by Micaela Williamson
Long gone are the days of boring dioramas and glaring at dead insects through glass cases. Modern science museums are fun, hands-on experiences where visitors engage with exhibits and each other. With the appeal for multiple age groups, we highly recommend science museums as an alternative to children's museums, which are often geared towards early childhood. Whether part of a family vacation or just a day trip, the east coast is packed with so many wonderful science museums. In geographical order from North to South, here are our top favorites:
Museum of Science
If there is only time to visit one museum in Boston, make it this one. The Museum of Science has hundreds of interactive exhibits on topics such as dinosaurs, the human body, conservation, energy, live animals, physics and much more. Don't miss the indoor lightning storm in the Theater of Electricity (occurring multiple times a day,) and the live animal shows. The museum is also host to New England's only IMAX® Dome screen and an amazing Butterfly Garden (additional fees apply.)
Liberty Science Center
Jersey City, NJ
This massive museum has tons of hands-on things to do on subjects such as sound, communication, animals, electricity, robotics, the human body and more. Besides discovery exhibits, there are also a lot of physical challenges. One of the most popular exhibits, the Touch Tunnel, is a dark maze where visitors crawl through by using their sense of touch. It can be scary for children, so parental supervision is recommended. Also, check out the new Infinity Climber is a suspended multi-story play ,and learn about cityscapes and view 9/11 artifacts in the Skyscraper exhibit. During warmer months, visit the Wildlife Challenge, where kids can crawl and climb like an animal through an outdoor obstacle course. For just a few dollars more than general admission, an IMAX of 3-D movie can be added onto admission tickets.
The Franklin Institute
What better place to celebrate scientific achievements than a museum named after one of our nation's most famous inventors? According to the museum's website, popular family spots include the Planetarium, Sir Isaac's Loft, Changing Earth, the Sports' Challenge, and the Giant Heart. Transportation lovers will enjoy the Train Factory and the Franklin Air Show. There is also a majestic Ben Franklin Memorial which is free and open to the public.
Maryland Science Center
As one of the country's top-rated science centers for families, the Maryland Science Center has so much for kids to see and even more for them to do. Located at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, the Science Center features 14 full-sized dinosaur models, tons of cool science exhibits such as SpaceLink and SciLab, the world-famous Davis Planetarium and a five story IMAX Theater. Little ones (0-8) will love the Kids Room filled with water play, streetscapes, construction zones and more. Read our previous article about this museum to gain a more in-depth look.
Science Museum of Virginia
Based in an old train station, this stunning science museum has so many hands-on opportunities. Some highlights include learning about building fun, physics, sound and light experiments in the Idea Factory or explore the galaxy in Out of this World. Families can engage in a little friendly competition in Boost and test themselves with mind games, speed, music, strength, balance and more. For a slam dunk, awesome time, see the live science, Rat Basketball show, which is literally rats playing basketball. (The kids love it!) Learn more by reading our past Science of Museum review.
Museum of Life and Science
Dig in the sand for dinosaur bones, design and launch flying objects, turn your motions into sounds or visit with real wolves, bears, and lemurs. Whatever your interest, The Museum of Life and Science is super fun place. One most highly-rated exhibits is the Butterfly House. This 35-foot tall glass conservatory is one of the largest on the East Coast and features and amazing variety of butterflies. For additional experiences, the museum also operates a train ride and has outdoor bungee jumping (additional fees apply, seasonal offerings.)
Museum of Discovery and Science
Fort Lauderdale, FL
View sea life in the largest living Atlantic coral reef in captivity or hang out with bats, alligators, river otters, snakes and more. The Museum of Discovery and Science balances living things and hands-on science in a fascinating venue. Family favorite museum features include the space exhibit Runways to Rockets, and a special Discovery Center, designed especially for children under 7. The museum is also home to a five-story high IMAX 3D theater screen, the biggest screen in South Florida.
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Kid Trips' blogs profile fun events and cool family-friendly venues. We focus on regional and national family travel articles.
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