Mar 25 2011
When traveling with young children and armed with a membership card for free access, stops at children’s museums were a part of almost every family trip. Children’s museums offer fun, learning, and during a road trip, a place to get out of the car for a while.
Because we’ve been to quite a few, they seem to blur after a while–most have a water-play area, and other popular exhibits are replicated in a number of museums. Each children’s museum we’ve visited, however, has something unique that we really enjoyed, and this is what makes it fun to go to new museums.
Here are some of my favorite children’s museum exhibits:
- San Antonio Children’s Museum, San Antonio, Texas: The history of the area is portrayed with replicas of the San Antonio Missions, which we had toured the day before. The ball area was hard to pull the boys away from. But the gem of this museum is the giant H-E-B grocery store on the lower level, where the scanners really work and museum staff are on hand to help kids put things away. Big and bright, I wanted to do my grocery shopping here!
- Winnipeg Children’s Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba: Our youngest was only six months old when we went here, and there was plenty for our really young kids to do. Their favorite at the time was running the excavation equipment mock-ups. There was also a big, open arts area, and some unique musical instruments outside. Located in The Forks area of Winnipeg, we also enjoyed shopping and eating and walking along the river, all without moving our car.
- Children’s Discovery Museum, Normal, Illinois: This was a road-trip stop that we found to be a gem. The agricultural exhibits were perfect for America’s heartland, and there was a huge creative art area. The toddler area is adjacent to places where the big kids were, so I could keep an eye on everyone at once. Our favorite part, though, was the Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman area, where the kids got to make their own gooey concoctions.
- Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: This is Mr. Rogers’ hometown, and this museum pays homage to him in an area that will bring back memories in the parents while the kids are having fun. I also remember this as the place where the aprons really did not keep the kids from getting wet in the large water-play area.
- The Magic House, St. Louis, Missouri: This children’s museum is huge! Although I found it confusing to navigate, there’s a wide variety of exhibits hiding within its walls. The Lewis & Clark exhibit in the basement and the math hallway were my favorites, and the kids loved the pretend town where they could use their imaginations.
- Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: I think this gets the vote for my favorite children’s museum, even if just because its name is perfect for a children’s museum. It has some of the most unique activities I’ve seen at a children’s museum, especially the Flight Fantasy area.
- Northwoods Children’s Museum, Eagle River, Wisconsin: This small-town children’s museum is well-done. We especially liked fishing in the stream and the kids loved watching for problems from the ranger tower. Everything’s in one big room so each of the kids could do what they wanted and we could easily keep tabs on them.
- The Children’s Museum at Yunker Farm, Fargo, North Dakota: I loved the small themed rooms in this museum, which is actually an old house. The kids loved the train ride outside, and the nearby playground. I wish this museum had been around when I lived in North Dakota.
- Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul, Minnesota: We’ve been here again and again, and yet the kids keep asking to go back (this time for the Lego exhibit). Favorites: the rooftop art park, where kids can “paint” the rocks with water, and making a thunderstorm. I think they could work in the block factory all day long.
- DuPage Children’s Museum, Naperville, Illinois: I like how this museum is set up with a toddler area within each neighborhood, making it good for families with kids of different ages. Favorites: the wood workshop, the water area, and the kinetic sculpture. My kids love to watch the balls climb and wind and fall. We had so much fun on the main level that the museum closed before we could make it upstairs.
- Duluth Children’s Museum, Duluth, Minnesota: It was a joy to take my kids here and climb in the treehouse that I remembered from a stop here when I was a little girl. Although it’s not a large children’s museum, admission includes the adjacent train museum, so everyone in the family should be able to find something they like in a stop at The Depot.
- Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas: Although this is technically not a children’s museum, the H-E-B Treehouse section is a children’s hands-on adventure. Our favorite was the waterwheel outside.
- Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, Mankato, Minnesota: Although not yet in a permanent location, this newly-created children’s museum is on its second round of temporary exhibits. I think my husband and I had as much fun building sculptures and marble runs with the huge foam pieces as the kids did.
As our children grow older, our days at children’s museums are drawing to a close, but we have a lot of “remember when” moments from our visits to children’s museums around the country.
Do you have a favorite children’s museum? Which one is it, and what’s your favorite part about it?