Explore a different kind of planetarium at the Exploratorium. Credit: Provided
Like the air conditioning that finally kicked in on packed subway cars, Metro has instant and welcome relief for moms and dads sweating family summer travel plans. We’ve got five surprisingly cool can’t-miss destinations that kids AND their grown-ups will love.
Just south of the famous Honky Tonk bars and recording studios of Nashville, Tennessee, is a place where you will find chart-topping fun for the entire family. Strap in for Moonwalker and the EVA Experience to launch into a “zero gravity” adventure so fun that you’ll line up right behind your kid for your chance to play, too. Brain Storm offers visitors the chance to use the powers of their actual brainwaves to move a ball without touching it. This is no Jedi mind trick, but a real a head-to-head battle against your nemesis.
If your creative family likes to color outside the lines of traditional vacation destinations, then a visit to Easton, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the iconic crayon should be at the top of your summer to-do list (written in Burnt Sienna, naturally). Twenty-one exhibits and art activity stations will release your inner Cerulean Blue lover, and the little lessons in the history and the making of the iconic crayons are fascinating for all ages. Your kids will love seeing what you look like with Electric Lime hair thanks to Be a Star, which turns an on-the-spot photo into coloring pages, t-shirts, puzzles, and more. But you’ll especially love the chance to become a Crayonologist (#realword) yourself, by inventing a color name and having an authentic label printed and wrapped around your crayon souvenir.
With over 10,000 picture book illustrations from beloved author/artists including Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg and Eric Carle, this exceptional museum will delight the whole family’s imaginations. In addition to three art galleries, the Amherst, Massachusetts, museum includes a reading library with over 4,000 books and a theater that hosts puppet shows, concerts and author talks. For adults, it’s a true art-museum experience, but for kids, it’s a delightful experience of art that speaks to them.
If you still have nightmares about balancing chemical equations and the Schrödinger Equation from high school, you might not put “visit to a science museum” on the top of your “dream vacations” list. And you would be wrong. Located on Pier 15 of San Francisco’s iconic bay, the 330,000-square-foot Exploratorium boasts over 1,000 interactive exhibits that will have moms and dads wondering why science classes weren’t this awesome when they were in school. New this summer is Pulse Spiral, a parabolic “chandelier” of 400 lights that dim, flicker and flash in response to your heart rate. And if you’ve ever wondered why your family can never agree which color shirt matches those pants, or the perfect paint color for the living room, then prepare to have your mind blown by Seeing Yellow and Disagreeing about Color, two interactive exhibits that will have you trying to match and make “yellow,” proving that we all see and perceive colors in surprisingly different ways.
This hands-on museum in Rochester, New York, combines history (see the first Monopoly board) with major fun (play old-timey and modern carnival and arcade games). Everyone will love the carousel and the butterfly garden, but grown-ups should not leave the oversize maze and huge game of Battleship to their children. The Strong is also home to the National Toy Hall of Fame, where you can not only admire the inductees (which include the Slinky, Play-Doh and Lionel trains), but play with them. Start a checkers game, build with Lego bricks or fire up the Atari and show the kids how it’s done.