Most children are interested in science while growing up and if you nurture their interest it will blossom into a life-long passion for exploring the wonders of the natural world. A hands-on exhibit, workshop or an enthusiastic speaker will make kids even more excited to learn new scientific concepts at home and in school. Plan your family vacation to one of these amazing science museums in the U.S. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1. Massachusetts - Boston Children's Museum
© Boston Children's Museum
Boston Children's Museum offers innovative exhibits such as introduction to new materials, games, puzzles and interaction with live animals. Several times per month, guest presenters speak about engineering, chemistry and kitchen science.
The museum has exhibits about health, performing arts, visual arts, world cultures, and special workshops for kids 6 and older. The LEED-certified museum was founded over 100 years ago and pioneered the concept of a hands-on exhibit in 1964.
During the visit, you will get many new ideas for playing with your children in a way that encourages their creativity.
2. Indiana - The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
© The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Regardless of your child's interests, they will discover something exciting to do at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. From life-size dinosaurs to a 130-seat, full-dome planetarium, this awesome museum is a must-see for families.
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers can climb, play and socialize in Playscape. Older children can dig for fossils, experiment in the Biotechnology Learning Center, interact with a Chinese cultural exhibit, and participate in staff-led activities. ScienceWorks in The Dow Science Center houses frogs, a 30-foot creek, 20-foot rock climbing wall, and the planetarium.
Don't miss the Carousel where you can ride on beautifully painted animals, walk through a maze of mirrors and climb a tree house
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3. San Francisco - Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences
© California Academy of Sciences
The 75-foot dome at Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco offers some of the most immersive planetarium shows in the world. The shows incorporate current scientific data and employ high-tech equipment to tell stories about stars, planets, black holes and the Earth.
The planetarium dome is made of 100% recycled steel.
The projection is so incredible that it makes you feel like you really are surrounded by the night sky. The aquarium which houses 40,000 live animals and the rainforest exhibit are a must-see as well. Read more about the California Academy of Sciences.
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4. Arizona - Children's Museum of Phoenix
© Children's Museum of Phoenix
Children's Museum of Phoenix offers children ages birth through 10 a variety of engaging exhibits, projects and programs. Spend your weekend playing and learning in a fun, imaginative way.
You can replicate some of the activities that you find at the museum when you return home from your trip.
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5. Texas - The Frontiers of Flight Museum
© The Frontiers of Flight Museum
We take flying for granted when we travel, but seeing the history of aeronautical engineering first-hand makes us appreciate how much human ingenuity went into perfecting the modern airplanes.
The Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas houses over 30 aircraft, the Apollo 7 spacecraft and tens of thousands of historical items. This one-of-a-kind museum is fun to visit with the whole family.
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6.New York - National Museum of Mathematics
© National Museum of Mathematics
Visit the National Museum of Mathematics in New York with your kids and you won't be disappointed. This museum brings mathematical concepts to life with colorful exhibits, activities and presentations.
Your kids will interact with complex shapes through 3-D models, computer graphics and fun puzzles. You may have an "aha!" moment yourself as you stroll though the cleverly designed museum spaces.
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7.The Children's Museum of New Hampshire
© The Children's Museum of New Hampshire
Housed in a Silver LEED-certified building, the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover offers interactive exhibits which let children learn about natural history, dinosaurs, caves, submarines, aeronautics, world cultures, music and art.
Don't miss the interactive lab which give kids plenty of opportunity for experimentation and creation.
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8. California - The Tech Interactive in San Jose
© The Tech Interactive
The Tech Interactive in San Jose was created to do exactly what its name implies: to promote innovation. Visitors learn how to solve problems through hands-on experiences, collaboration and experimenting.
Kids get to observe and participate in problem-solving activities which inspire their minds to think more creatively. This unique museum alone is why San Jose should be on your weekend getaway short list.
9.Alaska - Thomas Planetarium at The Anchorage Museum
© The Anchorage Museum
The Anchorage Museum is the largest museum in Alaska. It houses the new Thomas Planetarium which lets kids learn about the solar system though interactive demonstrations and films.
The 46-seat planetarium has a 24-foot dome screen, surround sound and 3-D graphics. At the Polar Lab you will find exhibits on natural resources, ecology, architecture and culture.
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10.Utah - The Leonardo in Salt Lake City
© The Leonardo
Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and his insatiable quest for knowledge, the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City offers fun hands-on displays, water play, origami, an amazing science room, as well as unique temporary exhibits.
Kids can participate in guided activities and learn how to assemble a rubber band-powered car from recycled materials, or make the perfect paper airplane.
11.Oregon - The Museum of Natural and Cultural History
© The Museum of Natural and Cultural History
The Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Eugene, Oregon houses an extensive collection of fossils, objects and specimens from the local region and from around the world.
"Scientific at the Core" is an interactive laboratory offering hands-on activities for budding scientists of all ages.
