Wow! It's not easy to find a place that equally inspires kids and grown-ups, whatever their ages.
Welcome to one of the most wonderful museums I've visited lately -- The Musical Instrument Museum (www.themim.org) in Phoenix, Ariz. -- a 200,000-square-foot building housing nearly 15,000 instruments and artifacts from around the world with nearly 5,000 on display at one time.
See the piano where John Lennon composed the song "Imagine," one of Paul Simon's guitars, Elvis' costumes and the first Steinway piano, which was built in a German kitchen in 1836.
Then take the kids to the huge experience room where they can create their own music on guitars and ukuleles, play xylophones and harps or bang on giant Chinese gongs and drums. The instruments may come from all around the globe but the music they make certainly brings us all together.
We were in Scottsdale (www.scottsdalecvb.org) staying at the historic JW Marriott Camelback Inn (www.camelbackinn.com) for a weekend combining hiking, biking and museum visits. (We also stopped in at the famous Heard Museum (www.heard.org), which for more than 80 years has given visitors the opportunity to learn about the arts and culture of the native peoples of North America.
Wherever you are this winter or wherever you're planning to go for spring break, take time to visit a museum exhibit that would especially interest your family. For example, if you are visiting New Orleans, stop in at the National World War II Museum where a special exhibit, "Gridiron Glory," (http://www.ddaymuseum.org/) shows kids how much the sport of football has changed from its beginnings in the late 19th century to the Super Bowl today. And everyone will love the UA Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center with WWII planes hanging from the ceiling.
If you are in New York, don't miss the new exhibit "Our Global Kitchen" at the American Museum of Natural History that shows us how food gets from farm to table and the role it plays in different cultures. You can even get a virtual cooking lesson and play FoodShips, the interactive game that demonstrates how difficult it is to transport various foods.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (www.dmns.org) is opening "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age" this month, complete with fossil tusks and skulls, interactive videos and more, as you relive the story of the Snowmastadon Project, the huge Ice Age fossil site unearthed near Snowmass Village in 2010. See fossils from the site on display for the first time and watch museum volunteers prepare fossils found at various digs. (Maybe you have a future paleontologist in your gang?) If you are skiing at Snowmass, take time to visit the Ice Age Discovery Center (www.snowmassiceage.com) right in the village. (Here's what I said about our visit there, http://www.takingthekids.com/travel-diary/back-to-the-ice-age-on-snowmass-mountain/.)
At large museums, seek out special family workshops and interactive areas designed for kids. The Musical Instrument Museum recently started a new Mini Music Makers weekly music program for children five and under that has proved so popular, a second day has been added each week into April.
Take time for smaller museums too. When I was visiting Washington, D.C., with a group of teenagers who attend our high school, someone suggested we make time for the National Museum of Crime and Punishment (http://www.crimemuseum.org) whose mission is to give visitors insight into crime and crime fighting. It's easy to see why this museum is a winner for teenage boys with its exhibit on high-speed police chases, Bonnie and Clyde's bullet-riddled car, the chance to try to hack into a computer or crack a safe and its crime lab. (The kids also gave thumbs up to the International Spy Museum, www.spymuseum.org, with its new 007 exhibit.)
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