The United States is a worthwhile destination that offers numerous attractions not to be missed. While the US is known for its giant man-made marvels like Mount Rushmore or its natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, there are plenty of other gems worth exploring, including museums. These are the best museums in the United States to visit.
When you think of the best museums in the world, places like The Louvre in Paris may come to mind. But did you know that dozens of United States museums consistently rank among the best? The US is home to foundations that house and preserve numerous gifts from the past, from paintings, sculptures, and cultural as well as natural history museums featuring archaeology, anthropology, and more.
Below you’ll find the best museums in the US. Art, artifacts, and much more await– even airplanes!
TL;DR: Our Best Of
|Best Art Museum||The Metropolitan Museum of Art||New York, NY|
|Best Natural History Museum||Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History||Washington, D.C.|
|Best Science Museum||Exploratorium||San Francisco, CA|
|Best Children’s Museum||Children’s Museum of Indianapolis||Indianapolis, IN|
Best Museums in the United States
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as “the Met,” is a lovely place to visit if you want to see various art pieces in the beautiful city of New York. Spanning nearly 2 million square feet, it’s the largest art museum in the United States. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also holds a world record, as it has the largest floor area of any museum on earth!
With so much area to explore, you could spend an entire day at The Met. You can also partake in a Highlights Tour if you prefer a shorter visit.
The three-hour tour allows you to skip entrance lines, followed by a knowledgeable guide leading you to the most iconic works of art. Along the way, your guide will explain the significance and history of each piece.
And what exactly will you see while exploring The Met? A little bit of everything. Its permanent collection contains over 2 million extravagant works. The extensive collection is divided among the spacious areas of 17 curatorial departments.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s paintings represent over 5,000 years of artwork worldwide, from ancient Greece and Egypt to first-century Rome. You’ll also find comprehensive collections of armor, costumes, weapons, and even musical instruments.
The Met was built in 1870 and the museum’s dedication to campaigning and representing artworks and masterpieces means it’s one of the most influential art museums on the planet.
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2. The Art Institute of Chicago
Address: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
It houses a permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works of art, including famous paintings, archaic statues, and various other creative media forms. The Art Institute of Chicago collects a variety of art, takes care of, and perseveres each artwork as they present it to the public. You can access the museum by purchasing a Chicago CityPASS for all-inclusive access to your favorite tourist attractions in Chicago.
The museum has gained a lot of recognition for all the modern artworks it houses, as well as the majestic and regal way it presents all of its masterpieces. It has now become a popular and exciting tourist destination in Chicago. Infuse convenience into your visit by purchasing a Skip-The-Line Ticket or joining a Small Group Guided Tour.
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3. National Museum of African American History and Culture
Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, also known as the Blacksonian, opened in 2016. It’s the world’s largest museum dedicated to African-American history and culture.
Although this Washington DC museum is newer, it’s already won critical praise for its exhibits. The exhibits cover centuries of information about African American history, community, and culture. You’ll find heart-wrenching displays on slavery, the power of place, and areas celebrating the creative talents of African Americans.
Private tours are available, including a knowledgeable guide sharing fascinating facts while keeping things interesting for children in the group. It’s a family-friendly activity that will inspire guests of all ages.
While close by, consider also partaking in a DC walking tour. Food tours, landmark tours, and more national museums await.
4. The Museum of Modern Art
Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a lovely museum that gives stunning views of art in beautiful Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The museum is often identified as one of the largest and most influential museums focusing on, and holding, contemporary art.
The MoMA’s comprehensive collection of contemporary art features works extending from skills in the late 19th-century American and European arts. You’ll see paintings using cubism, surrealism, and abstract ways of portraying art. The Museum of Modern Art is home to one of Pablo Picasso’s most famous masterpieces, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Besides paintings, sculpture, and graphic art, the gallery was among the first in the United States to include architectural designs and other art forms to admire in its industrial arts collection. The diverse collection makes the Museum of Modern Art a unique and must-see destination to appreciate art in all forms.
