Readers Choice

WINNERS: Best Museum for FamiliesChosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

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    #10 - Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

    This marvel of a museum is located in our nation's capitol and welcomes over eight million people a year, making it the most visited museum in the US. It's easy to see why. Historic aircraft and spacecraft on display are awe-inspiring and capture the imaginations of children and adult alike.

    Photo courtesy of Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

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    #9 - Center of Science & Industry

    Kids can turn into astronauts with the snap of the finger at this Columbus, Ohio museum by riding in a mock space shuttle. "COSI" offers a wide array of permanent exhibits and hosts a few traveling ones, too. If space isn't of interest, children might want to check out the museum's working radio station, or maybe take a tour of the ancient stories of the sea hosted by Poseidon himself. An outdoor science park has much on display including the "green home of tomorrow."

    Photo courtesy of Center of Science and Industry

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    #8 - Henry Ford Museum

    Children who love model cars will love the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. Heck, even kids who prefer the souped-up versions that zoom by in video games will get a kick out of this place. The museum began as Henry Ford's own personal collection but has expanded much since then. Visitors can get a glimpse of an Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and more.

    Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford Museum

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    #7 - National Museum of Play

    With over 150,000 square feet of pure fun and education, this New York museum is irresistible to families looking for a great way to spend a day together. There's a butterfly garden and a life-size pop-up book along with a kid-friendly library, where young ones can "check out" their first book. Families won't want to miss the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong, which displays some of the museum collection's most famous toys.

    Photo courtesy of Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

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    #6 - ¡Explora! Children's Museum

    This Albuquerque museum is as hands-on as it gets. Populated with tons of small table-top exhibits for children, visitors can get up close and personal with art, math, science, music and a variety of other educational subjects. Play with rulers or pound on a piano. Camps and programs on offer also work to keep children engaged with learning. The facility is available for birthday parties and other rentals, too.

    Photo courtesy of ¡Explora!

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    #5 - Discovery Center Museum

    Two hundred and fifty exhibits inhabit the Discovery Center in Rockford, Illinois. Kids will want to see all of them. From outer space to mathematics, and air and space to levers and pulleys, this center has the basics down pat. Discovery Center's latest exhibit commemorates the life of astronaut Janice Voss, a Rockford native. This museum even offers classes and camps.

    Photo courtesy of Discovery Center Museum

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    #4 - Musical Instrument Museum

    "The World's Only Global Musical Instrument Museum" displays instruments from around the world. Certainly not just for music lovers, this Phoenix museum offers a fascinating peek into the mechanics of mysterious instruments like mechanical zithers and more. An experience gallery welcomes kids and adults to bang and strum drums and harps.

    Photo courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum

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    #3 - New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

    This Albuquerque, New Mexico museum's main exhibit, "Timetracks," offers a journey through the state's history, dating back to the prehistoric. Dinosaur alert!  Other permanent exhibits cater to fossil-lovers, so kids who love dinosaurs are in heaven. A planetarium rounds out the experience, along with a "DynoTheater" that shows science programming on a towering screen. The museum offers education programs for kids and families, including a summer camp.

    Photo courtesy of MarbleStreetStudio.com

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    #2 - Children's Museum of Houston

    The Children's Museum of Houston welcomes families and invites them to experience a day of fun spread over fourteen exciting galleries. Kids can explore hydro-power, or learn about ecology at the museum's EcoStation, or visit a city "for kids, run by kids" called Kidtropolis. Thursdays are free for families, an even greater incentive to turn off the television and step into a world of real-life wonder.

    Photo courtesy of Cody Duty/Duty Free Studios

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    #1 - Children's Museum of Indianapolis

    Families would be challenged to find a more impressive museum for the little ones. This Indianapolis attraction is the largest children's museum on the globe, with over 29 acres to its name. Exhibits include everything from dinosaurs to immersive cultural experiences. Take Me There: ® China opens May 10 and the museum will also have the REAL Terra Cotta Warriors as part of a separate exhibit opening the same day. It will be called Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army.  

    Photo courtesy of Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Children's Museum of Indianapolis Takes Top Honors

Houston, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Rockford also tops

Savvy families have a new must-see list with the reveal of our readers' winners for Best Museum for Families.  This popular Readers' Choice contest category was hotly contested, but in the end, Children's Museum of Indianapolis took the top spot, followed by 9 worthy contenders with large, loyal followings.  

Each of our winners makes an excellent destination on wet or chilly days or a fun weekend outing in any weather.

The winners in the 'Best Museum for Families' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice are as follows:

  1. Children's Museum of Indianapolis
  2. Children's Museum of Houston
  3. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science - Albuquerque
  4. Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix
  5. Discovery Center Museum - Rockford, Ill.
  6. ¡Explora! Children's Museum - Albuquerque
  7. National Museum of Play - Rochester, N.Y.
  8. Henry Ford Museum - Detroit
  9. Center of Science & Industry - Columbus, Ohio
  10. Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum - Washington, D.C.

Congratulations to all our winners!   

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Meet the Experts

Candyce Stapen

Family travel expert Candyce Stapen has authored many family travel tomes including National Geographic Guide to Family Adventure Vacations.  In addition to the 2,300+ articles she has written for diverse outlets and an appearance on the TODAY show, Candyce also produces travel apps for families such as DC With Kids, Boston With Kids and soon New York City Family Guide.

Katie Dillon

Family travel expert Katie Dillon is editor of a lifestyle site called La Jolla Mom and authored the book “Flying With Kids.” Her work can be seen on NBC San Diego; Red Tricycle; Yahoo! Shine; and Have Family Will Travel, a Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts blog. Katie is based in La Jolla, California, and has a young daughter who frequently travels with her mom and dad.