We’re huge fans of STEM at Cool Mom Tech (no surprise, there), and in fact we started this site in part to help give parents more resources and opportunities to get their kids excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. However, while we love all the science apps, educational YouTube channels, and coding toys we’ve featured, there’s nothing like the hands-on experience of taking your family to a science center or science museum.
That’s why we’re so excited that our recent sponsor Frito-Lay 2 Go has partnered with the amazing org, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), to help make it easier for families to get to their local science museum with the free kid’s pass you get with the purchase of a Frito-Lay 2 Go Variety Pack.
To help you pick one destination (well, one to start with at least), we’ve put together our list of 7 best science museums for kids around the country that we really love, selected from over 600 ASTC member museums. They may even be the kinds of places you’re already going when you have a day with the family.
Best of all, your kids could totally enjoy any one of them free, right now. We like free!
The Franklin Institute: Philadelphia, PA
Located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute (also shown at very top) not only has 12 permanent exhibit galleries (including the ever popular Giant Heart) which teach kids about everything from electricity to the human body, but their special exhibitions are not to be missed. We’ve seen the LEGO Art of the Brick exhibit there with our own kids recently, and now you can catch the very cool The Science Behind Pixar which gets kids excited about the science and technology used by Pixar’s computer scientists to help make the films your kids just might recognize.
CuriOdyssey: San Mateo, CA
Focused on the science of nature and wildlife, CurioOdyssey is a huge favorite with Bay Area parents, giving kids a chance to learn through play, thanks to tons of interactive exhibits and experiments. It’s one of the few centers giving kids up-close views of native California animals. And because it’s all about hands-on instead of hands-off, it’s a great place to get kids to run off some of that summer energy.
Intrepid Sea, Air + Space Museum: New York, NY
So you thought NYC science museums were just the American Museum of Natural History? While that’s surely a favorite of ours, the Intrepid is like nothing else. Kids go nuts getting to hang out aboard a real aircraft carrier, then learn about 28 authentically restored planes and jets of all kinds, while exploring a real submarine. A highlight though is the Space Shuttle Pavilion featuring the Space Shuttle Enterprise, which, come on — what kid wouldn’t love that? Lots of opportunities for touching, clicking, steering here, including an XD theater experience, and a G-force simulator for older kids.
Ecotarium: Worcester, MA
Founded in 1825, this indoor-outdoor science museum is worth a short trip west on the Mass Pike if you’re in the Boston area. It’s all about kids becoming getting more hands-on learning, with science, nature, and animal exhibits like DinoTracks and The Water Planet. There really is something for everyone here, including a Planetarium that’s always guaranteed to mesmerize our own kids. And because it’s on 55 acres of land including woodlands, ponds, meadows and marshes, you’re bound to see tons of New England wildlife in their own natural habitat.
About the ASTC Fund-a-Bus Program
One of the things we love about this partnership is that Frito-Lay 2 Go is helping fund ASTC’s impressive Fund-A-Bus mini grant program which provides transportation for kids in underserved communities, to help get them to their own local science museums too. We’re all for anything that gets every kid an equal shot at access to the STEM educational opportunities around them.
Educators can contact their local ASTC member institution to learn more about school programs.
COSI: The Center of Science and Industry: Columbus, OH
Voted America’s #1 science center by Parents Magazine a few years back, there’s no shortage of remarkable experiences here for kids of all ages. (That includes teens and adults, by the way — hey we’re kids at heart!) Rather than act as a standalone science center, COSI has formed partnerships that provide guests with opportunities like Little Kid Space and Camp-ins, and COSI after dark, a fun whodunit adventure for adults. Surely a ton of kids will have the upcoming Game Masters exhibit on their wish lists for the summer. And we really love that they’re working with Autism experts and orgs, to create exhibits and resources like a Calming Room, that make the museum more inclusive for kids with sensory sensitivities.
Fernbank Science Center: Atlanta, GA
While they do a ton for the local students in the county (like a grade-school Science Olympiad), there’s plenty for visitors too. Events and exhibits include such coolness as affordable planetarium shows and a Science Night Out packed with STEM activities for kids.
(Note: This is not to be confused with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History which is also awesome — though not a member of the ASTC.)
Arizona Science Center: Phoenix, AZ
Photo: Daniel Friedman
This is an amazing center for toddlers on up, but a nice treat for those of us with tweens and teens, who can sometimes be a little reluctant to head out on family outings. Their new Teen Science Scene is especially for kids 13-17, and features topics from Roller Coaster Engineering, to DNA Forensics, and Cooking Science. They also won’t want to miss a shot at riding the Evans Family Skycycle on a tightrope (eep) high over the ground! If you can get there before May 15, you can also catch the much-lauded Popnology exhibit, revealing the science facts behind science fiction. How fun is that?
Thanks so much to our sponsor Frito-Lay 2 Go for giving more families opportunities to get kids excited about STEM. To get your free kid’s pass, look for the specially marked Variety Packs that features an astronaut, robot, or dinosaur! Directions to redeem are right on the bag, but you can get more information and find the participating science museum near you at FritoLay2Go.com.
And hey! Check out a clip of us talking with NBC affiliate WCNC Charlotte Today about how to get your kids excited about STEM, as well as more about the ASTC and Frito Lay 2 Go partnership.