Does your child love gadgets and technology? Have a budding inventor or scientist on your hands? A visit to a fantastic science and technology museum can inspire great scientific and scholastic achievement in even the non-motivated student. We poured through 1,150 reviews on our site and put together this handy guide to the top science & technology museums across the country, as voted by your trusted and experienced Trekaroo users. Get your inner Einstein on!
Although not massive in size, McWane Science Center has an all-5 star rating here on Trekaroo. Families rave that the museum offers plenty of hands on activities for kids of every age, from tiny tikes all the way to talkative teens. The center boasts an aquarium (with a shark and ray touch tank), plenty of dinosaurs, and four levels of interactive science fun.
The Center’s overnight activities are a hit; check the calendar for details.
San Francisco, CA
Located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, our #9 museum, the California Academy of Sciences, offers a ton of science for the whole family. A dome enclosed 4-story rainforest (the largest in the world!) seems to be the highlight for many, while a digital planetarium, aquarium and natural history museum within the museum round off the experience. The building itself is of note: the structure is one of the greenest museums on the planet boasting a 2 ½ acre living roof, solar canopy, water reclamation system and unique insulation made of recycled blue jeans.
A spirit of sustainability is in the air: receive $3 off admission by walking/biking to the museum.
The Pacific Science Center’s 50 years of discovery makes it the original Science & Tech museum in the US. In addition to an ever-changing array of exhibits like Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness which opens late 2012 and teaches kids (and adults) through hands on displays and experiments the correlation of rest, exercise, hygiene, and diet on the physical body, the museum also offers tons of permanent interactive experiments on energy, health, insects, animals and local Puget sound scientific research.
June 2012 will usher in Seattle’s first ever Science Festival marking the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair.
The dream child of a group of science lovers from the year 1797, the Maryland Science Center is full of both past, present and future exhibits. Dinosaur Mysteries displays 13-full-sized dinos and proudly calls itself a hands-on area, you can literally touch dinosaur eggs, pick up real fossils and more! In Newton’s Alley, visitors learn through hands on experiments in mechanics, magnetism, light, and sound. The Kids Room is the perfect spot for over 50 interactive activities designed just for kids under 8.
Math Midway opens May 2012: a three-ring circus themed math extravaganza!
6. Center of Science & Industry (COSI)*Columbus, OH
Live (and explosive) science shows, hands on workshops and a slew of activities places COSI on our list (Parents Magazine’s #1 slot!). The museum has something for everyone with permanent exhibits that allow you to take apart and reassemble gadgets, simulate space capsule lands, and test out the change in technology from 1898 to present. The museum is the only Science & Tech museum to host a working TV studio giving budding media kids the chance to direct their own show, use green screens and more!
On a budget? Visit on Friday Family Night where its $9.95 for all ages 2 and up (last Friday of the month, 5:00pm to 9:00pm).
The #5 museum, OMSI, is situated on the Willamette River in Portland, and is loved by Trekaroo users. Five exhibition halls, eight science labs, a planetarium, OMNIMAX giant theater AND the USS Blueback submarine make this west coaster a great hit for the entire family. Although it costs a bit on top of your general ticket, don’t miss the submarine tour: climb in the quarters, touch a torpedo, and imagine life under the sea. Down Periscope!
OMSI also hosts a fantastically interactive online science exploration site. Check it out!
4. MontshireNorwich, VT
With both an indoor museum and amazingly sprawling 100-acre outdoor grounds (bigger than Disneyland!), Montshire Museum is the perfect place to mix science and outdoor enthusiasm. The outdoor Science Park uses the outdoors as a “living laboratory” ripe for experiments. The Planet Walk takes visitors on a 2-mile scale model journey from the Sun to Pluto (which happens to be a dwarf planet now!) Indoors, maneuver weather simulators, and test the qualities of light.
Montshire Museum may sound familiar to loyal Trekaroo users; it was just named part of the Top 10 Vermont.
Chicagoland’s Museum of Science and Industry, the largest science center in the entire western hemisphere, is full of more than 35,000 artifacts including the U-505 Submarine, the only German U-boat captured during WWII. Popular exhibits include the Coal Mine, a working replica of one of Illinois’ many mines; ToyMaker 3000, an interactive, robot-powered toy factory; and Science Storm, where guests can control a 40-foot tornado! Live science experiences put your kids in the action giving them the chance to dissect a cow’s eye, diagnose and treat patients as a doctor, and develop and manufacture real products in the Fab Lab.
Based on the popular TV series, Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibit runs through September 3, 2012.
Everyone on Trekaroo loves the Franklin Institute! The museum’s giant heart exhibit, renovated in 2004, 50 years after its installment, features a crawl through heart and arteries, massive EKG machine, simulated open-heart surgery and more. An interactive Space Command exhibit teaches space exploration history and gives visitors the perspective of an astronaut at the space station. Older visitors can ride the sky bike, pedaling a weighted bicycle across a tiny wire hung 28’ feet in the air—talk about trusting the laws of gravity and physics!
From May 12th- October 14th, pay a visit to ancient faith and traditions while observing the Dead Sea Scrolls.
1. TECHNOLOGY: The Tech Museum of Innovation*San Jose, CA
The top Technology museum on Trekaroo is The Tech, where their mission is to inspire the innovator in everyone. Appropriately located in the technology drenched Silicon Valley, the museum offers tons of hands on exhibits in almost every area of current technology.
1. NATURAL HISTORY: American Museum of Natural HistoryManhattan, NY
Made famous on the big screen by the film The Night at the Museum, the American Museum of Natural History is amazing! Trekaroo families note that seeing everything in the museum could take days! From the iconic T-Rex skeleton and fossil friends to the hall of human origins and the detailed dioramas, this museum has it all.
1. PLANETARIUM: Griffith Park Observatory
The number one stand-alone planetarium in the US sits amid the beautiful Griffith Park at the top of Mt. Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA. Touch a meteorite, view the solar telescope, attend a planetarium show, compare planets and even look for some of Hollywood’s very own stars (or at least the nearby Hollywood sign!)
1. OVERALL: Exploratorium*San Francisco, CA
Trekaroo user PacMaMa says it well, “The Exploratorium brings out the curious child in everyone.” Recognized by many as the original hands-on science exploratory center, the Exploratorium continues to offer an amazing and vast array of interactive experiences in almost every field of science and art. In fact, more than 400 completely interactive exhibits on seeing, the mind, traits of life, matter, and sound fill the space. Visitors over seven can experience the tactile dome, a pitch black investigation relying completely on a heightened sense of touch for guidance. A variety of self-guided tours are offered to ensure your budding scientist hits the most appropriate and appealing exhibits.
The museum has announced a relocation set for spring 2013, more than tripling its current size. The current location will close January 2013, so be sure to check the website for project updates.
We couldn’t let these awesome museums go unnoticed; they are some of the best in the country and missed the Top 10 cut by the narrowest of margins. Here are Trekaroo’s honorable mention science & tech museums:
Visiting Washington, D.C.? The 2nd annual USA Science & Engineering Festival is being held right now! The grand finale takes place April 28th-29th at Walter E. Washington Convention Center. It’s FREE and sure to inspire the scientist in every kid!
*The museums with an asterisk currently participate in the ASTC Passport Program; your local membership also gives you access to these and more than 300 museums across the US.
Places for Kids to Have Fun with Science and Technology in: