Top 10 Museums in the US for Families

Posted Jan 21st 2011 01:06 PMUpdated Feb 13th 2011 11:58 PM


Best museums in the United States

With so many choices and varieties, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with culture in the United States. In particular, families with teens and kids can become confused about which exhibits are age appropriate and when to go. Luckily, these ten museums have the exhibits and amenities that work perfectly for families and it just so happens that they're among the best collections in the country. So pack up the entire family and visit these top 10 US museums.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC

It can be difficult to pick a Smithsonian to visit with all those great buildings circling DC's National Mall. However, Air and Space is always a crowd pleaser, featuring life-sized versions of famous aircraft and displays crowded with real memorabilia from outer space.
Must see: Historical fav, the Spirit of St. Louis.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

You could literally spend days roaming the halls of The Met and with constantly revolving exhibits, it might take you that long to get through everything. For families, though, try one of the programs geared toward children ages 11 through 18 that take them through the halls to draw, search, and create museum based on their favorite artworks.
Must see: The Temple of Dendur, a full-sized temple sitting in the middle of the Egyptian Art Collection. It's said that any couple that engages in a smooch at the temple goes on together forever.

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

Although this chic museum is right smack in the middle of one of the most expensive cities in the United States, entry for the entire family is free! From a permanent collection of early 20th century paintings to revolving exhibits on everything from Belgian manuscripts to modern still life portraits, it's no wonder it's named with the best museums in the US.
Must see: Be sure to catch a tour of the building itself made of travertine stone and the beautiful central garden.

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

You can travel the world in this amazing US museum with collections from Asia, Africa and beyond. However, besides a long list of revolving exhibitions for adults, it features a handful of revolving exhibitions for the entire family. Touch rooms, colorful photography and whimsical paintings make up the offerings that both adults and children will enjoy.
Must see: The celebrated 'Family Room' has sneak peaks of family exhibits plus a wide selection of games and even foreign language books. It's never too early!

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

What could a child or teen possibly do at a modern art museum? What couldn't they do at MoMA? With bright colors, fun shapes and funky themes, modern art was made for young viewers. To stay PG-13, keep in the Architecture & Design section which features crazy furniture and bright posters everyone will love.
Must see: All the Andy Warhol's and other works by pop artists.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington DC

Even if you've decided to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, our other pick for a top US museum, you need to devote some time to this funky pop culture branch, too. Fun and modern collections deal with themes like transportation, music and sports and bring US history to life for everyone.
Must see: Whatever you do, do not miss the entertainment collection where you can hear original Elvis recordings, see Evel Knievel's motorcycle and pay a visit to Kermit the Frog himself.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ever since Rocky ran up those iconic steps, people everywhere have been captivated by this beautiful museum and its iconic façade. The inside is just as spectacular with plenty of wide-open spaces like the Medieval Cloister and Japanese Ceremonial Teahouse.
Must see: The Arms and Armor hall is sure to thrill the little (or big) knight in shining armor or princess in your group.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

With such an extensive collection of works, you'd think the Cleveland Museum of Art frowned on bringing young children. However, they couldn't be happier to host the entire family and feel art can have an effect on children as young as preschool-aged. Strollers to rent are available at the front desk and an in-house café is stocked with fruits and veggies they'll love to nibble on.
Must see: Get a map and be sure to tour the names everyone in the family will know and understand. Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso... the familiarity will be a great bonding experience.

American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY

Though you may not be able to sleepover at AMNH, ala 'Night at the Museum,' you can still enjoy all the exhibits as a family during normal operational daytime hours. Interactive exhibits that incorporate lights, computers and games are intelligent enough for parents to enjoy, but fun enough to keep kids interested.
Must see: The giant whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and the infamous diorama's that brought 'Night at the Museum' to life.

Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana

Many children's museums can be boring and loud to adults and even teenagers, but the Indianapolis Children's Museum has so much to do you won't know where to start. Their permanent collection is like something out of a mythology book with dinosaur eggs, precious gems, Fender guitars and folk toys. The collection is very modern, too, so instead of a trio to the past you might be explaining your own youth to the younger members of your family.
Must see: The Carousel Gallery features a restored carousel from the early 1900's and it's fully operational so climb aboard!

Photo by Evelyn Proimos via Flickr.
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Robin Jester Anter

Fantastic — just returned from Cleveland Art Museum! Thanks for the recommendation.

November 26 2013 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Amy Andrick Hissong

The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Michigan is wonderful! It holds national icons like the limo where JFK was shot, Rosa Parks' bus, an amazing steam engine display, and wonderful traveling exhibits. Combine the museum with a day at the adjacent Greenfield Village, and you've got a delightful and educational weekend!

October 19 2011 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A great place that got overlooked is the National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. It has great interactive exhibits that are wonderful for kids of all ages and a topic that everybody can relate to!

February 01 2011 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'll add the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

David Robert Hogg,
Publisher of My Little Nomads — the travel with kids website

January 26 2011 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Suzanne McCaffrey

Great places - but now I'll stump for a fave: try the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh!

January 26 2011 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Spirit of St. Louis was actually the plane used by Charles Lindbergh.

January 24 2011 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Micayla's comment

On second read, perhaps she meant you could see both of these things, but the wording is confusing.

January 24 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best of Peruvian history and cuisine will transport the visitor to the mysteries of Incan and Colonial times. The magic of the White City is combined with the history of Cusco and the City of Kings to offer the best of Southern Peru. The beautiful terraces, fauna, and Andean towns of the deepest canyon in the world will lead the traveler to the amazing architecture of the center of the Incan Empire and the most magical route to Machu Picchu, the amazing Inca Trail. Entrance tickets to the Inca Trail are limited.

January 24 2011 at 9:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The beauty of the Miraflores Boulevard is combined with the great architecture of the Colonial buildings of downtown Lima and Cusco in this 9-day tour. A visit to the Sacred Valley of the Incas will transport the visitor to the past. The Inca Trail, a magical path built hundreds of years ago, will take the traveler to the world of the Incas to end a 4-day journey with a visit to the majestic Machu Picchu. Entrance tickets to the Inca Trail are limited.

January 24 2011 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This short Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu takes the trekker from the well-preserved Incan ruins of Wiñaywayna to the amazing Gate of the Sun through a colorful Incan path. At the Gate of the Sun an amazing view of Machu Picchu will astonish the visitor. This Inca Trail excursion is perfect for ones who are not avid trekkers or have limited time. Entrance tickets to the Inca Trail are limited.

January 24 2011 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Theo Claytor

I haven't even been there since middle school. Time to plan a trip! Thanks for this post.

January 24 2011 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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