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5. American Museum of Natural History
Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
New York City makes the list again with the American Museum of Natural History, one of the world’s prominent experimental and cultural institutions. It is in an ideal and accessible location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
It was founded and officially opened its doors in 1869. It’s a spectacular spot to discover, learn, and interpret arts. The museum disseminates wide-ranging curricula of scientific study, education, and display, providing knowledge about human civilizations, the natural environment, and the cosmos.
It has active research divisions for arts and several support centers that house scientists who preserve and study the world-class permanent collection of art it holds.
A kid-friendly guided tour is available, featuring skip-the-line tickets and an experienced guide who understands children well and knows which exhibits will pique their interest.
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6. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Address: 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
The Museum of Fine Arts is a spectacular museum in Boston, Massachusetts. It is recognized and ranked among the most extensive art exhibits in the world by measuring the public gallery area. It’s home to over 450,000 fine works of art, making it one of the largest collections in the United States.
Founded in 1870, this Boston museum is located in the ancestral homelands of the Massachusetts community, a location that has long existed as a gathering and trading point for people far and wide.
It has undergone significant expansion, renovation, and change in recent years. Despite its modern updates, The Museum of Fine Arts beckons to the past with its collections.
Travel through centuries of creative works, including textiles, jewelry, pottery, and musical instruments. You’ll find pieces from cultures all over the world, from Asia to Europe, to the Americas and beyond.
This is a must-add to any Boston itinerary. If you still haven’t had your fill of history after visiting The Museum of Fine Arts, consider going on a Boston walking tour to marvel at more pieces of the past.
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7. The National WWII Museum
Address: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
The National WWII Museum is a fascinating military history museum formerly called the “National D-Day Museum.” It’s a beautiful destination and a must-see museum when visiting the Central Business District of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The National WWII Museum is one of the popular tourist destinations in New Orleans. It ranks 2nd in the US as a destination that honors an unforgettable way to experience World War II.
The National WWII Museum hosts interactive exhibitions, multimedia environments, and an impressive array of comprehensive collections of artifacts and first oral histories, immersing visitors in the history of the war that shaped the past. Beyond the spectacular museum exhibits, the National WWII Museum offers an engaging online art collection viewing.
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8. The Cleveland Museum of Art
Address: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106
It was founded in 1913 “for the benefit of all the people forever.” It aspires to educate and engage visitors in the world’s great art while upholding the most satisfactory artistic, academic, and ethical expectations. You’ll find art in all forms, from ancient Egyptian statues to folk pottery. Centuries worth of paintings, sculptures, and more await.
The Cleveland Museum of Art sponsors several programs that demonstrate the significance and impact of art in contemporary culture. It will open your eyes to cultures and traditions from around the world. Consider following your museum visit with a walking tour. Cleveland has more to discover than you may think!
9. Detroit Institute of Arts
Address: 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
The Detroit Institute of Arts is a tourist attraction not to miss, for it holds an array of spectacular decorative arts in the lovely city of Detroit, Michigan. The museum was acknowledged as part of the state’s finest, classical, and most notable art galleries.
It has been a cultural torch in Detroit for over a century. Founded in 1885, the museum was initially located on Jefferson Avenue but later moved to a more spacious place on Woodward Avenue in 1927.
More than 65,000 artworks are displayed in the museum—all of the museum’s paintings were dated from the earliest civilizations to the present. You’ll find Indigenous works, Middle Eastern art, Greco-Roman creations, Islamic art, prints, photographs, and even puppets! This cultural institution offers visitors encounters with human creativity from all over the world.
Learn more fascinating things by going on a Detroit walking tour. The Motor City is full of architectural must-sees.
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10. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Los Angeles County Museum of Art was founded in 1961. It houses a collection of over 150,000 artworks, covering centuries of creative expression from around the world.
LACMA also supports the works of emerging artists. There’s always something new to see when visiting this art museum, from 2-D paintings and drawings to 3-D art installations that ignite the mind.
LACMA’s exploratory approach is to express art through collaborations with exceptional artists. It also extends to technologists and leaders among various organizations in the city, as well as international committees to campaign art. While in town, check out these other amazing things to do in Los Angeles.
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11. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY 10128
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum began collecting art and exhibiting the works of the great abstract painter Solomon R. Guggenheim. In 1939, the artist created and established the art museum. It was initially known as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting but was later renamed after its creator.
