Going to museums has always been a favorite of ours when it comes to traveling cities, as is clear from the number of times we've mentioned them.
But as with so many others, whether it be food or hikes, it's hard to pick which to include in your bucket list and which to toss out. Luckily for you, we've put together a post dedicated to - you guessed it! - our favorite museums.
The Spy Museum, Washington DC
Yes, you heard me right. There is, in fact, a museum completely dedicated to spies, with secret tunnels and codes galore. Not only that, but this Washington DC museum also goes into depth about how spies have helped in history. There's even an entire display dedicated to James Bond! As soon as we entered, we knew we'd hit the jackpot. An employee ushered us and another group of people into a sleek, spyish-looking elevator, which took us up to a floor where we then assumed fake identities. From there, it was all fun and games - crawling through an air vent to try to listen for secret messages, attempting to decipher codes to test our spy skills, and more. Don't let this put you off, however - the Spy Museum is still perfectly suited for adults as well as kids.
Museum of Natural History, Washington DC
We pretty much stumbled upon this museum while wandering the streets of Washington, DC, hoping to do just that: stumble upon a fantastically fascinating (how's that for a tongue twister?) museum that we could finish off the day with, while still feeling like we had lived it to the fullest. Luckily for us, we walked into the halls of what would soon be one of our favorite museums - period. Although we shockingly didn't go to the Museum of Natural History in New York, this completely made up for that. Crammed with everything you could possibly want to know about zoology, biology and (partially) anthropology, this museum kept us spell-bound for hours.
The American Indian Museum, Washington DC
We walked past the American Indian Museum while on our way to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, and were instantly struck by the astonishingly beautiful architecture of this museum. Thankfully, we couldn't get this museum out of our minds, and promptly set out to explore it the next day. Thankfully, because this is honestly one of the most impressionable, fascinating museums I've ever been to, and that's saying a lot. The American Indian Museum contained beautiful Native American artwork, history, and architecture. We all found it extremely fascinating, since I had studied Native Americans a couple years ago, and my brother was currently studying it. We learned about the Trail of Tears, saw incredible artwork and weavings, and learned so much more than we could have expected about Native Americans and their history. Highly recommended for any and all families: this museum is one to remember.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The MOMA (also see here) is one of those museums you know you'll never forget. Teeming with incredible modern artwork, our family was rapt as we walked this New York museum's halls. We could've spent hours there, but unfortunately, we couldn't resist the human need to eat, especially being in New York. Go figure. All the same, I loved the educational value of this museum - getting to learn about the evolution of modern art, mainly by observing Pablo Picasso's ever-changing pieces. In one particular room, we sat on a provided bench for about half an hour and just surrounded ourselves with Picasso's awe-inspiring work. Definitely a must-see for all kids, adults, and families alike - trust me, you'll never tire of wandering the MOMA's halls and eye-goggling at the amazing art.
The Whitney Museum, New York City
The Whitney Museum is the type of place that cannot - and will not - be shaken from your mind, even after the trip you visited it on has long since faded from your immediate memory. It was, in short, a highlight of our New York trip. Like with the MOMA, my brother and I learned an incredible amount about modern art, and experienced it like none other. However, this museum explores an art culture even more recent and unexplored than that of modern art: contemporary art. In this, our artful education was expanded even more so, and every one of our family members - daughter, son, dad, mom - were captivated. My parents had never experienced this newly remodeled museum, so we were all equally caught off guard by just how awe-inspiring this museum was.
Audubon Butterly Garden and Insectarium, New Orleans
Now, I haven't been to this museum in quite a long while, but that doesn't mean I appreciate it - and think of it - any less. This fascinating museum was teeming with life, whether it was with the butterfly gardens (a real kicker for my brother and I at the age we were) or the wide array of other insects and animals presented. We, as a family, had never really been that interested in insects, but this museum certainly changed that. We immediately begged our parents to go back the instant we left. A perfect museum for families with young children, but don't get me wrong: anyone, whether you're a younger kid or not, will enjoy this vibrant museum.
The Vancouver Art Gallery
If I honestly had to narrow my favorite museums down to just five, this would more than make the cut. I could literally live in this museum, believe it or not. A museum entirely dedicated to being inventive and innovative with art (otherwise known as "mashups")? Count me in! Our whole family loved this museum and was ecstatic at the prospect of mashups in art. We saw everything from masks made out of shoes (see above) to a room filled with everyday objects that made music both with their actions and their sounds (which means that the way they were rigged to move contributed to the sounds they were simultaneously making). Everything, from the lobby to the ceilings, were a contribution to the artistic environment this museum presented. Not only that, but we glimpsed classics like Andy Warhol's Electric Chairs.
The Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver
Vancouver, surprisingly, proved to be quite the museum-y (forgive my lack of vocabulary) experience, as you can see from these past two museums. My ecstasy for this museum is no different from the last, too - I loved every inch of this relatively cluttered (but in a good way, I assure you) museum. And what better than a museum dedicated entirely to anthropology? For me, that's hitting the jackpot. And with an added display on the many diverse tribes of Papua New Guinea, this museum was written off as utterly irresistible to me from the start. We spent who-knows-how-long wandering this museum and soaking in all it had to offer.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Honestly, the main reason I have such a love for this museum is because of its huge collection of Asian artwork, a relatively rare find for us among the many museums we've visited. My brother, being the Asian-culture fanatic he is, nearly dies when he steps into this museums (I swear, I think there are cartoon hearts in his eyes), and I'm equally as interested. Not only that, but this museum offers a wonderful display of Greek statues, Mexican artwork, Impressionism, and more. It's an even better museum when you start to ponder whether kids will like it or not (the answer is, wholeheartedly, yes). I think my brother and my school must've taken us each on about five field trips there over the years, for both the educational and cultural value as well as the overall excitement emitting from the children.
The de Young Museum, San Francisco
This museum obviously takes the prize for best architecture - I mean, how could it not? Located in San Francisco, the de Young Museum is the perfect representation of this city's stunning architecture, as well as the culture that inspires it. We first glimpsed this museum while going to the California Academy of Science (more on that in a sec), and were completely blown away by this impressive structure. The interior of the de Young is no different, which we soon discovered on one of our more recent trips to San Francisco. Filled to the brim with some of the most beautiful art I've ever seen (the entire display on Georgia O'Keefe didn't hurt, either), the de Young is really one to beat, especially when it comes to families with budding engineers, like with my brother.
The California Academy of Science, San Francisco
Unbelievable? Yup. The California Academy of Science is a museum we went to on our first ever trip to San Francisco, and it was nothing short of spellbinding. If I had to name my favorite museum for kids, period, this would be it. Complete with a planetarium; an exhibit on coral reefs, swamps, rainforests, and more; a living green roof which is open to visitors; and everything else you could possibly imagine, this museum is incredible, both for kids and adults alike.
A little bit about us...
We're a family of four (a daughter, a son, and their mother and father.... oh, and a six-month old Standard Poodle puppy). But we all share one thing in common: our love of travel and adventure!
Hotel of the Month
Solage Calistoga: the image of perfection. We stayed here recently on our trip to Napa Valley and couldn't have been more amazed at this stunning resort. The rooms, each one an individual cottage, were immaculate and private. The property itself contained multiple pools and other amenities, all of which were designed beautifully. One of our favorite parts had to be the Michelin-star restaurant, which served some of the best food we'd ever eaten. Solage Calistoga was the perfect fit for our family (and dog!), and we are eager to stay there again.