Where to Find Indoor Fun in All 50 States This Winter

Get Inside!

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Get Inside!
seng chye teo / Moment / Getty Images CC

Get Inside!

In the winter, indoor activities are the way to go when you need a few hours or a whole day's worth of family fun. Sure, you could go to the movies or walk around the mall, but that's the easy way out. We've rounded up cool places in each state to entertain your whole family and provide respite from the elements. If you'd rather embrace the season, with all its unique events and activities, check out our picks for Affordable Winter Fun in Every State, from snow sculpture contests to the nation's largest "polar bear plunge."

Gulf Quest Maritime Museumm in Gulf Quest, AL

Alabama: GulfQuest

GulfQuest is a maritime museum dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico. Located in downtown Mobile, the interactive museum features a Junior Mariners play area and a short film detailing the culture and history of the Gulf and Mobile Bay. Up north in Huntsville, astronomy buffs will want to check out the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Learn about the history of U.S. space exploration and journey to the International Space Station aboard a flight simulator.

The Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, AK
Angela F. W./Yelp

Alaska: The Anchorage Museum

The Anchorage Museum, Alaska's largest, focuses on the state's history and culture. Get up close and personal with local history and art and enjoy the planetarium and other hands-on exhibits at the 9,000-square-foot Discovery Center. Or take a one-day class and learn about topics such as sustainable food production.

Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ
Brenda M./Yelp

Arizona: Heard Museum

The Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix is all about Native American art and history, and one of the leading museums of its kind. Discover traditional and contemporary works, and visit for free from 6 to 10 p.m. on First Fridays to enjoy an ever-changing program of music and dance by indigenous performers.

Museum of Discovery
Museum of Discovery by Josh Grenier (None)
California: BusyKidz

California: BusyKidz

The town of Folsom, about 30 minutes northeast of Sacramento, is home to BusyKidz, an indoor play space modeled after businesses in and around town. Exhibits range from an art studio and music space to a farmers market, doctors' offices, a post office, and an engineering space. Come for story and craft time on Tuesdays and free Wi-Fi for parents in the lounge every day. In San Francisco, check out the Children's Creativity Museum. The San Diego Children's Discovery Museum offers more smart fun.

Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO
Manuel L./Yelp

Colorado: Butterfly Pavilion

Home to more than 5,000 animals, the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster is a yearlong adventure. On a cold and snowy day, explore the "Wings of the Tropics" exhibit, a 7,200-square-foot indoor tropical rainforest with more than 1,600 butterflies. Save the gardens and the Big Dry Creek Exploration Trail for nice weather.

Connecticut: New England Air Museum

Connecticut: New England Air Museum

Aviation buffs will want to visit the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, the largest of its kind in the Northeast. In Stamford, Chelsea Piers Connecticut is the place to stay active during the winter months. There's a 6,000-square-foot Splash Zone with pools and slides, batting cages, an indoor skating rink, a trampoline court, and a 22-foot-tall climbing wall.

Delaware: Winterthur

Delaware: Winterthur

The First State is home to numerous Gilded Age mansions, but probably the most famous is Henry Francis du Pont's home, Winterthur, near Wilmington. The 175-room mansion is furnished with some of the nearly 90,000 antiques and objects in du Pont's vast collection. To help even preschoolers experience the exhibits, a pack of stories, puzzles, and games is available at the reception desk. The Touch-It Room on the first floor features an 1830s general store and colonial-era kitchen.

Related: 89 Iconic Buildings and Monuments Across America

Florida: Kennedy Space Center

Florida: Kennedy Space Center

Yes, Florida has Mickey and Minnie, but it also has astronauts. At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, young and old can live out their space travel dreams at a hefty price ($57 for adults; $47 for children) but still spend far less than the cost of Disney park admission. Stand under the largest rocket ever flown, touch a moon rock, explore the space-themed playground, and strap into a custom-designed crew cabin to experience a virtual takeoff.

Related: 26 Ways to Do Disney on a Budget

Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, GA
Vivian E./Yelp

Georgia: Museum of Arts and Sciences

This 50,000-square-foot facility in Macon hosts three floors of hands-on exhibits, including a mini zoo of more than 70 animals, a scientist's workshop, an artist’s garret and poet's corner, and a map room. There's also a planetarium and observatory. In Atlanta, dive underwater at the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku, HI
Dean L./Yelp

Hawaii: Maui Ocean Center

Maui Ocean Center offers visitors a chance to see a variety of sharks, turtles, stingrays, and tropical fish and one of the world's largest collection of Pacific coral. A 54-foot tunnel winds through the 750,000-gallon "Open Ocean" exhibit. Guests can also book a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium and its lab. If the admission fees stretch your budget, look to the Aloha State's many budget-friendly options.