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12.Illinois - Adler Planetarium in Chicago
© Adler Planetarium
Adler Planetarium in Chicago encourages visitors to learn about galaxies, stars and planets through interactive exhibits and planetarium shows. You will get to visualize the scale of the universe and learn about NASA's Apollo13 mission to the moon.
There are three theaters which offer daily shows, programs and special lectures. The Adler was the first planetarium in the United States.
13.Texas - Houston Museum of Natural Science
© Houston Museum of Natural Science
Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science presents high-tech shows featuring one of the most advanced projectors in the world. Take a virtual trip though stars, planets, comets, black holes and other celestial objects.
The show includes a 3-D flight through space, complete with a digital stereo sound system. You will get to feel the full scale of the universe, from the Big Bang to the nucleus of a living cell. There are many other things to see and to in addition to the planetarium - the museum is a dream come true for science fans.
Permanent exhibits include game fish, Egyptian artifacts, paleontology, gems & minerals, energy, chemistry, geology, wildlife and more.
14.Nebraska - Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History
© Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Nebraska offers free solar observing every third Saturday, from April through September. Children learn how to safely look at the sun through a specially equipped telescope.
Planetarium shows teach you how to spot constellations, planets and other objects.
15.New York City - The American Museum of Natural History
© The American Museum of Natural History
From the state-of-the-art Hayden Planetarium and the in-depth Earth & Space Tour, to dinosaurs and whales, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is one of the top science museums in the world.
The museum is best for kids over 6.
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16.Albert Einstein Planetarium in Washington, DC
© Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory
Little kids will enjoy "One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure" at the Albert Einstein Planetarium in Washington, DC, featuring Big Bird and Elmo as they take an imaginary trip to the moon.
Located on the National Air and Space Museum's east terrace, Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory offers solar and lunar observing from 12 pm to 3 pm, Wednesday through Sunday, weather permitting. Observatory staff offers hands-on activities that let you learn about astronomy and telescopes.
If the weather does not cooperate, alternative activities are offered indoors.
17.Colorado - Denver Museum of Nature & Science
© Denver Museum of Nature & Science
From planetarium shows and IMAX movies to interactive exhibits and play areas, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is a destination for families with kids of all ages.
The Discovery Zone has the Big Backyard, designed for babies and toddlers under two, a kid-sized shuttle flight deck, wildlife exhibits, real fossils and an interactive water play area.
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18.Colorado - WOW! Children's Museum
© WOW! Children's Museum
WOW! Children's Museum in Lafayette is a playground for kids ages 1 to 11. Creative exhibits invite young explorers to learn about science, art and dance in a fun setting.
For example, the Bank of WOW! Exhibit lets families practice counting, saving and spending. Kids learn to recognize money, pretend to be bank customers and bank tellers. The museum has a puppet theater, art room, dance & yoga studio, market exhibit and a sandbox.
Learn about energy conservation hands-on since the museum has solar panels which generate electricity used to power the exhibits.
19. Pennsylvania - The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
© The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh houses phenomenal exhibits, from the Gravity Room which is tilted at a 25-degree angle to the Garage where you can take a real smart car for a test drive.
Kids can play hide-and-seek, climb and slide. Water play is usually a favorite and the museum offers a room dedicated to rain, ice, spray and flow. Children learn about buoyancy and hydraulics by participating in a variety of activities such as dam building, hand pump, fountain, water mover and a magnetic water wall.
The Garden offers seasonal programs such as planting, composting and spotting insects.
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20. North Carolina - The Greensboro Children's Museum
© The Greensboro Children's Museum
The Greensboro Children's Museum is a 37,000 square-foot space where kids get a chance to role play, test new gadgets, climb and learn. Children can shop at a child-size market, dress in costumes at the theater, climb into a fire truck, ride in a police car and a train. They can role play at the health center which has a nursery, doctor’s office and a dentist.
The Tot Spot is a safe area for children under two years old, complete with padded blocks, ride-on toys, balls and mats. The Media Room is for kids who want to be in a newscast, while the Construction Zone is ideal for young engineers and architects. The museum has a beautiful outdoor garden where children learn about growing their own food (website).
If you are planning a two-day family trip to Greensboro, head to the Greensboro Science Center which has a beautiful aquarium, museum and zoo.
21.Mississippi - The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
© Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport offers amazing indoor and outdoor exhibits such as the Super Colossal Climbing Structure which lets kids safely climb from one floor of the museum to the next.
The science room is exciting and interactive, encouraging young visitors to test how things work for themselves. There is an art studio, a play area for the smallest kids and several excellent role play exhibits. Children can dress in costumes and ride a train, pretend to be a vet, operate a crane, star in a cooking show, and run a historic hotel.
The museum has a revolving exhibit which lets you learn about the different cultures from around the world, complete with costumes and a plane to stimulate young minds.
