For those looking to plan a fun and educational family vacation, you’ll probably want to incorporate some museums into the itinerary. While some institutions are geared more toward adults, there are plenty of worthwhile museums for children with interactive exhibits and playful experiences. To help you plan your trip, here are our top picks for the best children’s museums around the world.
Exploratorium, San Francisco
In San Francisco, California, you’ll find the Exploratorium, a combination of playground meets laboratory where visitors can explore science, art and human perception. Children can explore six galleries, interesting workshops and informative yet fun programming. In the Tinkering Studio visitors can explore wind using everyday objects as wind tubes, or create their own marble run with funnels, tracks, pegboards and dowels. Additionally, the Central Gallery focuses on seeing and listening through experimenting with light and sound. Note: They opened in a new location at Pier 15 on April 17, 2013.
Gain entrance to the Exploratorium with a San Francisco sightseeing pass.
The Strong in Rochester, NY
Located in Rochester, New York, the Strong National Museum of Play boasts being the world’s only collections-based museum dedicated solely to play. Featuring over 150,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, children will be able to play with life-size pop-up books, iconic toys and immersive games. Channel Spiderman at the American Comic Book Heros exhibit, walk through a giant kaleidoscope at the Field of Play, operate North America’s only working time machine at TimeLab and more. Make sure to also check out their indoor butterfly garden with about 1,000 free-flying butterflies and the 1,700-gallon coral reef aquarium. There are also rides, like the working 1918 carousel and old-time passenger train.
Miami Children’s Museum
The Miami Children’s Museum resides on Watson Island in Miami. Featuring 56,500 square feet of space to play, imagine and create, families could easily spend all day exploring the museum’s many exhibits. Cure sick pets in Pet Central, play firefighter in the Safety Zone, give a checkup in the Health & Wellness Center of pick up groceries for dinner at the Supermarket. There are 14 themed rooms in total, each allowing children to learn while having fun. For added fun, print out this I Spy game and see if you can find the objects around the museum.
Visit the Miami Children’s Museum with the Go Miami Card
International Spy Museum in Washington, DC
Located in Washington DC you’ll find the International Spy Museum, a museum dedicated to educating the public about espionage and undercover operations through interactive exhibits and high-tech gadgets. The attraction boasts showcasing the world’s “largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever places on public display.” Children will have the chance to learn the secrets of being a spy by playing secret agent for the day and going on a mission. Families can also browse the many exhibits, featuring artifacts like lipstick pistols, WWI training videos, fountain pen cameras, Bond cars and more. For added fun, the museum hosts a KidSpy Overnight that is part slumber party, part undercover adventure.
Opened in 1997 in Berlin, Germany, Computerspielemuseum is dedicated to video and computer games, both new and old. With over 300 exhibits and 14,000 games, the attraction allows children the chance to spend the day trying new virtual experiences while adults can take a trip down memory lane. Experience Tetris, Super Mario Land II, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug and even transport yourself through virtual reality. Additionally, interesting finds like the world’s largest Pac-Man controller and a human-sized joystick.
Science Center NEMO, Amsterdam
Located in Amsterdam, Science Center NEMO is the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, showcasing five floors of interactive exhibits, simulations and experiments that answer questions like “What will I look like in 30 years?” and “How does lightening work?” Children will use their sense of smelling, hearing, feeling and seeing to learn how the world works, while also taking in theater performances and films. One popular exhibit is The Search For Life which looks at extraterrestrial beings, how life began and the different between living and lifeless objects. There’s also Space Shower, where children can view mysterious rays from space. Don’t leave without heading to the fifth floor for a bird’s eye-view of the city.
Read more about things to do with kids in Amsterdam
The Children’s Museum, Brussels
Also known as the musee des enfants, The Children’s Museum in Brussels, Belgium provides interactive exhibits focused on helping youths learn about themselves and others. Exhibitions may focus on topics like imagination, communication, self-confidence and the five senses, and can be explored through play. For example, “1001 Landmarks” teaches children how to find their way around and promotes self-growth, while “The Family Super Market” highlights the fact every family has its own unique, important values. Additionally, children can learn to cook, build wooden structures, produce a television program or be a superhero for the day.
Toy Museum, Prague
Located in Prague on the Prague Castle premises, the Prague Toy Museum boasts being the second-largest toy museum in the world. The attraction features several exhibition rooms showcasing toys from different decades and countries, and kids can immerse themselves in toy cars, Disney characters, robots, dollhouses, figurines, models, teddy bears and more. Children will love the expansive Barbie collection — taking up an entire floor — with Spice Girls Babies, Marilyn Monroe Barbie, a Donald Trump Ken doll and lesser-heard of Babies with a stomach compartment for Barbie babies. There is also a fun collection of wooden and tin dolls made by famous Czech cartoonist and filmmaker.
National Science and Technology Museum in Taichung, Taiwan
Located in Taichung, Taiwan, the National Science and Technology Museum is often touted as one of the best of its kind in the world. Featuring hands-on exhibits, an IMAX theater and interactive technology education, children are immersed in the world of science and technology in a fun environment. While most of the explanations are in Chinese, there are certain exhibits in English, and even the ones that aren’t can be enjoyed by foreign visitors. Kids can explore the greenhouse and gardens to learn about natural sciences, watch animated T-Rex and Velociraptors in action, view small reptiles in a mini zoo, create your own whistling wheel, learn about food preservation by canning your own goods or perform experiments with light to see how it moves.
The Toy Factory and Big Rocking Horse in Adelaide Hills, Australia
You won’t need a house number for The Toy Factory and Big Rocking Horse in Adelaide Hills, Australia, as it’s difficult to miss the world’s largest rocking horse. Located outside on their lawn, visitors are allowed to climb onto the enormous toy, which weighs 25 tons and stands about 60 feet tall. Inside, children can play with traditional wooden toys and building kits and take a tour to see firsthand how quality wooden toys are created. And if you’re child wants to take something home, the items and souvenirs are surprisingly inexpensive. Don’t leave without spending some time in their wildlife park. Families can purchase feed inside then head out to feed the kangaroos, wallabies, emus, alpacas, peacocks, sheep, goats and other animals.
– Jessica Festa