Top Children’s Museums in the United States

This summer, my wife and I are planning a short vacation with our preschooler. Unfortunately, we hit a snag: we could not agree on where we wanted to go. Ireland? Too far. Cape Breton? Too out of the way. Cleveland? Too boring. And so on. So, how did we resolve our dispute? Let the preschooler pick. Or rather, we decided to plan our trip based on fantastic Children’s Museums and see where the data took us.

There are lots of sites out there that provide recommendations but they do not all have the same list. To give us the best possible experience, I took the top eight lists that I could find of “Top 10” or “Top 25” museums and summed them up, looking for museums that everyone could agree were the best. Since I like to share, let me give you my results:

Best of the Best: 8 of 8

  • Boston Children’s Museum (Boston, MA)

Only one museum managed to be on all eight lists that I found: Boston Children’s Museum. And it is amazing! But unfortunately we are locals and have been there many times.

88%: 7 of 8

  • Port Discovery Children’s Museum (Baltimore, MD)
  • Strong Museum of Play (Rochester, NY)
  • Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum (St. Paul, MN)

Of those, I have only been to Indianapolis so we have a lot of fun exploration in front of us for a few years!

The Middle List: 4 to 8 recommendations

  • Children’s Museum of Houston (Houston, TX) – 6 of 8
  • Children’s Museum of Denver (Denver, CO) – 5 of 8
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum (Brooklyn, NY) – 4 of 8

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was fantastic so if that only gets 4 of 8 then you know that the others are even better.

Pretty Good Ones: 2 to 3 recommendations

  • Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL)
  • COSI (Columbus, OH)
  • Kohl Children’s Museum (Chicago, IL)
  • Madison Children’s Museum (Madison, WI)
  • Pittsburgh Children’s Museum (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • The Phoenix Children’s Museum (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Liberty Science Center (Jersey City, NJ)
  • Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA)
  • Discovery Place (Charlotte, NC)
  • Discovery Center Museum (Rockford, IL)

I have already been to a few of these as well (MoSI, COSI, Pittsburgh, and the Discovery Place) and they were great too! After this, my analysis found a number more probably fantastic museums that were just recommended as a “top” one by one site or the other.

I hope you find this list helpful in planning your preschooler-focused vacation, it sure has helped me!

 

 

Infocom’s Deadline (1982)

Most of my blogging time these days is over on The Adventure Gamer where I am currently working on a marathon of Zork-related games by Infocom. I’ve recently completed and reviewed mainframe Zork (also known as Dungeon), Zork I, and Zork II and am about to start playing 1982’s Zork III. (You can find a complete index of my TAG contributions here.) Between the second and third Zork title, Infocom completed a monumental chapter in the history of computer games: Deadline, one of the first mystery games and one of the first games that could rightfully use the label “interactive fiction”. Previous “mystery” games such as Sierra’s Mystery House (another game I reviewed for TAG) were treasure hunts with mystery elements; finally we had a game that could stand beside the works of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

As my colleague on TAG, Ilmari, already reviewed Deadline (see his review here), I did not want to step on his toes by doing another official review there. And yet, I wanted the experience of playing the game and documenting my thoughts as I did. That leads us to this special bonus post: my play and review of Deadline here while I work on Zork III over there. I haven’t read Ilmari’s review so I am coming into this game completely unspoiled, except that I played a bit of it (and didn’t understand it very well) when I was a kid. Let’s play!

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The Pilaf Saga – Dragon Ball Episodes 1-13

I love Dragon Ball. I can’t properly explain why, but I’ve never claimed that my TV habit were sane. Like many American fans, I was exposed first to its sequel series, Dragon Ball Z, on Toonami. They played a fairly butchered version of the start of that show (the Saiyan arc up through the first portion with Freeza’s minions).  I had no idea at the time that I had missed out on the real beginning of the story or that it was based on a manga or really anything else. It, Tenchi Muyo, and Sailor Moon made up most of my early anime habit.

It has been many years since I’ve seen just about any of the original Dragon Ball and I’ve never made it all the way through that series. I’ve decided to kick off a new rewatch for myself of the show in order, discussing episodes in roughly groups of 10-15 depending on where the plot points break off. This first post covers the 13-episode “Pilaf Arc” which kicks off the anime.

Continue reading The Pilaf Saga – Dragon Ball Episodes 1-13

How Boston Got Its Name

The first defining moment in the history of a place is when it gets its name. When it was named, why it was named, and what it was named for all say something about the place itself and the thoughts of the early settlers. For someone in the seventeenth century, the adoption of “Old” English names for places in “New” England must have seemed somehow surreal. For example, at least five modern Massachusetts towns are named indirectly for rivers a continent away. These associations are very distant today, but settlers closer to Lincolnshire than Massachusetts Bay took these connections seriously. The naming of Boston was no exception.

(This is a reprint from a project that I worked on in 2009, but never published.) 

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My Marvel Adventure – Reading Every Silver Age Comic in Order (1961-1966)

Over the past two years or so, I’ve found myself with an unexpected hobby: reading every Marvel Silver Age comic in order. I’m not doing it quickly, but when I would tuck in my son at night or have a few minutes in a waiting room with nothing else to do, I’d fire up Marvel Unlimited and continue this trek. What I found was occasionally frustrating, frequently amazing, and all very eye-opening. So much of the current Marvel media boom started right here, in the early 1960s.

It’s a great trip through some of the most formative comic books of all time. Read on for more.

Continue reading My Marvel Adventure – Reading Every Silver Age Comic in Order (1961-1966)

Crazy Person’s Guide to Watching Dragonball In Order

So, let’s say you are crazy. SUPER crazy, with a lot of time on your hands. And let’s say that you (like me) are the kind of OCD completist that wants to watch Dragon Ball the “right” way: as it was experienced by its original Japanese fans at the time that it came out. How might you do that? I’m glad you asked, because this is the list that I came up with:

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Marvel’s First Failure: Doctor Droom (Amazing Adventures #1 – #4, #6)

For Marvel Comics, every fan knows that the Silver Age began with the release of Fantastic Four #1 in November, 1961. But even as Mister Fantastic and his family were taking to the streets, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were retiring their first unsuccessful attempt at a modern serialized super hero: Doctor Droom, later known as Doctor Druid.

So who was this unknown super-failure? And why did he fail? Well, read on for more.

Continue reading Marvel’s First Failure: Doctor Droom (Amazing Adventures #1 – #4, #6)

The Three Lives of the Boston Stone

The Boston Stone is a monument like no other in the city. Although inscrutable to most passers-by, the Boston Stone tells a story of three eras in Boston history. It speaks first to the industry of Boston in the late seventeenth century and the early eighteenth. The stone tells us something about the wily shop-owners and proto-capitalists of the 1730’s who gave the stone the reputation it has today. And finally, the stone serves an an example of the rediscovery and myth-making that took place in Boston in the 1840’s which gave the stone its true prominence as a Boston landmark. Although the monument tells of two centuries of Boston history, it does this without the benefit of a plaque from a historical society or a register of historic places. Only a low-class gift shop marks the importance of the landmark.

(This is a reprint from a project that I worked on in 2009, but never published. I’ve recently been asked by a friend to share some of my Boston Stone research and this may be of interest to a wider audience.) 

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