Best Museum Cities for Kids

Winter can be tricky to plan that outdoorsy adventure you’ve been dreaming of, but with museum-packed cities, there’s lots of indoor fun to be had, too.

If you’re planning to hit up Seattle anytime soon, the Seattle Children’s Museum and Tacoma Art Museum are great bets; other options include the Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Flight, Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project), Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, Chihuly Garden and Glass and many others.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA - JAN 24th, 2017: Chihuly Garden and Glass museum featuring one of Dale Chihuly`s largest

© Christian Heinz | Dreamstime.com

Although glass may not be the best option for hands-on toddlers (better for artsy teens!), there is plenty of interactive fun to be had in New Orleans, home to the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Thirty thousand square feet of exhibit space and programs promote math skills via the nuances of “grocery shopping” and biology by learning what bones they use loading up a cargo ship in the “Little Port of New Orleans” exhibit. The Big Easy is big on entertainment for the little ones. Check out the Mardi Gras Museum’s floats, interactive costume racks and savor a piece of traditional king cake. The zoo, aquarium, butterfly garden and insectarium and Nature Center are all run by the same organization here, so certain tickets offer multiple choice of admission discounts, too. Pro tip: Book a suite at Le Pavillon to be near all of the action and enjoy themed accommodations with two separate bedrooms and bathrooms. Neat knickknacks pay homage to the butterflies and bugs at the insectarium (don’t worry, they’re preserved!), and the hotel offers nightly snacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk.

It may be decidedly colder than NoLa, but with one of the highest concentrations of international universities in the United States and brainiac Cambridge just across the river, it’s hard not to like them apples in Boston. The new Tea Party Museum is set on the scenic waterfront, and each day at noon you’ll hear the rousing cry of the spoils being “dumped” in the harbor. Within a three-minute walk is the Children’s Museum (where admission is just $1 on Friday evenings thanks to Target), so it’s an easy two-fer for an afternoon; or, older kids may want to check out the Institute of Contemporary Art, free on Thursdays and just another five-minute walk away. The city’s public train system also whisks art-lovers off via the Green Line to the massive Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and its neat Italian-style indoor garden courtyard. Or, hop on the Red Line over to Harvard Square for some Jumanji-like hijinks at the Museum of Natural History. Been fiending to see a narwhal? This is your place.

The Boston Tea Party Museum. Liberty, events.

Tea Party Museum © Enrico Della Pietra | Dreamstime.com

New York, of course, offers up one of the largest concentrations of museums and here you can find the world’s first dedicated to children in Brooklyn. Walk along a miniature Brooklyn street, complete with stores, or check out the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, just a storefront when it opened in 1973. Today the interactive space has 38,000 square feet promoting early childhood education, healthy lifestyles and an appreciation of world cultures. Both of these offer free or reduced-price admission (Thursdays 2–6 p.m. and the first Friday of the month from 5–8 p.m. respectively); many other Big Apple museums are budget-friendly, too. Check out the American Folk Art Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art, where under 12 is free or pay what you can. Many, like the Liberty Science Center, feature free admission for Bank of America cardholders the first full weekend of every month.