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Taking the Kids: New museum exhibits to explore -- T. rex, ancient queens, the hobbit and more!

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Maybe you're visiting the grandparents for spring break; maybe the cousins are visiting you or maybe it's raining, or you've all had too much sun.

Whichever applies, there's no better time to take an afternoon to visit a museum, including some you never knew existed. For example, in The Big Apple, there's now the AKC Museum of the Dog, an entire art museum dedicated to canines with paintings, sculptures and figures from prominent artists. If you are searching for a pooch to join your household, the "Find Your Match" kiosk will let you take your photo and then pull up the AKC-registered dog breed that is most like you. There's also a "Meet the Breeds" touchscreen where you can explore different breeds.

In San Francisco, you can explore the city's history through its famous sourdough bread at Boudin’s San Francisco History Museum & Bakery Tour where you can also see the bakers at work and perhaps snack on an animal-shaped loaf.

There are many museums and new exhibits to choose from all around the country in cities large and small. Follow the kids' passions. In Kansas City, for example, sports lovers can explore the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and learn about the history of African-American baseball. There's also the College Basketball Experience, an entertainment facility at the Sprint Center (can you "Beat the Clock to make a game-winning shot or call the highlights as would an ESPN correspondent?)

Before visiting, encourage the kids to take a virtual tour. Some museums, like the Smithsonian, have dedicated sites for kids. Many have designated family workshops, especially during school breaks. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has a designated Family Guide,while the Denver Museum of Art has hands-on "Gallery Games" related to their exhibits.

What do kids most want to see? If they're of different ages and interests, be prepared to split up at a large museum. Perhaps they can download an app to guide them through an exhibit. Maybe there is a family audio guide. If you want to see a popular new exhibit or a museum like The National Museum of African American History and Culture where you will need timed-entry passes for peak times (March to August), make sure to get tickets in advance. You don't want to get there and be disappointed.

 

Make sure the kids are well rested and have eaten before heading to a big museum. And don't try to see it all at once. Leave when everyone has had enough.

Don't be afraid to let the kids lead the way, either. They are bound to open your eyes to something new and different. Have you ever imagined stepping inside a painting?

Take your young musicians to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix that offers more than 6,800 instruments from 200 countries and territories around the world. I love that technology allows you to hear the instruments and observe them being played in their original contexts. You can also play instruments from around the world in the Experience Gallery.

Your young inventors can't help but be inspired at the Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years of Genius (until Aug. 25) at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where more than 70 of his inventions -- everything from scuba gear, a parachute and tank to a submarine -- have been painstakingly recreated using da Vinci's famous codices -- 6,000 pages of notes and sketches.

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