The majority of Guggenheim’s work was from the 1920s. Many magnificent artworks in the museum’s collection have been beautifully restored, giving visitors the best viewing experience. The museum also gathers, maintains, and interprets modern and experimental art and explores concepts across cultures.
If you’re planning on visiting more major attractions in New York City, consider purchasing a CityPASS. Along with discounted admission to The Guggenheim, the New York CityPASS also includes deals at other area museums, the Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock, and more.
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12. Whitney Museum of American Art
Address: 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY 10014
The Whitney Museum of American Art is one of the most magnificent museums to explore a wide range of outstanding art. The “Whitney,” as it is affectionately known, is a Manhattan art museum established in 1930 by American socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, after whom it is named.
Over 26,000 works produced by over 3,800 artists in the United States between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are covered and presented on Whitney’s list and exhibits. The exhibits vary from generational reviews and in-depth retrospectives to group shows, bringing new or comparatively unknown artists to a broader audience.
Along with traditional art, The Whitney also offers audio guides, podcasts, videos, and essays on its website. The Whitney truly specializes in educating the public about art and art culture, encouraging guests to learn physically at the museum or at home. Plan and book tickets or a tour to enjoy all that this NYC art museum has to offer.
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13. 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Address: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a unique museum and tourist attraction in New York City. The memorial opened to the public in 2011; the museum area opened in 2014. Both are dedicated to the 2,977 people killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The museum’s unique combination of art, archaeology, and history provides a captivating interaction with the narrative of the tragedy, the aftermath, and the people who lived through it. Photographs, stories, and immersive media help visualize the timeline of September 11th, from an ordinary Tuesday morning in New York to the unfathomable events that changed the world forever.
The 110,000 square feet of space features rotating temporary exhibits. There are also two galleries with turning and temporary exhibitions. The Special Exhibitions are also not to be missed, featuring a wide range of subjects related to the North Tower’s reminiscence footprint, focusing on current issues that speak to the long-term effects of 9/11.
Learn even more during your visit to the museum and memorial by going on a guided walking tour. It’s a fascinating yet heartbreaking experience that you’ll never forget.
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14. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Address: 3000 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46208
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis holds a world record as it’s the largest children’s museum on earth. Impressive! It was established in 1925 with the assistance of Indianapolis community leaders and institutions to Mary Stewart Carey. You’ll find the museum nestled along North Meridian Street in the United Northwest Area neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana.
The American Alliance of Museums has granted The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis accreditation for being an extraordinary museum for children. The American, Cultural, and Natural World collections comprise the museum’s compilation of over 120,000 objects and display pieces.
The museum features both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Remember that the outdoor exhibits are open from March through October and are closed during winter.
Outdoor exhibits include a simulated and virtual dinosaur habitat, impressive playgrounds, and more. You’ll also find a carousel, a train to ride, and a glass sculpture among the fun.
Thousands of programs such as plays, art lessons, youth seminars, traveling exhibitions, and donation events are held at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The museum’s main emphasis is on family education. Most displays are immersive, encouraging children and their families to participate fully.
15. Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124
Are you looking for a spectacular destination to admire and appreciate in Michigan? The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is a massive and vast museum with indoor exhibits and an exterior gallery establishment. Constructed in 1929, the museum is acknowledged as a National Historic Landmark in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation exhibits encourage visitors to immerse themselves in the tales of America’s greatest minds and talents. The remarkable displays feature railroads, clockwork, motor vehicles, agriculture, and heroes of the sky. Wandering through the exhibits will take you through decades-worth of American innovation.
You’ll also find more traditional art at the museum, including pottery from the 20th century. Vintage clothing lovers won’t want to miss the What We Wore exhibit, which includes dazzling garments that will take you back in time.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is a short drive from Detroit, where you’ll find plenty of other places to explore. Consider going on a walking tour to discover both major attritions and hidden gems along the way.
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16. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Address: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
This massive natural history museum located along the National Mall in Washington, DC was built in 1910 and houses the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The overall area of the building is 1.5 million square feet, requiring 1,000 employees to run daily operations in the museum and cover administrative duties as well.
