For parents, the word museum often conjures up images of priceless paintings, ancient relics…and a kid-induced disaster just waiting to happen.
On the contrary, today’s museums pride themselves on being family-friendly, including the amazing selection we have right here in Indy. If you are looking to take a road trip, however, we’ve rounded up eight museums that are worth the drive.
For the Budding Scientist
This interactive science center is just as much for adults as it is for kids. Come face-to-face with a 6-foot-long mechanical T. rex model in the Dinosaur gallery. Kids 6 and under can engage in pretend play, climb on play structures and explore water stations in Little KidSpace. And don’t miss COSI’s planetarium — the largest in Ohio.
333 W Broad St., Columbus, OH | cosi.org
Located in an old power plant, Science Central houses 30,000 square feet of hands-on fun, including Science On a Sphere, a three-dimensional display of Earth and space systems. Little ones ages 2 to 7 can enjoy a space all their own in Kids Central, which includes a giant piano keyboard, a water table and water play activities, bubble windows and the Fort Discovery play area.
1950 N. Clinton St., Fort Wayne, IN | sciencecentral.org
For the Art Lover
Taft Museum of Art
One of the finest small art museums in America, Taft is home to an extensive art collection, including works by Rembrandt, Goya and Whistler, to name a few. Give this museum a try during their 3rd Sunday Fundays, a free afternoon of great art, hands-on fun, family-friendly performances and animal encounters held on the third Sunday of each month.
316 Pike St., Cincinnati, OH | taftmuseum.org
Art Institute of Chicago
From Monet’s Water Lilies and van Gogh’s Self-Portrait to Wood’s iconic American Gothic, the masters are on full display at this world-class museum that houses a collection spanning every corner of the globe. The museum also offers drop-in artmaking workshops on select days, and children under 14 are admitted free of charge every day.
111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL | artic.edu
For the Active Explorer
Cincinnati Museum Center
This one-of-a-kind, multi-museum complex is housed in Union Terminal, a historic Art Deco train station and National Historic Landmark. From the Duke Energy Children’s Museum and the OMNIMAX theatre to the Science Interactives Gallery and the all-new Dinosaur Hall, there is something for everyone in the massive complex.
1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, OH | cincymuseum.org
The City Museum
Once a shoe factory, this 600,000-square-foot space in the heart of St. Louis is now an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made from unique, found objects. (Hint: The museum shop sells knee pads, if that is any indication of the level of exploration you are facing!)
750 N. 16th St., St. Louis, MO | citymuseum.org
For the History Buff
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Located along the banks of the Ohio River (once a dividing line between freedom and slavery for African Americans), this museum offers education and inspiration. State-of-the-art exhibits tell the stories of freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times. The messages aren’t always easy to hear, but they are lessons that need to be remembered.
50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH | freedomcenter.org
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Carefully preserved artifacts, interactive displays and multimedia programs tell the tale of the life of our 16th president. Highlights include an original hand-written copy of the Gettysburg Address and the quill pen Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. In Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic, kids can try on period clothing, get a taste for what chores were like in the 1800s, and play with reproduction historic toys.
109 North Seventh St., Springfield, IL | lincolnlibraryandmuseum.com