Science not only helps us discover the world around us — it connects us with worlds beyond our own. And there’s no better place to discover these connections than at a museum. However, with an array of stellar scientific and educational institutions throughout the U.S., honing in on the nation’s top science museums is no easy feat.
Still, there are a few that should definitely be on your bucket list. We’ve assembled a collection of historic institutions, one-of-a-kind exhibits and museums that are helping to develop the next generation of scientists, researchers and educators. From famous fossils to space treasures, our roundup of essential U.S. science museums is sure to feature artifacts that amaze and inspire.
PHOTO COURTESY OF AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
American Museum of Natural History
New York, NY
If we’re talking science museums, the The American Museum of Natural History in NYC is the perfect place to start. This renowned institution has delighted guests from across the globe for over 150 years. And no matter your particular field of interest, you’ll find a deep dive at the AMNH.
Here’s a fun fact: the AMNH’s collections include over 30 million specimens and artifacts. Not all are on display, of course, but you can explore hall after hall of habitat and species dioramas from around the world. And for a blast to the past, head to the fourth floor, where you’ll meet the museum’s showstoppers: 100 dinosaur fossil specimens, including T. rex, Triceratops and Velociraptor.
Space Center Houston
For cosmic discoveries, Space Center Houston is a must-see. This site is the visitor center for NASA Johnson Space Center and is home to shuttle artifacts, a gallery of historic spacesuits and an in-depth look at our journey to Mars. Space Center Houston also hosts film screenings and dynamic STEM programs to inspire the next generation.
What’s more, you can book a tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center — aka the location of Mission Control and the training base of our nation’s astronauts. It’s here that Neil Armstrong’s famed
the lunar broadcast was heard on July 20, 1969. You can also visit Rocket Park, onsite training facilities and the Apollo Mission Control Center, home base to many iconic moments in U.S. history.
The Field Museum
For dino enthusiasts, the Field Museum in Chicago is also a must, as it’s home to one of the world’s most famous paleontological discoveries. SUE the T. rex is not only the largest T. rex specimen ever discovered, but the most complete, too. Guests can meet SUE and over a dozen other ancient creatures, including Maximo the Titanosaur — a cast of the most massive dinosaur scientists have discovered to date.
In addition to SUE and her crew, the Field Museum is also home to other fascinating permanent exhibits, like Inside Ancient Egypt. This expansive exhibit showcases a three-story replica of an ancient Egyptian tomb, as well as one of the largest collections of mummies in the U.S.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FIELD MUSEUM, LUCY HEWETT
California Science Center
Los Angeles, CA
On the West Coast, the California Science Center offers hours of family fun and engaging exhibits for the little ones. Eight individual galleries introduce guests to global ecosystems, including a 188,000-gallon kelp forest teeming with spiny lobsters, moray eels and leopard sharks. The museum is also home to space shuttle Endeavour, as well as various military and historical aircrafts displayed throughout the grounds.
And kids under seven will totally dig the museum’s
Discovery Rooms. In these immersive exhibits, children can get up close to lizards and insects, learn to garden or play vet for the day in the wildlife surgery space. The California Science Center provides extensive community programming to help kids of all ages connect with science and develop their dreams.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GULF STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY
Underwater Museum of Art
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
This next destination is technically an art museum — but seeing as you have to swim to it, we think it’s still pretty science-y. Located less than a mile from Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, the Underwater Museum of Art is the first permanent marine sculpture park in the U.S. Scuba certification is required to visit, with boat tours embarking from Grayton Beach. If you’re ready to dive into a new hobby, you can sign up for Open Water Diver classes at the UMA, as well.
Visitors can explore UMA’s exhibits 58 feet below the surface, cruising amongst submerged sculptures of metallic sea creatures, an undersea honeycomb and even a giant pineapple. And this is one museum where the art will truly evolve over time: the purpose of the UMA is not only to offer a super unique museum experience but also to double as an artificial reef.