As winter approaches the proximity to a fantastic kid museum or play area is crucial to everyone's mental health. That being said, some museums are way better at running your brood ragged than others. In fact, some offer as much entertainment and stimulation for you, as your kids. That's when you know you have a winning winter activity.
After visiting, polling and searching, the following 10 museums come out on top as the best places to go kid crazy this winter, or any time of the year.
1. City Museum
This architectural, artistic and mind-blowing museum and play space for kids and adults could be your go-to every weekend this winter and it would never get old. This former warehouse in St. Louis, Missouri has been stuffed, welded and decorated to an inch of its life and it's all interactive. From circus school to the indoor human skate park, your kids will be exhausted after an afternoon at the City Museum. The very brave will take a ride on the Ferris wheel on top of the building and crawl out into the St. Louis sky to hang out in some real airplanes. The City Museum is open until 1am and equipped with a vintage boutique and bar for the "big" kids as well.
A top on many a parent's list -- and many New York City tourist's lists as well -- this dinosaur-filled classic is so popular a movie was made to take the fantasy a few steps further. While the animal bones made this museum famous, the IMAX theater and butterfly conservatory are a tween's ideal activity on a visit to the museum. For the smaller kids, the Discovery Room will let them get their hands into science experiments across every -ology you see in the museum. The somewhat recent addition of the planetarium expands the natural history lesson to space and beyond, making this one of the most thorough museums on the list.
Many moms raised their hand to vote for Boston's Museum of Science as a top kid pick. With the current exhibit on amusement parks, it's no wonder kids race to the museum as well. It's not enough to offer K'nex models on how Ferris wheels and roller coasters work, the IMAX theater is showing The Science of Fun Thrill Ride. Yes, please, I need to understand that science. But if you can't seem to locate your kid, you'll most likely find her in the simulator where you can take a space flight or plunge into a deep sea adventure just by stepping inside.
This museum brings interactive to a whole new level as you watch divers feed the fish and even sharks, or follow the robotic cameras as they plunge deep into the Monterey Canyon. Otter and penguin watching will satisfy your little one who is very into the "cute" animals. This museum is located on one of the most beautiful aquatic areas in the world in Northern California so you may simply find yourself staring off into the sea as your little ones learn about the mysteries of the deep. To up your experience, have a family sleepover with the fishes, or sign up your teenagers for the teen surface scuba program.
Sesame Street lives here in Rochester, New York -- did you know that? This kid's wonderland will also take you back to your youth (and your own parent's youth) with classic toys you've forgotten with their world's largest collection of toys. So you've got your Sesame Street, and your world's largest collection of toys -- really, do you need any other reason to make the trip upstate?
For the best in children museum's in NYC, head over to Brooklyn's Children's Museum which was established in 1899 as one of the very first museums focusing on children only. After its recent redesign, it is now a "green" museum, which teaches the kiddos their first lesson in the three Rs before they walk in the door. The smallest museum-goers will enjoy the Totally Tots area where they can climb, bang, dress-up and basically go nuts indoors. For the bigger kids rotating exhibits offer lessons in nature, history and culture. All of your little urbanites, will enjoy the Brooklyn street scene, shrunk to kid-size: Shop in a bodega, or make pizza at real Brooklyn restaurant, or hop on the bus to visit culturally diverse stops in the neighborhood.
You're going to find something to blow your mind in the 22,000 square feet of The Children's Museum in Seattle. Just like the city the museum calls home, you can hike in the Mountain Forest, or splash around in seaweed in Discovery Bay. But I suspect many kids will get hung up in Cog City as they push and pull levers until it's time for lunch. Right now Clifford the Big Red Dog has taken over the museum, so bring your fans of Emily Elizabeth and a lot of time to explore the massive kid space.
You're clued in that this isn't your every day museum by the tag line "the museum for science, art and human perception." Offering parents guides to the grand experiment (they say it's not an museum, it's ongoing) you can teach your children about nature and science through immersion. Even if you can't schedule a visit to NoCal, the Exploratorium website offers activities to download or simply ponder. Yeah, it's trippy.
If you only can pick one of the 19 Smithsonian museums while you're in Washington D.C., choose wisely. The Air and Space Museum has been a hit since before anyone walked on the moon. But now that we're exploring space and beyond, the artifacts come here to be marveled over by many generations. This is probably where you tasted your first bite of space ice cream, and you should allow your own children to do the same.
Pasadena doesn't just have the Rose Bowl for family entertainment, Kidspace allows your little ones to explore inside and out all year round. The expansive outdoor area has a tricycle race track, gardens, water play, climbing areas and even an amphitheater. While this museum is primarily for the kids, they offer day camps on those school holidays so you can either work or hit the post-Thanksgiving day sales. Which makes Kidspace extremely parent-friendly as well.
Where is your favorite kid museum?
Images (top to bottom): City Museum, Museum of Science, Boston, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Strong Museum of Play, Brooklyn Children's Museum, The Children's Museum, Seattle, Exploratorium, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Kidspace