loring Park.

photo.ua / Shutterstock.com
photo.ua / Shutterstock.com

4. Foshay Tower

Now known as W Minneapolis – The Foshay Tower is a hotel skyscraper modeled after the Washington Monument. The building finished construction in 1929, just months before the stock market crash in October of that year. The Foshay has 32 floors, and stands 447 feet high and includes an antenna that extends its height all the way to 607 feet.

The building is credited as beginning the push toward upward development in the city, as it was the first structure taller than the city hall. It remained the tallest building in Minneapolis until the IDS Center surpassed it in 1972. Inside the hotel, few luxuries were spared as the interior includes African mahogany, Italian marble, terrazzo, gold-plated doorknobs, and even a silver and gold plated ceiling. The tower was the lifelong dream of art student turned businessman Wilbur Foshay. On the 30th floor of the tower you’ll find the Forshay Museum and Observation Deck where for an $8 admission you can learn about the building’s history and impact on the city as well as take in some magnificent views.

Office Buildings

3. Xcel Energy Center/Mariucci Arena

A trip to the “State of Hockey” isn’t complete without taking in a live game of ice hockey and the Twin Cities don’t disappoint with 2 different options for hockey lovers. The home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, Excel Energy Center is located in St. Paul and offers sports fans the opportunity to catch a major league game in a city that absolutely loves hockey.

While getting to see big time hockey stars up close and personal is a great experience, it can be a costly one considering ticket prices. If you’re looking to save while still catching some exciting hockey action, Minneapolis has you covered. Stick to the larger of the Twin Cities and catch a game at Mariucci Arena, home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher’s. The arena is located on the university campus, and can accommodate around 10,000 fans for an ice hockey game. The arena opened in 1993 and is named after local legend and longtime Gopher coach John Mariucci. Contrary to the NHL games played in St. Paul, the ice surface at Mariucci Arena is built to the somewhat larger international dimensions. The arena even drew praise from Sports Illustrated in 2007 when it was named as one of the top venues in college sports (the only hockey venue to make the list).

Xcel Energy Center minneapolis
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

2. Minneapolis Institute of Arts

A fine art museum located on a site that covers nearly 8-acres of land, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (or MIA as it’s commonly called) is a large government funded public museum, and as such charges no entrance fee except for special exhibitions –a great options for budget travelers or families looking for a bargain. Another benefit of the institute is that unlike many museums, photography of its permanent collection is allowed -provided that it’s used for personal or scholarly use.

The collection found within the Minneapolis Institute of Arts includes 80,000 objects, spanning 5,000 years of world history. The collection boasts paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, textiles, architecture and decorative arts. The institute is known for its exceptionally impressive collection of Asian artwork, one of the most intricate in the United States.  In 2015 the museum celebrates its 100th birthday year and plans to celebrate are well underway so there’s no better time to check out MIA than right now.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

1. TCF Bank Stadium

No trip to any major American city can truly be complete without a trip to the local football stadium. Currently, the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings are in a transitional phase, as the team leaves its former home at the Herbert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and into the new Vikings Stadium that is under construction.

For the time being, the Vikings and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers are sharing the 52,000+ seat stadium at the university campus. Having just opened in 2009, the stadium is serving as a nice transitional home for the Vikings while the team awaits completion of the new stadium at some point in 2015. Because of this, the stadium is currently the smallest in the NFL. While this may at first seem like a downfall, visiting during this time actually provides visitors opportunity to be apart of a more intimate experience for a large-scale professional game –a chance that doesn’t come around very often.

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com