Idaho: Discovery Center
Discovery Center of Idaho

Idaho: Discovery Center

If you're in Boise, you'll roar with delight at the sight of Tinker the T-ex at the Discovery Center of Idaho. This newly preserved skeleton of a young Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur is the most complete example in existence, and the accompanying exhibits will inspire any young paleontologist.

Navy Pier in Chicago, IL
Filiz C./Yelp
Indiana: Children's Museum
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Indiana: Children's Museum of Indianapolis

The "Dinosphere" exhibit at the Children's Museum contains full-size dinosaur skeletons and an area to dig for fossils. The "American Pop" exhibit explores pop culture and how it shapes us. There's also a carousel, interactive exhibits that put kids in a circus or get them dancing, a play space with an art studio, and an elaborate look at trains big and tiny. Car buffs can head up to South Bend to visit the Studebaker National Museum.

Science Center of Iowa
Mandi T./Yelp

Iowa: Science Center

Lifelong learners will love the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines, where kids and adults can enjoy hands-on fun, exhibits, and activities designed to inspire and educate. There's a $5 family night the second Friday of every month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas
Jett P./Yelp

Kansas: Exploration Place

Exploration Place in Wichita features more than a dozen kid-oriented zones, each with a science, creative, historical, or cultural twist. One of the newer spaces, "Design Build Fly," is devoted to understanding aviation, including a full-size executive jet interior and the chance to operate a drone. Movies and light shows are screened in the theater/planetarium.

Kentucky Derby Museum
Kentucky Derby Museum by Museum (None)

Kentucky: Kentucky Derby Museum

Lovers of all things equine should gallop over to the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, located next to historic Churchill Downs Racetrack. Need to burn off some energy in Lexington? Champs Entertainment Complex has 50,000 square feet of indoor fun. Guests can roller skate, play classic video games, or play a round of glow-in-the-dark mini golf.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA
Jay Y./Yelp

Louisiana: National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum is a must-see in New Orleans. Housed in five pavilions, the museum boasts more than 250,000 artifacts, including two full-size planes and thousands of recorded personal stories from the war. Or head up to Baton Rouge to visit the state capitol (which, for the record, is the tallest in the nation at 450 feet). 

Children's Museum & Theatre, Maine
Steff D./Yelp

Maine: Children's Museum & Theatre

Activities and exhibits abound at the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine in Portland. Youngsters can learn about healthy living in the teddy-bear-filled, interactive Be Well Center; explore a camera obscura, a fire truck, and a lobster boat and romp around an indoor playground; and see a play or try out for the Children's Theatre company. Started in 1923, it's the oldest continuously operating children's theater in the country. "The Frog Prince" is slated for February.

B & O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD
Peter G./Yelp

Maryland: Railroad Museum

The Railroad Museum in Baltimore boasts the world's oldest and most comprehensive American railroad collection. Kids can visit the Choo Choo Blue Kid Zone in the roundhouse and participate in story and activity time on the weekends. Look for demonstrations in which staff operate the 1884 roundhouse and its 60-foot wooden turntable to move a historic rail car. 

Basketball Hall of Fame
Basketball Hall of Fame by Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism (None)

Massachusetts: Basketball Hall of Fame

Hoops fans of all ages will want to pay homage to their favorite players in Springfield, the birthplace of basketball. Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was also born in this western Massachusetts city, and the Dr. Seuss Museum celebrates his life and art.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Michigan: Henry Ford Museum

Let your imagination run wild as you discover the amazing history of American innovation — not just in cars but in agriculture, technology, and darn near everything in between. This museum is part of the Henry Ford complex, which includes Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory, in Dearborn.

Minnesota: Mall of America

Minnesota: Mall of America

Winters in Minnesota can be harsh, but inside the Mall of America, it's always warm and pleasant. At the country's largest shopping mall, you can window-shop to your heart's content (it's free!) or visit the Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park, Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, or CMX Market Cinemas.

Related: Cheap Must-See Attractions in All 50 States

Mississippi: Civil Rights Museum
City Museum, Missouri
City Museum, Missouri by Thomas Hawk (None)

Missouri: City Museum

City Museum in St. Louis is one of the most amazing museums you'll ever visit. Discover salvaged architectural remnants from the city's past, slide down one of the 30-plus slides scattered throughout the structure, and get a one-of-a-kind rooftop view of the city. In Kansas City, crafty kids will love Kaleidoscope, a creative mecca sponsored by Hallmark, which is headquartered nearby. Spend time in the glow-in-the-dark room and use the watercolor paint dryer and jigsaw puzzle maker.

ExplorationWorks, Montana

Montana: ExplorationWorks

Exhibits at ExplorationWorks in Helena include "Water Works," "Engineer It!" and "Little Sky," a special play land for children under 5. In February, the new SoundScience opens for audible adventures in learning. There are drop-in workshops and science programs for kids as well as learning opportunities for adults. Next door at Great Northern Town Center is the Great Northern Carousel, with 37 hand-carved animals found in the state.

Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE
Nevada: The Discovery
Nevada Discovery Museum
Funspot in Laconia, NH
Jen E./Yelp

New Hampshire: Funspot

Funspot in Laconia claims to be the world's largest arcade. With an 18-hole indoor mini golf course, bowling (candlepin and 10 pin), and more than 600 games, including 300 classic arcade games, it just might be. Bingo (ages 18 and up) is offered five days a week. The facility includes a tavern with a pool table and dart board, a family-friendly dining spot, and two party rooms.

Funplex Mount Laurel
Funplex Mount Laurel

New Jersey: The Funplex

The Garden State boasts an array of outdoor winter activities, but there are plenty of options for those who prefer to be indoors. The Funplex, with locations in Mount Laurel and East Hanover, is filled with indoor go-karts, bumper cars, arcade games for all ages, laser tag, and much more. Or go all out with a visit to the just opened mega-entertainment complex American Dream in the Meadowlands.

ABQ BioPark Aquarium
ABQ BioPark Aquarium by milomingo (None)

New Mexico: ABQ BioPark

Albuquerque's ABQ BioPark hugs the east side of the Rio Grande and houses botanical gardens, a zoo, a beach, and an aquarium. The aquarium shows films and features numerous exhibits ranging from a shark tank to a coral reef tunnel. Up in Santa Fe, visit the wild, wacky, immersive Meow Wolf, which defies description.

National Baseball Hall Of Fame, NY
Chris B./Yelp

New York: National Baseball Hall of Fame

A visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown can tide over fans until baseball season starts again in April. Interactive exhibits intertwine with video and audio first-person stories by Hall of Famers. Fans can pay homage to their favorites at the Hall of Fame Gallery. New York City offers no end of family fun, but don't overlook the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City and other suburban destinations.

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, NC
Rose L./Yelp

North Carolina: Marbles Kids Museum

Raleigh's Marbles Kids Museum is the quintessential children's museum. Kids can get wet in the hands-on "Splash!" water area; paint, draw, and sculpt in the "Art Loft" space; and play grown-up in the pint-size "Around Town" play area. The museum also has an IMAX theater. Folks in the western part of the state with a fondness for pinball will want to head to the Asheville Pinball Museum with a pocketful of quarters.

North Dakota State Capitol
North Dakota State Capitol by Jimmy Emerson, DVM (None)

North Dakota: State Capitol

Bismarck is North Dakota's capital city, and its Depression-era capitol building is an Art Deco gem. Don't forget to explore the rest of the capitol complex, including the state historical society museum. In Grand Forks, Canad Inns Destination Center contains 40,000 square feet of watery fantastical madness known as Splasher's of the South Seas. This indoor water park is open to the public for day use and features a lazy river, slides, and pools; an adults-only hot tub; and a play area for kids with a waterfall bucket.

Cosi, OH
Jeremy C./Yelp

Ohio: Center of Science and Industry

The Center of Science and Industry sits in a 320,000-square-foot building in downtown Columbus. Home to Ohio's largest planetarium, COSI also hosts numerous ongoing and permanent exhibits, such as the Dinosaur Gallery, with a 6-foot-long mechanical T. rex model that walks in place. There are live shows and demonstrations, and 3D science and nature films.

Crystal Bridge Conservatory
Crystal Bridge Conservatory by j_rho (None)
World Forestry Center in Portland, OR
Dana G./Yelp

Oregon: World Forestry Center

At the World Forestry Center in Portland's Washington Park, the 20,000-square-foot Discovery Museum is the star of the show. Try interactive river rafting in an actual raft or riding an indoor chairlift for a bird's-eye view of a forest. Fans of racing — be it NASCAR, motorcycles, or experimental craft — will want to visit the World of Speed Motorsports Museum in Wilsonville.

Pennsylvania: Cathedral of Learning

Pennsylvania: Cathedral of Learning

This 42-story Gothic Revival tower on the University of Pittsburgh campus was completed in 1927 after local residents and captains of industry contributed to its construction. Today, you can visit the magnificently restored building and its 30 unique Nationality Rooms. 

