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Science museums are very popular destinations for summer travelers, especially for families with students and young children. From playful, interactive exhibits to mind-blowing technological innovations, the lessons to be learned from science museums around the U.S. are truly endless. Whether you’re looking for something local or you’re taking some cross-country trips to check out some popular museums, these are the ten best science museums for students. They’re sure to not only teach them important scientific concepts and facts, but they’ll also entertain and spark joy in your young scientists, giving them memories that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
Museum of Science (Boston)
Topping nearly ever list of best science museums around the U.S., Boston’s Museum of Science is seriously one of the best in the entire country. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits covering all the branches of science, so people of all ages and scientific interest are sure to be entertained for hours on end. The museum also has a playground for toddlers, a lightning bolt demonstration, a giant Rube Goldberg machine, and an indoor zoo with over 100 rescued animals.
The Exploratorium (San Francisco)
With a nickname like “The Scientific Fun House,” you know this science museum will be a huge hit for students and adults alike. Their goal is to show young scientists how exciting science can be, and the team that designed the museum challenged themselves to display scientific concepts in the creation of the building itself. The most popular exhibits include the Tactile Dome where visitors must engage their sense of touch to explore the completely dark exhibit, the MIND exhibits which explore cognitive sciences, and a water fountain that is made from a toilet bowl.
The National Air and Space Museum (Washington D.C.)
As part of the Smithsonian Institution, this museum is not only one of the top science museums in the U.S., but it’s one of the best in the world. It is all about aviation, human flight history, space, and the genius technological innovation that brought us the science of flight. This is one of the most visited museums in the world and contains some of the most significant aviation-related artifacts known to man, including parts of Apollo 11, the Wright Brothers’ plane, Tuskegee airmen, the Spirit of St. Louis, and even a moon rock!
The Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia)
Founded in 1812, this is the oldest of all science museums around the U.S. It’s attached to part of Drexel University and has over 17 million specimens and several engaging exhibits. The museum is committed to research, education, and public engagement in a number of scientific fields, particularly biodiversity and environmental science. The exhibits here include mythic creatures, dinosaurs, butterflies, and much more.
Franklin Institute (Philadelphia)
Named after Benjamin Franklin, this is the top scientific attraction in Philadelphia and is both a museum and research facility. Another one of the oldest science museums around the U.S., the Franklin Institute was founded in 1824. The most popular display here is all about Franklin’s discovery of electricity, but other favorites include an aviation display, the sports zone, Sir Isaac’s Loft, the brain, and the giant heart. Most displays are interactive and incredibly engaging, and there is an entire “KidScience” exhibit that is devoted to introducing young scientists to the foundations of science.
Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago)
A must-see museum for all Chicago visitors, the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the best science museums for students. Established in the 1890s and housed in a gorgeous Romanesque building, this museum could easily take up your entire day and you’d be perfectly okay with that. Some favorite exhibits include a controllable 40-foot tornado, toy truck speed tests, a mirrored maze, German U-boats, a genetics exhibit, and a farming exhibit.
Science Museum of Minnesota (St. Paul)
Easily one of the top science museums in the U.S., this scientific gem in St. Paul is built right into the bluffs that overlook the Mississippi, just adding to its allure and innovation. An experiment gallery lets students take part in hands-on scientific exploration, including controlling waves and creating tornados. Visitors can play nine holes in mini golf as they explore various terrains and landscapes, and there is an amazing dinosaur and fossils gallery that includes a skeleton that was discovered by high school students! An innovative exhibit on race encourages visitors to explore the biological, historical, and cultural components of race and various social issues, and a must-see is the museum’s iconic giant astronaut.
Discovery Place (Charlotte)
One of the most kid-friendly of all the top science museums in the U.S., Discovery Place is a must-visit museum if you’re near Charlotte. There are four different sections of the museum, as well as an IMAX theater. A nature section includes multiple interactive exhibits, a butterfly pavilion, and several live animals. One complete section is devoted entirely to education and educators and includes professional development opportunities. Other highlights of Discover Place include rat basketball, an exhibit on brain science and everything involved in learning new skills, a human health and anatomy exhibit, chemistry and fire-focused exhibits, and more.
The Center of Science and Industry (Columbus)
With over 300 exhibits, this Ohio hot spot is one of the best science museums for students. Complete with a dinosaur gallery, an ocean exhibit, an outdoor science park, a planetarium, a theater, and more, this Midwest science museum is a favorite amongst families. It has a replica space station to educate visitors about space travel and exploration, a mini submarine to explore the ocean and its natural and technological sides, and a super engaging gadgets area where young scientists can play with various mechanical elements to learn all about how they work. This museum even has an entire space dedicated to toddlers that includes a farm and tree house.
California Science Center (Los Angeles)
This west coast gem is massive and amazing, making it an easy pick for one of the top science museums in the U.S. This museum is all about hands-on learning and teaching kids about the wonders of science. One of the most popular attractions is named Tess, a 50-foot tall body simulator who explains bodily functions as she moves and demonstrates them. There’s a permanent exhibit that’s all about ecosystems and teaches young scientists about rivers, forests, islands, and other natural environments. Another favorite exhibit is called “Creative World,” which is all about architecture, energy, and other things that are created. Visitors can also experience the Space Shuttle Endeavour and learn about air, space, travel, and more.