10 Cities with Great, Affordable Museums for Kids

by ShermansTravel Editorial Staff

10 Cities with Great, Affordable Museums for Kids

by ShermansTravel Editorial Staff

Not all museums cater to families. But in these destinations, world-class institutions offer imaginative educational opportunities under the guise of childlike fun. From hands-on experiments to music-making, here are the best museums for kids and how to save once you’re there.

Not all museums cater to families. But in these destinations, world-class institutions offer imaginative educational opportunities under the guise of childlike fun. From hands-on experiments to music-making, here are the best museums for kids and how to save once you’re there.

10
1 of 10
New York, NY

The American Museum of Natural History is the world’s largest natural science museum. Massive dinosaur skeletons, a 34-ton meteorite, a 94-foot model of a blue whale, and cosmos-centric shows at the planetarium are just some of the offerings guaranteed to captivate all ages. (From $13 for kids 12 and under; $23 for adults; pay-what-you-wish admission available at ticket counters.)

The American Museum of Natural History is the world’s largest natural science museum. Massive dinosaur skeletons, a 34-ton meteorite, a 94-foot model of a blue whale, and cosmos-centric shows at the planetarium are just some of the offerings guaranteed to captivate all ages. (From $13 for kids 12 and under; $23 for adults; pay-what-you-wish admission available at ticket counters.)

2 of 10
Chicago, IL

Serious art establishments rarely “get” kids. But the Art Institute of Chicago holds art classes and treasure hunts that make museum-going fun. The Touch Gallery teaches form, scale, and texture by letting kids touch sculptures; and a room with blocks, picture books, and other fun distractions makes a good rest stop. (Free for kids up to 14, and up to 17 for Chicago residents; $20–25 for adults.)

Serious art establishments rarely “get” kids. But the Art Institute of Chicago holds art classes and treasure hunts that make museum-going fun. The Touch Gallery teaches form, scale, and texture by letting kids touch sculptures; and a room with blocks, picture books, and other fun distractions makes a good rest stop. (Free for kids up to 14, and up to 17 for Chicago residents; $20–25 for adults.)

3 of 10
Santa Rosa, CA

The Peanuts gang takes on new dimensions at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, set in the cartoonist’s former home. The 27,384-square-foot space includes a labyrinth shaped like Snoopy’s head, a re-creation of Schulz's studio, cartooning sessions, and a theater screening documentaries and cartoons starring Charlie Brown. (Free for kids under 4; $5 for ages 4–18; $12 for adults.)

The Peanuts gang takes on new dimensions at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, set in the cartoonist’s former home. The 27,384-square-foot space includes a labyrinth shaped like Snoopy’s head, a re-creation of Schulz's studio, cartooning sessions, and a theater screening documentaries and cartoons starring Charlie Brown. (Free for kids under 4; $5 for ages 4–18; $12 for adults.)

4 of 10
Indianapolis, IN

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the largest institution of its kind in the world. Immersive exhibits span the physical and natural sciences, history, world cultures, and art. Tykes tour the land of the dinosaurs in the "Dinosphere" and travel to new countries in the rotating "Take Me There” exhibit. (From $19 for kids; $23.50 for adults; $5 for all ages on the first Thursday of every month.)

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the largest institution of its kind in the world. Immersive exhibits span the physical and natural sciences, history, world cultures, and art. Tykes tour the land of the dinosaurs in the "Dinosphere" and travel to new countries in the rotating "Take Me There” exhibit. (From $19 for kids; $23.50 for adults; $5 for all ages on the first Thursday of every month.)

5 of 10
Seattle, WA

Future rock stars (or kids who just like to make noise) will love Sound Lab, part of Seattle’s Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop). Kids can learn to DJ, jam out in pro recording studios, and mix and record their own songs to take home. (Discounted admission is available online at $17 for ages 18 and under; $23 for students; and $26 for adults.)

