I know for many of us visiting museums can be boring. It all goes back to those field trips in elementary and middle school, when we had to visit museums and write a report about what we saw, what we learned. I think it’s the same reason some people don’t like to read; they were forced to read books they didn’t like in high school.
But just as there is a great awakening when you read a book you like—one that takes your breath away and leaves you thinking about the characters and the plot for weeks after you’re done—it is a powerful experience to visit a local museum and experience a great exhibit, one that leaves you wanting to learn more about the subject.
We tend to consider museums in dramatic terms. We think of the Smithsonian in Washington DC, the Museum of Natural History in New York City, or one of the Getty museums. There are magnificent places worth a day’s visit, just like Louvre in Paris and the Museo de Antropologia in Mexico City. But there are other, less famous museums housing all types of history like the Art Car Museum in Houston, TX, The Spy Museum in Washington DC, the SPAM museum in Austin, MN, the Hobo Museum in Britt, IA, and the Trash Museum in Hartford, CT. Yes, there are museums for everything. There is even a Shoe Museum in Mexico City.
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Going to a museum is a great family outing. Check out your local listings and see what museums you can find in your own city or town. Even if it’s not something you’re usually interested in, it might be worth a visit. Strolling through a museum that wasn’t originally of interest to me, opens my eyes to a part of our culture I might have been unaware of, and it helps me connect with my son in ways that other outings—say to an amusement park—don’t. I get to see him learn and be interested in a subject we may not usually discuss. The best part is that he may not even realize it’s an educational experience!
USE DISCOUNTS Many museums are non-profit or run by the State. Something to investigate before visiting is whether the museum offers free days or discounts to local residents. Oftentimes museums also host special events like concerts, films, plays, children’s festivals or community events, so for one price you get double the fun. Some have spectacular grounds and allow visitors to access these areas free of charge.
As summer rolls along and the kids get out of school, it’s worth taking a look at your city’s offerings. If you’re lucky you might find some museums or exhibits that you never knew existed. Think of it like browsing through the pages of an encyclopedia; there is all kinds of interesting information for you to absorb, plus museums bring history alive.
MAKE IT FUN FOR THE KIDS Also, think of creative ways in which you can make the outing fun for your kids. Before the trip, read a book or online article about the museum you will visit. During the outing, point out interesting details to your children. Play a game of “I spy” as you walk through the exhibits. Ask them questions and answer theirs. After the trip, have them make a drawing that expresses their memories of the excursion. What struck a chord with them? What impacted them? What left them wondering?
What museums have you visited with your kids and why do you recommend them?