Showcasing natural history in all forms, the museum houses over 146 million specimens. This includes plants, animals, minerals, fossils, rocks, and even human remains. You’ll find exhibits featuring ancient sea creatures, dinosaur fossils, Egyptian mummies, live insects, African cultures, and even a butterfly pavilion.
The National Gem Collection is also a must-see, featuring sparkling gems from around the world. You can also get an up-close view of meteorites and lava and ash samples from volcanoes. Keep your eyes peeled for the world-famous Hope Diamond, a 45.5-carat blue diamond far more stunning in person than in photos.
Guided tours of the museum are available, ensuring you’ll see all of the essential exhibits without spending all day wandering around.
17. Philadelphia Museum of Art
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is not only a great city, but it also boasts an eclectic mix of modern city life and incredible American history that is sure to leave you in awe. It also accommodates the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a destination not to miss when visiting the city.
In 1876, this excellent museum was the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and in the year 1928, the main building was built and acquired to become the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum is perched ideally on a hill within the Eakins Oval of Philadelphia, and its majestic exterior lures visitors to check out the artwork.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a place for all ages and is open to the public. Each piece of art presented in the museum’s gallery inspires visitors to learn and appreciate art in different forms.
You’ll find prints, drawings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and modern and contemporary art in the galleries. The pieces originate from the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
Philadelphia Museum of Art aims to unite the community through arts and creative ways.
Another cool Philly experience is the Private Rocky Movie Locations Tour, where you can walk (or jog) in the footsteps of the iconic movie character, Rocky Balboa.
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18. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Address: 1001 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 77005
In the busy streets of Houston, Texas, lies an extraordinary museum that showcases outstanding art. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was established in 1900 and remains one of the best art museums in the United States. It’s also one of the largest, featuring over 70,000 pieces in over 300,000 square feet.
The museum is filled with worldwide art in different forms, including masterpieces from paintings to sculptures. The museum has a beautiful collection of over 60 centuries of history and other eras, from antiquity to the present.
Every visitor will enjoy a lovely stroll around the gallery’s exhibition spaces. Masterpieces are clustered by year, making it feel like you’re returning to the past. Speaking of the past, this guided history tour in Houston explores one of the city’s forgotten treasures.
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19. Minneapolis Institute of Art
Address: 2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404
The Minneapolis Institute of Art, established in 1883, is an art museum perched in the charming city of Minneapolis in Minnesota. It’s one of the largest in the United States; even better, general admission is free.
The museum is home to almost a hundred thousand works of art, showcasing 5,000 years of world history and modern and contemporary art. The museum is invested in collecting, storing, and rendering available exceptional pieces from around the world, with one of our favorite collections of European art in the United States. Visitors can experience a relaxing walk and an ideal tour through the museum and discover one of the most comprehensive collections of paintings in the United States.
Each piece of art displayed at the museum is grouped by year, making the tour a wonderful walk down memory lane. For another stroll into the past, check out the History and 4-Bar Crawl Guided Walking Tour. History + local bars = a fascinating and fun adventure in The Twin Cities.
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20. The Getty
Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Los Angeles is filled with famous destinations and excellent museums, and one of them is The Getty Center, commonly referred to as The Getty. It’s a worthwhile spot to visit, as it caters to various artworks from several eras. The architecture of the museum itself is a work of art.
The museum is also a delightful campus that offers multiple art programs and supports emerging and well-known artists in town. It is a spectacular destination to unwind, appreciate arts in all forms, and discover unique skills.
Every visitor of the Getty Museum can discover and learn each art background presented in the ever-changing galleries. There’s always something new to see and learn when visiting The Getty.
Take a guided tour for an insider look at The Getty Center and beyond. The Griffith Observatory is another glorious stop on the tour and it offers sprawling views of LA’s scenery.
21. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Address: 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was established 1946 as the National Air Museum. The museum’s name changed in 1976 when the main building opened near L’Enfant Plaza.
This out-of-this-world museum features exhibits that are out of this world! While exploring areas of the museum featuring space travel, you’ll learn about the moon landing and other iconic milestones in space exploration. The Exploring the Planets gallery is also a must-see, opening your eyes to how majestic our solar system is.