22.New York – The Strong National Museum of Play
© The Strong
The Strong in Rochester features 100,000 square feet of interactive space filled with educational and entertaining activities. The Aquariums houses 150 species of fish, including a 1,700-gallon tank which is one of the biggest in the Northeast.
Game Time! On the second floor offers countless games such as pinball, air hockey, puzzles, domino and rare games which you’ve probably never heard of. The Kid to Kid area consists of hands-on activities, including a Post Office, helicopter, theater stage and a ship. Discovery Garden is home to 300 species of plants, butterflies and birds.
The Field of Play exhibit features a giant kaleidoscope which you can walk through, a climbing wall, an exaggerated perspective room and a drag racer.
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23.Virginia - The Children's Museum of Richmond
© The Children's Museum of Richmond
The Children's Museum of Richmond has four locations in Central Virginia: Richmond, Glen Allen, Midlothian and Fredericksburg. Your children will get a chance to engage in pretend play, experiment with water, dig, ride a train and practice social skills.
The museum offers a series of interactive exhibits, including a Pirate Ship, Dig Pit, Art Studio, Garage Exhibit, Market, Bank and a Stage. There is also an Enchanted Castle, Wild Safari Train, Magic Beanstalk Climber and a Mother Goose Corner.
24.Los Angeles - Griffith Observatory
© Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles offers fantastic exhibits, shows and stargazing through public telescopes.
The observatory sits high above the city, letting you enjoy panoramic views of the skyline as well as the stars. Next read: 10 Best Botanical Gardens for Families.
Best Science Museums & Planetariums to Visit on Your Family Weekend Getaway
- Massachusetts - Boston Children's Museum , Photo: Boston Children's Museum
- Indiana - The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Photo: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
- San Francisco - Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, Photo: California Academy of Sciences
- Arizona - Children's Museum of Phoenix , Photo: Children's Museum of Phoenix
- Texas - The Frontiers of Flight Museum, Photo: The Frontiers of Flight Museum
- New York - National Museum of Mathematics, Photo: National Museum of Mathematics
- The Children's Museum of New Hampshire, Photo: The Children's Museum of New Hampshire
- California - The Tech Interactive in San Jose, Photo: The Tech Interactive
- Alaska - Thomas Planetarium at The Anchorage Museum, Photo: The Anchorage Museum
- Utah - The Leonardo in Salt Lake City, Photo: The Leonardo
- Oregon - The Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Photo: The Museum of Natural and Cultural History
- Illinois - Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Photo: Adler Planetarium
- Texas - Houston Museum of Natural Science, Photo: Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Nebraska - Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Photo: Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History
- New York City - The American Museum of Natural History, Photo: The American Museum of Natural History
- Albert Einstein Planetarium in Washington, DC, Photo: Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory
- Colorado - Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Photo: Denver Museum of Nature & Science
- Colorado - WOW! Children's Museum, Photo: WOW! Children's Museum
- Pennsylvania - The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Photo: The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
- North Carolina - The Greensboro Children's Museum, Photo: The Greensboro Children's Museum
- Mississippi - The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Photo: Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
- New York – The Strong National Museum of Play, Photo: The Strong
- Virginia - The Children's Museum of Richmond, Photo: The Children's Museum of Richmond
- Los Angeles - Griffith Observatory, Photo: Griffith Observatory
- Cover Photo: Boston Children's Museum
»Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia houses a 61-foot domed screen featuring planetarium shows as well as films about the ocean and the natural world. Immerse yourself in two floors of hands-on science exhibits at the Clay Center's Avampato Discovery Museum where you can learn about geology, tornadoes, geysers and waterfalls. Kidspace was built for children under five and features a giant tree house, puzzles, games, and clouds that rain balls. Little Builders is a fun space for smaller kids who get to operate a child-sized crane, work a conveyor belt and build with interesting materials. STEAMworks is a changing exhibit gallery which presents new scientific concepts. Health Royale lets children learn about health and wellness through interactive play.
»Minnesota - ExploraDome at The Bell Museum of Natural History
ExploraDome Theater at The Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis lets visitors take a virtual trip to remote stars and learn about recent scientific discoveries about the universe. ExploraDome offers an intimate experience because the theater seats only 15 people. It's a good idea to reserve your tickets ahead of time. Many shows are presented by a planetarium educator so that kids can ask questions afterwards. Children as young as Pre-K can watch the show. The museum also offers "Saturday with a Scientist", special exhibits, and the highly interactive Touch and See Discovery Room.
You may also like: 25 Best Things to Do in Minneapolis.
»Georgia - The Museum of Arts and Sciences
The Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia has a planetarium with a 44-foot dome, an observatory, diverse interactive displays and a mini zoo. The outdoor section of the museum features the observatory, picnic facilities, a cave and a nature trail. Through special lectures and exhibits, visitors learn about black holes, reptiles, fossils, butterflies and other topics. The observatory is equipped with several Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrains, a Dobsonian and a Meade LX200. Telescope observing is free for all visitors.
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