10Best: Great Museums for Families

  • Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

    American Museum of Natural History in New York

    The halls and exhibits that came to life in the film Night at the Museum contain all the stuff kids love, including dinosaurs, computer games, life-like wildlife dioramas and an IMAX theater. With exhibits on the history of the universe, biodiversity, New York state's wildlife, meteorites, minerals and human origins, the museum offers an educational experience for kids and adults.

    Photo courtesy of Dan McKay

  • Milestones of Flight Gallery

    Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC

    Many a child has dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum brings those dreams to life with to-scale replicas of famous aircraft and memorabilia from the space program. Located in Washington, DC's National Mall, this Smithsonian museum is considered by many to be the best of the bunch.

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

  • Main gallery

    Field Museum in Chicago

    Natural history museums are usually a good bet for family-friendly entertainment, and Chicago's Field Museum is one of the best. Its 9 acres of gallery space, housing dinosaur bones, real Egyptian mummies and robotic subterranean creepy crawlies, were good enough for Steven Spielberg to base Indiana Jones there.

    Photo courtesy of Paul Hudson

  • Dinosphere

    Children's Museum of Indianapolis

    Don't let the name fool you. Even teenagers and adults will enjoy the extensive permanent collections at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Opened in 1925, it's the largest children's museum on the planet with a half-million square feet of exhibit space, where you'll find a planetarium, hands-on science lab, a fully operational carousel from the 1900s, race cars and a water clock.

    Photo courtesy of Children's Museum of Indianapolis

  • Getty Museum gardens

    J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles

    The Getty Museum in Los Angeles isn't just a great museum for families, it's a great museum for anyone. This free-for-families museum has a Family Room with rotating exhibits curated with kids in mind. While the grown-ups enjoy the extensive art collection, kids can play art sleuth with Getty Art Detective Cards, dig for fossils and run off some energy in the stunning Getty gardens.

    Photo courtesy of Marshall Astor

  • Garden of Enchantment

    de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

    A fine arts museum may not sound like the most family-friendly option, but the de Young in San Francisco has gone out of its way to bring an appreciation of the fine arts to even the smallest visitors. Museum docents lead special kid-friendly tours every Saturday. The grounds house a Garden of Enchantment, filled with whimsical statues and a pond, where kids can run around before or after your visit.

    Photo courtesy of sneakerdog

  • Trains on display

    California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento

    Train-loving kids – and adults for that matter – will love the collection of full-size and model trains at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Within, you'll find 21 restored locomotive cars, 1,000 vintage toy trains, a Thomas the Tank Engine exhibit and galleries detailing the history of the Gold Rush. In the summers, the whole family can take a ride aboard the museum's Sacramento Southern Railroad.

    Photo courtesy of Orin Zebest

  • Butterfly Garden

    Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa

    Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, or MOSI for short, includes 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, making it the largest science center in South Florida. With a zip-lining course, IMAX theater, butterfly pavilion, a high-wire bicycle and exhibits on pirates, dinosaurs, weather and the human body

    Photo courtesy of MOSI

  • MOMA

    Museum of Modern Art in New York

    With whacky furniture, Andy Warhol pop art and bizarre sculptures, modern art might just be the most kid-friendly form of art, and there's a lot of it at the iconic Museum of Modern Art in New York. The museum hosts a special series of kid-oriented gallery talks, workshops, movie screenings and art labs. Be sure to pick up a set of free Art Cards and a kid-friendly audio guide when you enter.

    Photo courtesy of Ed Schipul

  • Space exhibit

    Arizona Science Center in Phoenix

    When you're traveling with kids and need to escape the Phoenix heat, spend an afternoon at the Arizona Science Center, a playground of discovery geared toward children and teens. Highlights of the 300 interactive exhibits include a look at the human brain, an exploration of nano technology, a high-wire SkyCycle and an immersion theater where you can experience an earthquake or hurricane-force winds.

    Photo courtesy of Octavio Ruiz Cervera