1. Smithsonian Sleepovers – Washington, D.C.
When it comes to finding out about American history, the Smithsonian Museums are about as good as it gets. And on select dates from late May to late August, kids ages 8 to 12 can go with a parent to either the National Museum of American History or the Natural History Museum for a sleepover. Sleeping over at the Natural History Museum will doing craft projects, catch an IMAX film and sleep under Phoenix the whale in the Ocean Hall. Guests at the National Museum of American History will take part in solving a mystery, play games, craft projects, and even become a presidential candidate. The only things you’ll need to bring are a sleeping bag, pillow, toothbrush, and your sense of adventure.
2. Colonial Williamsburg – Williamsburg, Virginia
We may not have hoverboards or time-piercing DeLoreans, but that doesn’t mean we can’t travel into the past. Families can see what life was like in colonial times in Williamsburg, Virginia. This living-history museum has buildings dating back to the 17th century, filled with reenactors showing what life was like at the time. You can experience the beginning of the American Revolution, join an angry mob and join the troops as they march toward Yorktown. Kids will even get to play games of the period and see what life was like for the little ones.
3. Baseball Hall of Fame – Cooperstown, New York
There aren’t many kids that don’t dream of making it to the Big Leagues. And what better way to keep that dream racing through their minds than with a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. This sports museum is loaded with interactive exhibits and memorabilia from the biggest moments in the game’s history. There are also video screens throughout showing some of baseball’s most famous plays. Kids under 12 can even enjoy the Sandlots Kids’ Clubhouse for their own unique experience. They can also do a sleepover at the museum on select nights as well.
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4. High Desert Museum – Bend, Oregon
How many of you played The Oregon Trail when in school? Well, a trip to the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, will bring history away from the green glow of the monitor and into reality. Kids will be able to get their hands dirty with activities like churning butter, dipping candles and splitting wood. You’ll even be able to see rescue animals that are native to the Northwest, like falcons, lynx, bobcats, rattlesnakes and Gila monsters. This museum will show you all the hardships pioneers had to deal with on their way west without giving you dysentery.
5. Mystic Seaport: Museum of America and the Sea – Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic was once the shipbuilding capital of New England. Now it’s the home of the largest maritime museum in the States. Visitors can explore an authentic village from the 19th century – complete with bank, chapel, drugstore and lighthouse. You can learn about old-timey card games and the way sea captains would communicate with one another at sea with flags in the Discovery Barn. There’s even ship restorations you can see in person in the Preservation Yard. But one of the coolest things you can actually enter the cabin of the Benjamin F. Packard, a sailing ship from that was originally built in 1883.
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6. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio
The history of rock and roll is a treasured one, and perfectly detailed at this destination on the shores of Lake Erie. The Rock Hall has several cool exhibits – both permanent and rotating – that show the influence of these artists on our culture. You’ll find displays about the yearly inductees to the Hall, as well as interactive experiences like one detailing the evolution of audio technology, and various interesting pieces of memorabilia. Add in permanent exhibits on legendary groups like The Beatles and U2, and you’ve got one of the best museums in the nation. Fun little fact: disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term “rock and roll” while working at WJW in Cleveland back in 1951.
7. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – Cincinnati, Ohio
The fight for freedom is on full display at this incredible museum on the banks of the Ohio River. Interactive multimedia exhibits will give you a deep look into the history of slavery, and the ongoing fight for freedom. But no exhibit is more striking than the “Slave Pen” – a wooden structure built in the 1800s used as “storage” for over 75 slaves. This is an intense place to visit, but one that can inspire people to make things better for all.
8. Space Camp – Huntsville, Alabama
There are plenty of us that dreamed of becoming an astronaut while growing up. It’s time to indulge yourself, and maybe your kids too, with a trip to Space Camp. Families can find what it takes to train to become an astronaut with interactive space missions in an authentic training simulator during either the three-day or four-day programs. Wonder what it would feel like to be weightless? There’s a 1/6th gravity chair to let you know what it’s like. There’s even rocket construction and on-site history about the space program to round out the experience.