a group of skeletons in a museum

6 Museums to Visit with Kids

If you’re planning a family vacation this summer, it can be a time to spark your children’s imagination as well as have fun and relax.

Here are a few examples of places that are designed with kids in mind: 

There’s a lot of room to explore at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, with hands-on exhibits in more than a dozen major galleries. Kids can uncover the mysteries of an Egyptian tomb, check out a 19th-century locomotive, learn about life aboard the International Space Station, see how pop culture shapes us and enter the world of dinosaurs. Outdoors, they can choose from activities including football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, street hockey and golf.

At the Strong National Museum of Play, in Rochester, New York, you can step into one of television’s most iconic neighborhoods in the “Sesame Street” exhibit, where your kids will find beloved characters like Big Bird and Elmo. The Strong is also home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame and the National Toy Hall of Fame. The museum also has a butterfly garden and the Skyline Climb, a rope and obstacle course suspended above the atrium.

At the Boston Children’s Museum, kids can explore the worlds of engineering, science, technology, math and the arts through activities in the STEAM Lab. Other highlights include Arthur and Friends, based on the books and television series; an authentic two-story Japanese silk merchant’s home; a rooftop garden, where kids can play as they learn about where their food comes from; and Construction Zone, where they can build, climb, dig and sit in real construction equipment.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of many New York City attractions that are terrific for kids. The museum’s extensive collection includes a T.-rex skeleton, a model of a massive blue whale and a 15½-ton meteorite, the largest ever found in the United States. An exhibit on sharks runs through Aug. 14. At the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, “Worlds Beyond Earth” will take you on an expedition through the solar system.

If you’re planning a trip to Florida, the Kennedy Space Center, where the Apollo 11 mission to the moon was launched in 1969, is about an hour’s drive from Orlando. At the Visitor Complex, you can browse exhibits that tell the story of spaceflight, get a look at the Space Shuttle Atlantis and discover NASA’s plans to explore deep space, including Mars. The Visitor Center also regularly hosts veteran astronauts, who share their experiences.

California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, about 2½ hours south of San Francisco, is a world leader in ocean conservation and education. It’s a great place to get your kids interested in the wonders of marine life. The aquarium’s more than 200 exhibits include colorful fish, playful sea otters, fast-swimming sharks, waddling penguins and the giant Pacific octopus. A new exhibit includes the largest collection of deep-sea animals in North America.