Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

11 Awesome Museums for Kids

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Learning is fun. No, really. At least it can be—you just need to know where to go. These 11 awesome museums for kids are a great start. 


Founded in 1968, the National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York is one of the world’s only museums dedicated solely to the art of having fun. Both historically important and a rollicking good time, within the museum’s exhibition space visitors will find more than 72,000 toys (from teddy bears to train sets), more than 200 arcade games, a butterfly garden, a 1700-gallon coral reef aquarium, and the famous 123 Sesame Street stoop.


About 40 miles northwest of London is Buckinghamshire, the charming county in which Roald Dahl lived and wrote for nearly 40 years. It's also where The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre now pays tribute to his gloriumptious career with three interactive galleries: Boy, which traces the author’s school boy days; Solo, where you’ll find his actual Writing Hut; and The Story Centre, which aims to ignite the creative spark in all who visit.


Roam in the footsteps of the dinosaurs—literally—at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado. Walk the 1.5 mile Dinosaur Ridge Trail to discover hundreds of dinosaur tracks (some of them 100 million years old) and a dinosaur bone quarry. Or opt for the Triceratops Trail, which features its own collection of prehistoric tracks (that are different from Dinosaur Ridge’s), including what might be the footprints of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.


Douglas Muth, Flickr

Opened in 1997, Berlin’s Computerspielemuseum is the world’s first computer game museum, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The museum’s continually evolving collection boasts more than 22,000 computer and video games, including addictive classics like Dig Dug, Tetris, and Donkey Kong (not to mention gaming-related artwork, documents, and more than 10,000 journals).


Budding 007-types will appreciate the undercover nature of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. As the country’s first and only public museum dedicated to the spy game, this all-ages institution asks visitors to leave their true identities at the door (like all good spies, you’ll adopt a cover identity) and immerse themselves in the tricks of the espionage trade with access to hundreds of spy gadgets, tips and tricks from actual spies, and special exhibits like “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.” 


Amsterdam’s Science Center NEMO is comprised of five floors of interactive exhibit space where kids can get their hands dirty and brains full. They'll learn about a wide range of fascinating topics, including the truth about puberty, the ways in which technology can combat pollution, and the secrets about extra-terrestrial life. 


The name says it all: At Philadelphia’s Please Touch Children’s Museum, hands-on experimentation isn’t just encouraged, it’s expected. Founded in 1976, one of the museum’s most unique aspects is that it’s geared toward children under 7 years old. In the museum, kids can design and construct their very own neighborhoods in City Capers, use their own bodies to create the feeling of flying in Flight Fantasy, or experience the sights and sounds of the jungle at Rainforest Rhythm. Bonus: The museum has its very own carousel, which is more than 100 years old and is housed in a dedicated 9000 square foot glass pavilion. 


It’s hard to beat an original, and when it comes to the world collection of children’s museums, the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the first (officially, the world’s second oldest) and also one of the largest. And educating today’s youth is a key component of its staying power. Through its permanent collection and rotating exhibits, the museum addresses issues of science, math, art, literacy, health, wellness, and the environment. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is Arthur and Friends, which puts kids smack dab in the center of Marc Brown’s beloved book series and helps them to better understand reading, emotions, and problem solving. 


A deeper understanding of the world awaits at the Montréal Biodôme, which helps both kids and adults to more intimately experience the delicate nature of our varied ecosystems. Opened in 1992, the museum’s perfectly manicured exhibitions—including the hands-on Fossil Affair, which invites kids to learn about evolution—make it easy to turn a day of learning into a day of fun. 


Playing make-believe is many a kid’s favorite pastime. And at the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, California, they’ve constructed a teeny tiny city within a city to let kids while away the day moving among the museum’s 17 interactive exhibits, which include a beach, amphitheater, construction site, post office, and grocery store (all of which teach young’uns such essential skills as critical thinking, problem solving, organization, and teamwork).


Kids who love trains will relish the opportunity to descend into one of New York City’s late, great subway stations (it was decommissioned in the 1920s) and immerse themselves in all things train at the New York Transit Museum. Opened in 1976 for the country’s Bicentennial celebration, the museum has managed to maintain the public’s interest for nearly 40 years now, thanks in large part (no doubt) to such cool collection pieces as a 12-seat bus, a child-sized trolley, and a refurbished 1960s “Fishbowl” bus cab.

Liberty Science Center
New Jersey Is Now Home to the Western Hemisphere's Largest Planetarium
Liberty Science Center
Liberty Science Center

Space-loving tourists often travel to Manhattan to visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. But starting December 9, they’ll be able to get their fill of stars and planets in nearby Jersey City. As Astronomy reports, New Jersey’s second-most-populous city is now home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and the fourth largest in the world.

The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, an interactive science museum in Liberty State Park, opened in 1993. It’s home to 12 museum exhibition halls, aquariums, a live animal collection, and an IMAX dome theater. On July 31, 2017, the theater was closed for extensive renovations, thanks to a $5 million gift from an altruistic former high school teacher-turned-philanthropist, Jennifer Chalsty, who’s served as a science center trustee since 2004.

Renamed the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the IMAX theater received a digital upgrade and a brand-new screen, and was provided with the requisite technology to serve as a planetarium. The theater’s dome is 60 feet high, with a diameter of 89 feet, and its 10-projector system broadcasts onto a 12,345-square-foot domed screen.

There are only three planetariums in the world that are larger than the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, and they’re all located in China and Japan. “You can fit any other planetarium in the Western Hemisphere inside the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium,” said Paul Hoffman, the science center's president and CEO, in a press release. “Add in the state-of-the-art technology and you have a spectacular unique theater like none other in the world. Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies."

[h/t Astronomy]

Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
The Funky History of George Washington's Fake Teeth
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo

George Washington may have the most famous teeth—or lack thereof—in American history. But counter to what you may have heard about the Founding Father's ill-fitting dentures, they weren't made of wood. In fact, he had several sets of dentures throughout his life, none of which were originally trees. And some of them are still around. The historic Mount Vernon estate holds the only complete set of dentures that has survived the centuries, and the museum features a video that walks through old George's dental history.

Likely due to genetics, poor diet, and dental disease, Washington began losing his original teeth when he was still a young man. By the time he became president in 1789, he only had one left in his mouth. The dentures he purchased to replace his teeth were the most scientifically advanced of the time, but in the late 18th century, that didn't mean much.

They didn't fit well, which caused him pain, and made it difficult to eat and talk. The dentures also changed the way Washington looked. They disfigured his face, causing his lips to noticeably stick out. But that doesn't mean Washington wasn't grateful for them. When he finally lost his last surviving tooth, he sent it to his dentist, John Greenwood, who had made him dentures of hippo ivory, gold, and brass that accommodated the remaining tooth while it still lived. (The lower denture of that particular pair is now held at the New York Academy of Medicine.)

A set of historic dentures
George Washington's Mount Vernon

These days, no one would want to wear dentures like the ones currently held at Mount Vernon (above). They're made of materials that would definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth. The base that fit the fake teeth into the jaw was made of lead. The top teeth were sourced from horses or donkeys, and the bottom were from cows and—wait for it—people.

These teeth actually deteriorated themselves, revealing the wire that held them together. The dentures open and shut thanks to metal springs, but because they were controlled by springs, if he wanted to keep his mouth shut, Washington had to permanently clench his jaw. You can get a better idea of how the contraption worked in the video from Mount Vernon below.

Washington's Dentures from Mount Vernon on Vimeo.

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from the life of George Washington, but perhaps the most salient is this: You should definitely, definitely floss.


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