Having children does not mean that your art museum days are numbered. I take my children to art museums, history museums, science museums, and everything in between. That being said, there is something special about watching my children’s eyes light up when we enter the doors of a children’s museum. Children’s museums are specially designed with children in mind. They are invited to touch things and encourage learning and exploration through the interactive displays. If there is a children’s museum nearby while we are on our family vacation, we try to add it to our itinerary even if it is just for a few hours.
Lynn Meadows Discovery Center – Gulfport, Mississippi
Out of all the children’s museums we have visited so far, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is one of our favorites. When you walk in the door, the first thing the little ones see is the Super Colossal Climbing Structure. While the kids climb up several stories in that, the adults can follow up the ramp. Exhibits include What It’s Like to Be Me, an exhibit about understanding differences and disabilities, Mississippi City History Hotel where kids can dress up and have tea, and the Winn-Dixie Morning Market where they can go shopping for dinner ingredients. The fun doesn’t end once you exit the museum though. Outside there is a Treehouse Village that made me think of the Swiss Family Robinson, a little cabin called Bear Creek and Kids Street, a child sized real-life subdivision with roads, houses, and gas lamps. If you visit after 3pm on the weekdays, admission is only $3.00 making this an expensive family activity.
Louisiana Children’s Museum – New Orleans, Louisiana
The Lousiana Children’s Museum is a little over half a mile away from the French Quarter area so if your kids don’t mind walking, getting there on foot is doable. The bright colors of the museum will get your children to explore. On the first floor, kids can practice fire and house safety in the Safety Zone and they can also try their hand at rock climbing and spend some time exercising. After that, head upstairs where my two children spent an hour pretending to work on the Mighty Mississippi in a tug boat, play in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (and watch the tv show too!), shop at a grocery store and try their hand at being a chef in a restaurant!
TT Wentworth Discovery Gallery – Pensacola, Florida
The TT Wentworth Museum is not exactly a children’s museum but if you head up to the top floor (you must sign in when you enter the museum) you will find a play zone perfect for kids. The Discovery Gallery has several hands on exhibits that teach children about historic Pensacola through interactive play. Entrance to the museum and the Discovery Gallery is free. Be sure to call ahead or check the website before you go because the Discovery Gallery closes regularly for parties and other events.
Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center – Mobile, Alabama
We particularly loved the Wharf of Wonder when both of my children were small enough to enter. The Wharf of Wonder is an early childhood area where kids can go fishing for sea creatures, swim in the ball “ocean” and be a boat driver. In the Hands On Hall, kids will learn more about optical illusions, fulcrums, pulleys, and electromagnets. They can learn more about their body in Body Works where they will work their way through exhibits that teach them how to be more healthy. Watch movies in the IMAX theater when you are ready for a rest. The Exploreum often has traveling exhibits that have ranged from insects to kangaroos! Be aware that the traveling exhibits have an additional cost associated with them.
Imagine It! Children’s Museum– Atlanta, Georgia
Fundamentally Food is a favorite in our house. Do kids love to shop at the grocery store because after months of dragging them to the store with you, they finally get to pick out whatever they want to put in their cart?! The Leaping into Learning exhibit lets your kids don a raincoat and learn how to fish! Tools for Solutions will let your kids get hands on experience with simple machines.
Health Adventure – Asheville, North Carolina
At first glance, there isn’t much to the Health Adventure but, boy, were we wrong! When we first walked in, I didn’t think we would spend much time playing. The kids loved the grocery store and looking at the xrays of broken bones (ouch!). After spending about 20m downstairs, we realized there was a second floor of hands on science goodness. Children can roll golf balls down a gigantic roller coaster, sit in a chair and spin to their heart’s content, and see if they can walk through a spinning tunnel without getting dizzy.
Hands-On Children’s Museum – Jacksonville, Florida
The Hands-On Children’s Museum is one of the smallest children’s museums we have visited, but it has plenty of activities to keep the children occupied. There is a grocery store, a post office, a vet’s office, a bank and more to simulate daily activities that parents do. There is a stage and a puppet theater where children can put on a show as well as train tables and games.
Do you have a favorite children’s museum?