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Ready, Set, Explore: Kid-Perfect Museums

by Debra Bokur

Aug 22, 2019

Chon Kit Leong | Dreamstime.com

Listicles

If you share the sentiment it’s never too early to expose kids to the joys of a great museum, we’re with you. Instilling a love of discovery is a true gift. When my son was young, we spent countless hours perusing the dinosaur bones and archaeological exhibitions at Denver Museum of Nature and Science. One of my son’s favorite corners was an area set up as a replica of a Gold Rush-era gemstone mine, with a tunnel leading past real, glittering gems, minerals and giant natural crystals.

 

While The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is near and dear to me, here are four tried-and-true classics to consider, and what you can expect to see:

 

When I was a kid growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, going to the nearby Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts, was the highlight of every summer school break. My friends and I made a beeline for the massive twin spheres (one positive, one negative) in the Theater of Electricity where up to 2 million volts of electricity still arc through the air like captured lightning in the Van de Graaff electrostatic generator — the largest in the world. Among the many other permanent exhibits are “To the Moon,” where kids can climb through full-sized space capsules modeled after the Apollo and Mercury rockets and see moon rocks up close; the Nanotechnology center equipped with interactive stations that allow kids to delve into the world of super tiny things; and the new “Math Moves!: Experiencing Ratio and Proportion” exhibit that explores sound, shape, size and shadows. Build in time to visit the Live Animal Care Center to watch more than 50 species of critters being fed and cared for.

 

What kid doesn’t dream of piloting a jet plane, or boarding a spaceship bound for other worlds? At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., children can immerse themselves in the history and technology of taking flight. In the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, displays include jets, rockets, spacecraft and SpaceShipOne, the first privately developed piloted space vehicle. In the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery, the exhibit includes historic planes such as a Lockheed Vega flown by pilot Amelia Earhart.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Photo: Jerry Coli | Dreamstime.com

If you have younger children in your entourage, the Miami Children’s Museum in Miami, Florida, offers a variety of interactive, educational exhibits that include “All About Art,” “Multi-Sensory Room,” “Music Makers Studio” and “Pet Central.” In the Ocean Odyssey center, kids can marvel at a variety of sea life going about its business in three South Florida underwater environments, beautifully displayed in a 900-gallon marine tank.

 

These days, when my now-adult son visits home in Colorado, we still head back to enjoy our favorite exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and when I visit him in New York City, we make sure to include time for the American Museum of Natural History. Made famous around the world by the popular 20th Century Fox Night at the Museum film franchise, the museum’s Tyrannosaurus Rex remains a hugely popular draw. Dinosaurs aside, there’s a lot to experience in this amazing space. Permanent exhibits include the Fossil Halls, Human Origins and Cultural Halls, Mammal Halls, Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls and halls dedicated to birds, reptiles and amphibians. Be sure to check out a show at the Hayden Planetarium, and take a walk along the Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway. Heading there this summer? Sign up for one of the seasonal Evening Bat Walks in Central Park, led by members of the New York City Bat Group.

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