6 Specialty Museums Kids (and Grown-Ups!) Will Love

center for puppetry arts
Sara Hanna Photography
Specialty museums are passionate places curated by passionate people. Never content to just show you a bunch of cool stuff, they go deep, with mind-boggling expertise and contagious enthusiasm. Even if you're just a mildly curious family zipping through town, each of these spots is worth the trip.
Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Circus World | Baraboo, WI

Step right up—and into a time capsule of the colors, smells, sounds, and fun of an old-time traveling circus. In the early 1900s, Baraboo, WI, was the Ringling Brothers' winter headquarters (and home to more than 500 horses and 29 elephants). Now, it's a 64-acre facility where visitors can nibble cotton candy and check out refurbished circus wagons, vintage show posters and musical instruments, short documentary movies, and, in the high summer season, a smorgasbord of live acts. From May 20 to August 28, Circus World offers twice-daily shows of a traditional big-top circus and a new educational Bengal tiger program, as well as family magic shows, clown- makeup demonstrations, circus organ concerts, comedy acts, elephant rides, and more. circusworldbaraboo.org 

Boston Globe/Getty Images
Boston Globe/Getty Images

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art | Amherst, MA

What wacky creatures (besides your parents) taught you to count to 10, name the days of the week, and cope with emotions? For many of us, they were characters from books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Frog and Toad. (After all, who can resist the promise of I Can Fly, by Ruth
Krauss and illustrator Mary Blair?) The Eric Carle Museum celebrates the genius of picture books through original art exhibits, illustrator and author talks, a reading library (with story sessions for kids), and an interactive art studio. carlemuseum.org 

Paul J. Richards/Getty Images
Paul J. Richards/Getty Images

International Spy Museum | Washington D.C.

Ready to go undercover? Grab your trench coat and head to the International Spy Museum. From Harriet Tubman to World War II code crackers, spies have been agents of revolutionary change throughout history. This museum unveils the tricks of their trade, with exhibits on disguise, code cracking, surveillance, and 007-worthy gadgets. Older kids and adults can try two real-time, hour-long group missions: Spy in the City is a GPS-aided outdoor prowl of nearby D.C. streets; Operation Spy is an adrenalin-fueled race to save the world. spymuseum.org 

Mike Pont/Getty Images
Mike Pont/Getty Images

Museum of the Moving Image | Astoria, NY

If your kids haven't yet attempted to make their own movies, rest assured: One trip to the Museum of the Moving Image will inspire some low-budget productions. Using film clips and a collection of industry artifacts (including the real Yoda), the museum's main exhibit unpacks the history and mechanics of movies. Then, head to the computer stations, where kids can star in a flip- book, make stop-motion animation, or redub an actor's voice. On Saturdays, kids 7 and older can drop into the Moving Image Studio to try a hands-on project with a museum educator. movingimage.us 

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Petersen Automotive Museum | Los Angeles

In a recent renovation, this car museum fueled up on cutting-edge technology without losing an ounce of vintage cool. Chrome is still king here, from classic hot rods and motorcycles to winning racers and custom cars, including the Batmobile and an Aston Martin driven by James Bond in Spectre. An extensive new digital component offers 180-degree race-movie projections; state-of-the-art driving simulators; and the Disney/Pixar Cars Mechanical Institute, where Lightning McQueen teaches kids about automotive design and engineering. petersen.org 

Sara Hanna Photography
Sara Hanna Photography

Worlds of Puppetry Museum | Atlanta

When the original Center for Puppetry Arts opened in 1978, Kermit the Frog cut the ceremonial ribbon. Recently renovated, the museum houses the world's largest collection of Jim Henson creations, showcased in a rotating gallery. Exhibits include a reproduction of Henson's office, a mock television studio, and a tribute to Sesame Street. A second large gallery, the Global Collection, hosts a veritable United Nations of puppets from around the world. Puppet shows and create-a-puppet workshops (ages 4 and older) run Tuesdays through Sundays. puppet.org 

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