The museum also pays homage to the history of flight with real-life aircraft on display. You’ll learn about early flight, the Wright Brothers, and more.
Prepare to be amazed at how much work it took, with plenty of trial and error, to fly an aircraft finally. Both children and adults will love seeing the vintage planes hanging overhead. Come with a fully-charged cell phone because you’ll likely want to snap many photos.
When it comes to Washington DC attractions, this is only the beginning. Consider partaking in a full-day tour of DC’s monuments. With plenty of history and inspiration, every single stop will delight and fascinate.
22. USS Midway Museum
Address: 910 N Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101
The USS Midway Museum is the largest museum devoted to carriers and naval aviation. This San Diego museum opened in 2004 and consists of the aircraft carrier known as USS Midway. Before housing the museum, the USS Midway was active from 1945 to 1992, carrying approximately 200,000 soldiers throughout the decades.
You can explore over 60 exhibits aboard the USS Midway Museum. An outdoor aircraft gallery also showcases over 30 restored aircraft and helicopters. Many were used in actual battles and restored to their former glory.
23. National Gallery of Art
Address: Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20565
The National Art Gallery of Art has become a must-visit destination for art lovers in the United States. It’s conveniently located near the Capitol building and boasts an impressive collection of artworks. The museum comprises two buildings, each with its unique charm, and the museum also features an attached sculpture garden.
The West Building takes inspiration from Rome’s Pantheon and showcases classic works from renowned artists like Monet and Botticelli. Meanwhile, the East Building flaunts a modernist design and exhibits contemporary pieces from artists such as Mark Rothko and Henri Matisse.
The National Gallery of Art also presents a diverse range of American and European-specific pieces, including captivating photographs on display. The National Gallery of Art is easily one of the best art museums in the United States. Given its location on the National Mall, you need to stop by here during any visit to Washington, D.C.
24. Smithsonian American Art Museum
Address: G Street Northwest &, 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
When it comes to American art museums, the Smithsonian American Art Museum stands out as one of the most prestigious and extensive collections in the world. The museum houses over 700 artists in its historical exhibitions, which have undergone many changes over time and are continually expanding its collection of both American artists of the past and today.
What’s remarkable about this museum is that you can explore it for free. This is quite uncommon for art museums in the United States, making it one of the best free museums in the world.
25. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Address: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102
Originally established as a new wing of the de Young Museum in San Francisco in 1966, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has since grown to become one of the world’s most comprehensive, with over 18,000 artworks from across the largest continent in the world with plenty of ancient art that is over 6,000 years old.
In 2003, the collection moved to its own dedicated space, where it now houses an impressive collection of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese art pieces, making it the largest Asian art collection ever assembled. This may be an art museum, but history buffs will be incredibly inspired by the historical collection.
Which museums are a must-visit for art lovers in the US?
The United States is chock-full of art museums. While they’re primarily found in large cities, you can also find hidden gems.
The best museums for art lovers in the US include The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Getty in Los Angeles, and The Art Institute of Chicago. Other notable art museums in the United States are The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and The Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Unsurprisingly, so many famous artworks can be found in the United States. After all, many iconic artists were American, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Are there any unique or offbeat museums worth visiting in the US?
Traditional art museums are plentiful in the US, from sea to shining sea. But did you know there are also dozens of offbeat museums in the country? Weird and unique museums in the United States include the Museum of the Weird in Austin, the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, The National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, and The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
You also won’t want to miss the Idaho Potato Museum in Idaho, The National Mustard Museum in Wyoming, and The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum in Florida. Argh! There are museums for every type of person in the United States. From kooky to spooky, US museums are far from bland.
What is the largest US Army museum?
The National Museum of the United States Army is the largest US Army museum. Located in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, it serves as the principal repository for artifacts and exhibits related to the history of the U.S. Army from its inception to the present day.
What are the best children’s museums in the US?
The largest children’s museum in the world is the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Some of the best children’s museums in the United States include Port Discovery in Baltimore, Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, and the National Children’s Museum in Washington, DC. Featuring hands-on activities and interactive exhibits, children’s museums are one of the best (and most fun) ways to learn and grow.