By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

Look in the mirror.

“Picture yourself reflected in the art works. In what ways aren’t you reflected?

Explore the materials in the art work. What materials surprised you?”

The challenges are part of the Kids’ Explore the Floor guide in the Denver Art Museum’s newly reopened Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery. The reopening of the Arts of Africa, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Art of Oceana collections for the first time since 2016 marks the “capstone” of the museum’s multi-year expansion and renovation, said Christoph Heinrich, director of the museum at the galleries’ recent opening.

The larger than life bovines outside the Denver Art Museum draw enthusiastic groups of kids every day
The larger than life bovines outside the Denver Art Museum draw enthusiastic groups of kids every day

Thanks to Bellco Credit Union, the Denver Art Museum continues its Free for Kids program, begun in 2015, for all visitors aged 18 and under, as well as $5 admission to special ticketed exhibitions, field trips and summer camp visits. Bellco is one of Colorado’s largest financial institutions.

“Almost a million kids have visited, and the kids bring their parents,” said Heinrich. “This is a great way to engage families.”

Each gallery at the museum has some sort of interactive program in English and Spanish for kids and families to help them better engage with what they are seeing.

Museums increasingly have interactive programming, including digital guides, which can help families navigate. Whether you are wondering what to do on a rainy day, need to get the kids out of the sun, or want them to learn something on vacation, you won’t go wrong with a museum visit. Always do a virtual tour first, especially when considering a visit to a big museum and see what special family programs may be on offer. For example, families with kids 8 to 14 can visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History after hours this summer and possibly sleep over. All participants must pre-register. Check out other special Smithsonian family activities.

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

See if there are special family guides, as the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers; The Getty Center in LA offers special audio tours through the free GettyGuide app and Art Detective Cards that let kids uncover the answers to trivia questions.

There’s plenty that’s new around the country.

In New York, the American Museum of Natural History, always a top pick for visiting families, has just opened the much-awaited Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation. Research collections, exhibitions and learning are all in close proximity, providing deeper experiences to the evidence and processes of science. There also are new pathways through the museum’s four-block classrooms. From the minute you enter the huge atrium, you can glimpse different exhibits on different levels. Glass-paneled exhibits, including those in the Macaulay Family Foundation Collection Galleries on the first and second floors, offer visitors glimpses into working collections areas situated behind the displays. Don’t miss the variety of insects in the Susan and Peter J. Solomon Family Insectarium and the year-round Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium — 1,000 free flying butterflies!

Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History
Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

In Chicago, the Field Museum has just debuted Chicago’s Legacy Hula, the first exhibition to explore the migration of Native Hawaiians to Chicago. This untold story highlights and celebrates four Kumu Hula (Master Teachers of Hula) who made monumental contributions to the future development of the Native Hawaiian and Hula communities in the Chicago Midwest.

Dino lovers will want to flock to San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences to see The World’s Largest Dinosaurs. Organized by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, the exhibition draws on paleo-biological research that looks in part to living organisms to make inferences about how these giants — some of which grew to be longer than 150 feet, or the length of four standard city buses — were able to thrive, as a group, for approximately 140 million years. Through imaginative exhibits, including the exhibition centerpiece, check out a life-size, detailed model of a 60-foot-long Mamenchisaurus.

Chicago’s Legacy Hula also aims to reground the understanding of Hula outside of the common stereotypes and misconceptions. Visitors will learn that Hula, originally an oral tradition, is one of the ways Native Hawaiians recorded their own history and storytelling.

In Seattle, the Museum of History & Industry is Celebrating Pacific Northwest Artists: 25 Years of the Neddy Artist Award showcasing some of the most significant Northwest visual artists of the last quarter century.

Throughout the summer, visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of the American Revolution can discover the incredible story of free Black Philadelphian James Forten and his remarkable family, from the Revolutionary era through the Civil War and Reconstruction through the special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia. Kids can complete a scavenger hunt in the exhibit to win a prize.

Schoolkids gather outside the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia
Schoolkids gather outside the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

Don’t discount smaller local museums either. For example, at the Grand Rapids, MI Public Museum, see Ice Age: Michigan’s Frozen Secrets, including newly found Mastodon bones. Get transported back to the Ice Age!

And while most museums aren’t free, as is the Denver Art Museum and the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., or many London museums, you might gain free admission if you are a member of a museum at home.

Many museums also have special free admission times. Bank of America offers cardholders free general admission at 225 cultural institutions across the country the first full weekend of every month.

In San Diego’s Balboa Park, with 18 museums, there are special discount passes. If you plan to visit many attractions, or if you plan to hit several major sites, as well as museums in a city you are visiting, consider CityPASS or Go City for discounts. You also can skip lines in many cases!

In foreign cities, check what passes might be available like the I Amsterdam City Card that includes museums, as well as other top sites and experiences.

Just make sure to leave when the kids – and you — have had enough. There will always be another visit!

(For more Taking the Kids, visit and also follow TakingTheKids on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. The Kid’s Guide to Philadelphia and The Kid’s Guide to Camping are the latest in a series of 14 books for kid travelers published by Eileen.)

©2023 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.