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Fun science museums the whole family will love

Mississippi River Country is home to some of the best science museums in the country. Here’s where to go for one-of-a-kind educational attractions.

Chicago Field Museum
Hall of Dinosaurs, The Field Museum (Credit: Illinois Office of Tourism)

Who says learning has to be boring? These museums cover a vast array of scientific topics, from dinosaurs to the natural resources of the Mississippi River, and are a wonderful way to spend an afternoon (or even a whole day) with the family.

The Field Museum, Illinois

Part of the city of Chicago’s lakeshore Museum Campus, which also includes Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum—full name: the Field Museum of Natural History—is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world. The museum brings in around 2 million visitors every year to marvel at rotating and permanent exhibits focusing on natural history, science and more. Be sure to snap a photo with Sue, one of the most complete T. rex skeletons ever uncovered.

Mississippi Museum of Natural Science

Mississippi’s largest museum can be found in Jackson, the state capital. Inside, the museum tells the story of Mississippi’s natural history through educational displays, aquariums and live animal exhibits. Outside, there are five short nature trails that offer visitors a chance to explore the area’s natural environment and see creatures like turtles and wading birds in their natural habitats.

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, Missouri

Located in the heart of the Ozarks in southwestern Missouri, this museum (also known simply as Wonders of Wildlife) contains two main sections: Wildlife Galleries, immersive dioramas highlighting the natural habitats of animals around the world; and the Aquarium Adventure, which features fish and other animals native to a number of regions, including mangroves, the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Don’t miss the River Monsters exhibit, which takes visitors through an underwater tunnel to marvel at giant alligator gars, freshwater rays and shark catfish.

Science Museum of Minnesota

Situated high above the Mississippi River in Minnesota’s capital city of Saint Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota is one of the state’s most popular attractions. This family-friendly museum features permanent displays on dinosaurs and fossils, the human body, the natural resources of the Mississippi River and much more, including interactive science displays in the Experiment Gallery.

Discovery World, Wisconsin

Head to the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee to find this fun, interactive museum where you can learn about everything from the Great Lakes to Wisconsin music legend Les Paul and his famous Gibson guitar. The 120,000-square-foot facility also features the Reiman Aquarium, lab spaces and learning opportunities aboard the Sailing Vessel Dennis Sullivan, which is anchored next to the museum.

Museum of Discovery, Arkansas

The capital city of Little Rock is home to this fun science museum that sits in a historic building on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Museum of Discovery is focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education—all of the exhibits are hands-on and the museum boasts a large collection of live animals. Museum of Discovery staff have even appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Other science museums and attractions to check out: