Children’s Museums Near and Far


Children love to engage their imagination.  We have the wonderful Montshire Museum in Norwich for exploring all things science, but where do you go to give your kids the opportunity to role-play and dress up, build things, or watch some theatre?

Here are some great children’s museums near and far to go to.

Upper Valley Inspiration: A Day Trip to Portland, ME



I didn’t even know this type of museum existed until I saw the Portland Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine.

They’re open Tuesday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. $10 a person 18 months and under is free.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

It’s two and a half hours from Lebanon, interstate all the way.  There are tolls.

What Makes it Cool:

They have multiple areas for kids to explore and pretend: a lobster boat, car repair shop, market, post office and more.  They also have a ranger’s station, a kid’s rock climbing wall, space shuttle, touch tank, and even learn about the steps in a lumber mill.  Just like the Montshire they have special events at the museum like cooking (carrot slaw), theatre shows (Paperbag Princess), and activities where you make things (like decorate a broomstick around Halloween).  Even as an adult I want to be a kid again and go!  Make a day trip to Portland, Maine and check out this amazing museum.

While You’re There:

Portland has lots of family friendly activities that make the drive worth it.  Walk one of the many local trails that meander through the city, catch a Portland Seadogs’ game, or try any of these local recommendations to do with kids: Alpha Mom has some great ideas in and around Portland and Trip Buzz has a lot of ideas in South Portland.  You can check out family events on the local kids’ calendar too.

Closer to Home: A Day Trip to Keene, NH



There’s a similar museum to the one in Portland in Keene called the Cheshire Children’s Museum.

They’re open Tuesday – Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 12 pm to 4 pm. $7 a person, $5 over 60, under 1 year is free.  Certain Mondays they are open and certain Fridays they offer admission discounts.  See their website for more details.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

It’s one hour and fifteen minutes from Lebanon, via I-91.

What Makes it Cool:

Just like the Portland Museum, this museum has multiple areas for kids to pretend: post office, radio station, school house, construction zone, food truck, bank, and more.  I like that kids can play with life like objects like a radio microphone, cash register, wooden desk, and more.  There’s also a reading cave and a toddler spot of kids under three to play.  Definitely a place on my to-go list!

While You’re There:

There are a lot of beautiful nature areas in Keene: Ashuelet River Park, Otter Brook State Park, and Horatio Colony Nature Preserve at the Horatio Colony Museum.  You can also check out Stonewall Farm, which is an educational farm like Billings Farm in Woodstock.  You can see a cool list of things to do in the Monadnock region here and here.

Head Over to Vermont: Rutland, VT



There’s Wonderfeet Kid’s Museum in Rutland, VT.

They’re open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday 1 pm to 4 pm. $5 a person, under 1 year is free.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

About one hour and fifteen minutes from Lebanon.

What Makes it Cool:

This is a great inexpensive opportunity for your child to have fun.  There’s a lego station, clay table, magnetic wall, multiple role playing exhibits like a train, and a cool rigamajig exhibit.  There’s also a place for toddlers to play too.

While You’re There:

Check out the Green Mountain Climbing Center or Flip Side Skatepark.  Go a bit north and enjoy the New England Maple Museum.  You can also check out this list of 6 family friendly activities to do in Rutland.

Drive Down I-91: Brattleboro, VT



There’s KidsPLAYce in Brattleboro, VT.

They’re open Tuesday – Sunday 10 am to 2 pm. $5 a person, under 1 year is free.  Made for kids birth to age eight. Free Wednesday from 4 pm – 6 pm until the end of May.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

About one hour and five minutes from Lebanon.

What Makes it Cool:

This is another great inexpensive opportunity for your child to have fun.  The place space is story book themed for imaginative play.  Kids can enjoy role playing in a castle, pirate ship, and townhouse or enjoy the craft center.  They also have theatre, song and dance, and other events that go on at KidsPLAYce.

While You’re There:

Walk Retreat Trails at Retreat Farm.  They are free and open to the public.  Soon the farm will be offering opportunities for kids to learn about the farm and groom the animals.  There will be more educational opportunities for kids, which you can learn about here.  You can also see a variety of different musical organs at the Estey Organ Museum.  There’s one you can even walk through to see how they work. You can also see glass being blown into beautiful art at Solinglass studios.  Visit the Brattleboro Art Center and enjoy their exhibits; I particularly like the cartoonist exhibit and the exhibit that takes kids’ drawings and turns them into glass sculptures.

On the Coast: A Day Trip to Dover


The Children’s Museum of NH is like the Portland and Keene Children’s museums.

They’re open Tuesday – Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm. $10 a person, $9 65+, under 1 is free.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

It’s one hour and forty five minutes from Lebanon, interstate most of the way.

What Makes it Cool:

This museum is all about interaction.  There are over fifteen different exhibits at this museum.  Build a flying machine using foam pieces and watch it fly from thirty feet.  You can read glow in the dark books and find cave paintings.  I think one of my favorites is the Mindball game where participants wear an electrode headband that measures brainwaves and the more relaxed you are the ball moves across the table.