R1 Indoor Karting in Lincoln, RI

Rhode Island: RI Indoor Karting

There's more than just indoor go-karting here — a massive indoor entertainment complex includes bowling, laser tag, paintball, an arcade, the KR Baseball Academy, and Rock Spot Climbing — but cold weather provides a great excuse for drivers as young as 6 to tear around a track. A single race is $25 for adults, $18 for youth.

Edventure Children's Museum, SC
EdVenture Children’s Museum/Yelp

South Carolina: EdVenture Children's Museum

The EdVenture Children's Museum in Columbia features ongoing "edventures" to help kids learn about fire prevention and pet care and invention. The Cooking Lab offers cooking classes, and a newsroom lets aspiring newscasters and meteorologists learn how news programs are created and practice giving reports. But the museum's literally can't-miss feature is Eddie, a 40-foot, 17.5-ton boy whose vertebrae can be climbed to visit his brain, heart, stomach, and intestines and see how the human body works.

Mammoth Site in Hot Spring, SD
Dave C./Yelp

South Dakota: Mammoth Site

Visitors to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs can drop in on a completely enclosed 40-plus-year-old ongoing paleontological dig. There are 30-minute guided tours of the site as well as an exhibit hall that features full-size replicas of mammoths found here. Or head east to Brookings to visit the Children's Museum of South Dakota.

Country Music Hall Of Fame, TN

Tennessee: Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville is an attraction that appeals to all ages. There are ongoing music-themed exhibits showcasing musicians such as the Judds and Emmylou Harris, and programs including songwriters' sessions, film screenings, and family-themed events. For more music magic, visit the Sun Records studio in Memphis.

DoSeum in San Antonio, TX
Dave K./Yelp

Texas: DoSeum

DoSeum is San Antonio's museum for kids. They can go undercover at the Spy Academy; mimic adult life in Little Town; or imagine, create, and play with light and sound in the Sensations Studio. Public programs include science demonstrations and design workshops. Or head to Austin for a free tour of the state capitol building, followed by a visit to the LBJ Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus.

This is a picture of the Family History Library Exterior.
This is a picture of the Family History Library Exterior. by Brandon Baird (CC BY)

Utah: Family History Library

Learn about genealogy and search through historical records to trace your own heritage at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The collection has been maintained for 125 years by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, growing from a small state historical organization to one of the largest repositories of genealogical data in the world, complete with interactive exhibits and displays.

Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT
Julie S./Yelp

Vermont: Shelburne Museum

Historic buildings, art, and Americana are just some of the eye candy on display at the Shelburne Museum. The museum's 38 buildings house a collection of more than 150,000 pieces: circus figures, decoys, quilts, dolls, toys, paintings, and more. If that isn't enough to keep your whole family occupied for hours, the museum offers craft sessions in its art studio.

Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg

Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg invites outdoor exploration, but the art museums, capitol, and Governor's Palace are all indoor attractions. And no other destination will give you the same amazing, immersive experience of how Americans lived during the colonial era, no matter what the season. This "living history" site sprawls over 300 acres and contains enough to fill an entire day. If you absolutely must avoid the outdoors, the Children's Museum of Richmond has four different locations to explore.

Museum of Glass
Museum of Glass by Rob Bix (None)

Washington: Museum of Glass

Explore works by historic and contemporary glass artists, discover how glass is made at a working studio, and dazzle your eyes with the colorful creations of Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native, at the Museum of Glass on Tacoma's riverfront. Or get your science on at the Mobius Science Center and Children's Museum in Spokane.

Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia in Charleston, West Virginia
John M./Yelp

West Virginia: Clay Center

The Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia in Charleston contains a theater, art exhibits, and science galleries under one roof. Kids young and not so young will love the Clay Center's Avampato Discovery Museum, where they can learn how sound travels, climb over a giant sculpture, and explore the world of health.

Harley-Davidson Museum
Harley-Davidson Museum by Larry Darling (None)

Wisconsin: Harley-Davidson Museum

There are plenty of cool museums in Milwaukee, but there's only one Harley-Davidson Museum. Learn how these iconic motorcycles are built and discover the history behind them. Craving comfort food? Stop by one of the many small cheese-making factories and associated retail outlets scattered around the state. The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism are helpful resources for planning a visit.

Related: 75 Brands That Are Still Made in America

Buffalo Bill Center Of The West, WY
Buffalo Bill Center of the West/Yelp

Wyoming: Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Located in Cody, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is dedicated to the history, art, science, and culture of the American West. The center houses five museums and a research library. Family fun days are hosted once a month; Jan. 18 is WinterFest. Visitors interested in birds of prey can attend the Draper Museum Raptor Experience for a chance to meet live birds and learn more about them.