One of the coolest things about living and traveling in an RV is the fact that we get to see so many amazing attractions all over the country. Some of our favorite attractions are the many children’s museums and science centers we come across. Our little guy is very into anything science or history related, so when we find a fun, hands-on way to learn about these topics, we are all in.
Since beginning our travels, we have visited dozens of awesome hands-on museums. However, some have stood out from the crowd in terms of what they offer visitors.
Below we’ve compiled a list of our top museums for kids in the United States. We’ve also shared where to camp nearby and some tips on how we visit museums on a budget to help with your RV trip planning.
Our favorite museums are kid-friendly, hands-on places with original exhibits that help them stand out from the others. They tend to have awesome staff members who are happy to answer questions, and all of the museums on our list are clean, pleasant places to spend time as a family.
Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois
This museum is enormous. In fact, we could easily spend 2–3 days here without becoming bored. Our favorite exhibits in the Museum of Science and Industry were the weather exhibit and the human body exhibit.
Where to stay: Camp Bullfrog Lake
Science Museum Oklahoma, Oklahoma City
It may not be the biggest museum out there, but Science Museum Oklahoma is packed with fun. We love the new CurioCity area, as well as the model train setup. Of course, the many playgrounds give this place some bonus points as well.
Where to stay: Twin Fountains RV Park
Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas
Easily our son’s favorite museum in the entire country, Children’s Museum of Houston is perfect for kids ages 2–10. The Kidtropolis area lets kids explore the adult world in a pint-sized town. Meanwhile, the outdoor water play area and the maker room both give kids plenty of opportunities to experiment.
Where to stay: Lakeview RV Resort
Science City, Kansas City
Located in the gorgeous Union Station building, Science City is a medium-sized science center with a large helping of fun. We adored the optical illusions house, and the outdoor play area was great entertainment.
Where to stay: Worlds of Fun Village
City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
City Museum is unlike any attraction we’ve seen before or since. The whole place is filled with tunnels, slides, and secret passageways for adults and kids to explore to their heart’s content. Our family had a blast in this museum, but we would take some knee pads on future visits.
Where to stay: St. Louis RV Park
Conner Prairie, Fishers, Indiana
Conner Prairie stands apart from the other museums on this list because it isn’t focused on science, but rather history. That said, the museum does a fantastic job at presenting history in a way that is engaging for kids and adults alike. There are hands-on exhibits as well as living history exhibits, and the whole place is unique and exciting.
Where to stay: Lake Haven Retreat
Discovery Cube, Los Angeles and Santa Ana, California
This super fun children’s museum actually has two different campuses, and both are well worth visiting. Discovery Cube is focused on showing kids where to find science in their everyday lives, and how they can change the world in simple yet effective ways every single day.
Where to stay: Hollywood RV Park
Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
Duke Energy Children’s Museum was recently remodeled, meaning every single exhibit was extra clean and worked perfectly. Additionally, the museum had plenty of staff on hand, a major bonus in a kid-focused place.
Where to stay: Winton Woods Campground
Orlando Science Center, Orlando, Florida
We love that Orlando Science Center is big enough to entertain us for a day without being overwhelming. The museum is always bringing in new exhibits to keep things fresh, and the KidsTown area is wonderful for little ones.
Where to stay: Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake
Explora, Albuquerque, New Mexico
An older yet still wonderful attraction, Explora is great for kids and adults alike. We loved playing in the math room, and the enormous building blocks were pretty awesome as well!
Where to stay: Enchanted Trails RV Park
Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts
This well-known Cambridge museum absolutely does live up to the hype surrounding it. Most people think of the dinosaur exhibit and planetarium when they think about this museum, and both are indeed wonderful. That said, we actually had the most fun learning about various bugs and chatting with a staff member about bees.
Where to stay: Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort
The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Another well-known museum, The Franklin Institute makes for a lovely day in Philly. Our son loved climbing through the giant heart structure, and we even got to witness an actual cow heart being dissected. Other great exhibits included one on sports and the human body, as well as one on the science of flight.
Where to stay: Philadelphia South KOA
Discovery Place Science Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
Discovery Place Science Center was super cool. This museum hosts tons of classes and performances throughout the day. There is a whole lab for building things, as well as a room full of small animals to observe. We had a blast making our own stop-motion animation, and our son loved The Bug Lab.
Where to stay: McDowell Nature Preserve
Bay Area Discovery Museum, San Francisco, California
We love Bay Area Discovery Center. A large portion of the museum is outside, making it easy to enjoy the seemingly perpetually gorgeous San Francisco weather. There is a whole room for making art, and an outdoor pirate ship to climb and explore. Of course, the awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge is pretty cool as well.
Where to stay: San Francisco RV Resort
Visiting museums on a budget
You may be wondering how to afford to visit so many amazing attractions. Honestly, we couldn’t afford it without the awesome reciprocal memberships we’ve discovered during our travels.
These memberships are through ASTC and ACM and provide us with free or discounted admission to a huge number of museums across the country. If you’ll be seeing a lot of museums during your travels, we highly recommend investing in a reciprocal membership or two.
While we have seen an enormous number of amazing museums, we are always on the lookout for more to explore and we keep a running bucket list of what to do next.
Currently, The Magic House in St. Louis, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco are all on our list. Based on our research, these would be excellent museums to add to your travel plans along with the ones mentioned above.
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