Future rock stars (or kids who just like to make noise) will love Sound Lab, part of Seattle’s Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop). Kids can learn to DJ, jam out in pro recording studios, and mix and record their own songs to take home. (Discounted admission is available online at $17 for ages 18 and under; $23 for students; and $26 for adults.)

6 of 10
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco’s Exploratorium is an interactive playground of science exhibits and experiments. Study stem cells or fruit flies under microscopes, or try wackier exploits, like drinking from a toilet or dissecting a cow’s eyeball. (Ages 4–12 for $20; adults for $30; free for California school teachers and EBT cardholders; pay what you wish on designated Community Days, the next is July 13).

San Francisco’s Exploratorium is an interactive playground of science exhibits and experiments. Study stem cells or fruit flies under microscopes, or try wackier exploits, like drinking from a toilet or dissecting a cow’s eyeball. (Ages 4–12 for $20; adults for $30; free for California school teachers and EBT cardholders; pay what you wish on designated Community Days, the next is July 13).

7 of 10
Philadelphia, PA

At Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, one of America’s oldest and leading science museums, kids can walk through the two-story-tall “Giant Heart;” save the planet in "Kid Science;" or get a working 350-ton train rolling in "The Train Factory.” Rotating special exhibits, plus the Planetarium and IMAX theater, guarantee an action-packed day. (Ages 3–11 for $19, 12+ for $23; save 40% with CityPASS.)

At Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, one of America’s oldest and leading science museums, kids can walk through the two-story-tall “Giant Heart;” save the planet in "Kid Science;" or get a working 350-ton train rolling in "The Train Factory.” Rotating special exhibits, plus the Planetarium and IMAX theater, guarantee an action-packed day. (Ages 3–11 for $19, 12+ for $23; save 40% with CityPASS.)

8 of 10
Washington, D.C.

Located on D.C.'s National Mall, the National Air and Space Museum is loaded with historic propeller planes, high-speed jets, satellites, and spacecraft that are sure to appeal to wannabe pilots of all ages. Whether it’s climbing in the cockpit for a simulated flight, handling moon rocks, or walking through a replica of an airport control tower, sky’s the limit. Bonus: It’s free to visit.

Located on D.C.'s National Mall, the National Air and Space Museum is loaded with historic propeller planes, high-speed jets, satellites, and spacecraft that are sure to appeal to wannabe pilots of all ages. Whether it’s climbing in the cockpit for a simulated flight, handling moon rocks, or walking through a replica of an airport control tower, sky’s the limit. Bonus: It’s free to visit.

9 of 10
Cooperstown, NY

Baseball fans of all ages make pilgrimages to Cooperstown for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the country’s sole mecca to the sport. Bats and mitts from legendary teams and players; an interactive exhibit on the game’s history; and appearances by baseball stars round out the impressive roster. (Free for ages 6 and under; $12 for ages 7–12, and $23 for 13+.)

Baseball fans of all ages make pilgrimages to Cooperstown for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the country’s sole mecca to the sport. Bats and mitts from legendary teams and players; an interactive exhibit on the game’s history; and appearances by baseball stars round out the impressive roster. (Free for ages 6 and under; $12 for ages 7–12, and $23 for 13+.)

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Bonus: Cape Canaveral, FL

It’s not cheap, but the John F. Kennedy Space Center—NASA's launch headquarters—has seen some of mankind’s most remarkable achievements. While some details might be lost on kids, they’ll find the daily astronaut-hosted lunches and full-size replica of the Explorer space shuttle truly out of this world. Time it right, and you might get to watch a live rocket launch ($40 for kids 3–11, $50 for 12+).

It’s not cheap, but the John F. Kennedy Space Center—NASA's launch headquarters—has seen some of mankind’s most remarkable achievements. While some details might be lost on kids, they’ll find the daily astronaut-hosted lunches and full-size replica of the Explorer space shuttle truly out of this world. Time it right, and you might get to watch a live rocket launch ($40 for kids 3–11, $50 for 12+).

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