While You’re There:

Kids can enjoy unstructured fun at Twice the Fun: slide into a ball pit, play in the play houses, or enjoy the inflateable bouce play structure.   Older kids can enjoy indoor rock climbing at Indoor Ascent.  You can also walk the trails at the Bellamy River Wildlife Sanctuary.  Want more ideas? Check out the tons of free activities to do from Trip Buzz.

Visit the Lake: Burlington, VT



ECHO Leahy Center is a great place for kids of all ages, even my nine month old enjoyed it.

They are open daily 10 am – 5 pm.  Admission is $16.50 for an adult, $14.50 for seniors, $13.50 children 3-17, and children under 3 are free.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

An hour and a half from Lebanon up I89.

What Makes it Cool:

This museum is educational for children and adults; it focuses on the creatures and creation of Lake Champlain. Learn when the lake was a sea and whales swam its waters.  Learn how animals and humans interact in and around the lake, including invasive species.  You can also read about shipwrecks on the lake and see a variety of aquatic animals (which my son loved).   There is a wonderful play area for infants to kids age 6.  Kids can sort, count, and use their senses to explore science.  This museum is bright, easy to navigate, and fun to wander around.  They also have activities specifically for adults in the evening and special events for families and adults year round.

While You’re There:

Enjoy indoor rock climbing at Petra Cliffs.  Learn about the life and lifestyle in 18th century Vermont by visiting the Ethan Allen Homestead.  Make sure to enjoy some pizza while your kids play in the ball pit, compete in air hockey, or play video games at Zachary’s Pizza and Family Center.  Pizza Put also has a family center with a large soft indoor play structure, mini-golf, lazer tag, bumper cars, batting cage, arcade games, and mini bowling.  After eating and having fun, walk or bike it off on the Burlington Bike Path or relax and enjoy the lake views at the Red Rocks Park.

Travel about fifteen minutes south to Shelburne and enjoy the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory.  You can tour a steamboat on the Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum and see what it was like to travel on and run one.  Make sure to check out the Shelburne Museum’s current exhibits like the outdoor scultures, carpet, and quilting.  The museum has fun facts for kids, special activities, and hands on activities that correspond with current exhibits.  Want some exercise? Walk or bike the trails at the LaPlatte Nature Park.  Want more ideas?  Check out this list of 85 things to do with your family in Shelburne, like Shelburne Farms.

The Big City: A Weekend Trip to Boston


Take a weekend family get-away or a day trip and go to Boston.  Here you’ll find a plethora of family entertainment, and specifically wonderful museums.

You can visit the Boston Museum of Science, Boston Children’s Museum, and LEGOland Discovery Center, and the New England Aquarium.

The Museum of Science is open Saturday – Thursday 9 am to 5 pm and Friday 9 am to 9 pm. The cost is$25 a person, $20 ages 3-11, over 60 $21.  There is extra charges for the planetarium and omni theatre.

Boston Children’s Museum is open Saturday – Thursday 10 am to 5 pm and Friday 10 am to 9 pm. The cost is $16 per person, under 1 is free.

Legoland is open Sunday – Thursday 10 am to 7 pm, Friday 10 am to 8 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 8 pm. Tickets cost $15-$30 depending on how you pay (selecting a date online is cheaper than buying a ticket for anytime).

The New England Aquarium is open Monday – Friday 9 am to 5 pm with Saturdays and Sundays until 6 pm.  They are open later during the summer.  It costs $27.95 per person, $18.95 for children 3-11, and $25.95 for those over 60.

Distance from the Upper Valley:

It’s one hour and a half minutes from Lebanon by car, via I-93 or two hours if you take the Dartmouth Coach.

What Makes it Cool:

boston museum of science

The Museum of Science is great for school age children; it has wonderful exhibits for kids to explore and change over time too.  I still remember fondly the few trips I went there as a kid: the lightning exhibit, the space craft exhibit, and the massive dinosaur fossil.  Now they have a butterfly exhibit, defeating disease exhibit, DIY, and engineering exhibits and even a live animal exhibit.


The Children’s Museum of Boston houses creative exhibits.  Your child(ren) can build forts, see plays performed, play on an interactive dance floor, experience an authentic Japanese merchant house and learn about Japanese culture, and ride a Bobcat in the construction zone exhibit.  The exhibits are created to inspire and entertain parents and children alike.

legoland discovery center

Legoland has two amusement rides, a lego city builder, a factory tour, a playzone, a Duplo zone for littler kids, and more.  My one year old son would love this; he likes to take apart legos. See pictures inside and read a NH parent’s review here.


The New England Aquarium was another place I went as a kid when we went to the Musuem of Science.  You can see sharks, seals, penguins, and sea jellies.  They have a shark and ray touch tank and an edge of the sea touch tank. Learn about specific ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest, Gulf of Maine, Olympic Coast, and the Yawkey Coral reef center.  A wonderful place for the whole family to admire aquatic creatures.

Even More Museums…

You can also check out the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord to explore aviation and space exhibits. The museum honors two local NH astronauts, Alan Bartlett Shepard, the first American to travel space, and Christa McAuliffe, the fist teacher astronaut in space.

Looking for more museums?  Check out this list of museums in the NH and MA for kids both big and small.

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