7. Strong Museum, Rochester, NY
- Created the "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?" exhibit, which has dozens of interactive components such as driving Elmo in a taxicab, working the cashier's drawer at the Square Cinema ticket booth, and going on camera with the famous characters.
- Displays more than 500,000 objects from the 1820s onward, including 5,000 dolls.
- Allows kids to view old TV and movie clips and check out historic sports gear and clothing in its "TimeLab" exhibit.
- Features the circus-themed "Count Me In" Children's Theater where kids can learn concepts related to numbers and sorting to improve their math skills.
- Operates an authentic 1956 diner and a 1920s-style soda fountain so that families can enjoy a meal or a snack together without leaving the museum.
- Best for ages: 2 to 10
Over the past several years, the Strong Museum has been building muscle: The Disneyesque first floor is filled with dozens of fun and one-of-a-kind activities for kids, like riding on a 1918 carousel, starring in a cooking show, and climbing into Big Bird's Same and Different Nest. On the upper levels, families can sift through one of the widest-ranging collections of cool stuff in the world, from 200 dollhouses to 50,000 pieces of antique advertising materials. "Our memorabilia bridges the generations," says executive director G. Rollie Adams. "Parents and grandparents will spot a toy or a game they had when they were children and then tell the whole family the story."
On every level, the customer service is impressive -- private "guest rest" stations where moms can breastfeed or just take some time out with their kids are sprinkled around the museum. The staff also provides complimentary diapers and even changes of clothing for small mishaps.
Contact: 716-263-2701; www.strongmuseum.org. Entrance fee: $6 for adults, $4 for kids.