We’ve created a huge list of North Carolina’s awesome museums, but we wanted to focus on the ones specifically made for kids! These places are perfect for rainy days, the “cold” of a Southern winter, or a get-your-wiggles-out pit stop.
Regardless of why you’re seeking them out, these children’s museums in North Carolina will make your day out with the little ones.
This post is a part of our series on places to visit in North Carolina, where we share Bucket List-worthy things to do and more. We originally created it on May 28, 2019. It has been maintained and updated, as of November 15, 2019.
Children’s Museums in North Carolina
Asheville Museum of Science
When you’re in the mountains, spend some time at the Asheville Museum of Science. Kids can enjoy their French Broad River Water Table, Southern Appalachian Forest play space, Hurricane Simulator, and more.
Catawba Science Center, Hickory
The Catawba Science Center in Hickory is 35,000 square feet of science and technology for children of all ages! Get up close and personal in the salt and freshwater aquariums or learn more about the skies in the planetarium.
Children’s Museum of Alamance County, Graham
While it might look just like “play” at Graham’s Children’s Museum of Alamance County, there’s a lot of serious learning going on in those exhibits! For children up to 10 years old, there are open-ended exhibits that foster exploration and discovery!
Children’s Museum of Wilmington
One of the most unique children’s museums in North Carolina is right along the coast in Wilmington! The Children’s Museum of Wilmington offers tons of hands-on exhibits for children of all ages.
With a nautical theme in the main room, children can pretend they are sailing to the shores and searching for pirates!
Check out the school bus outside, take care of the animals in the vet clinic, and enjoy all the fun to be found at the Children’s Museum of Wilmington!
Discovery Science, Charlotte
At Discovery Place Science in Charlotte, kids can tinker, manipulate, observe, and learn. Future scientists investigate the rainforest, manipulate and experiment in one of the museum’s Explore More labs.
They can also get up-close and personal with the creepy crawlies of the Earth in the Bug Lab!
We mentioned Discovery Science in our guide to a Weekend in Charlotte. Oh, and when talking museums in Charlotte, don’t forget about Discovery Place Nature. Discovery Place Kids also has locations in Huntersville and Rockingham!
Fascinate-U Children’s Museum, Fayetteville
Fascinate-U Children’s Museum in Fayetteville is all about hands-on fun, as kids can walk around and role-play in all parts of the recreated city-exhibit. They can go shopping, work with play power tools, and learn about food’s origins on the farm.
We enjoyed our time at Fascinate-U and love stopping by during weekends in Fayetteville!
Greensboro Children’s Museum
20-plus exhibits and an awesome outdoor section make up the Greensboro Children’s Museum. Children can role-play in a grocery store or doctor’s office situations, with fun tools made just for them.
Greensboro Science Center
If you want a science museum, aquarium, and zoo all rolled into one, check out the Greensboro Science Center! You can also head outside to SKYWILD, a treetop adventure park where you can zip, slide, climb, and fly through the trees.
Gaze at the stars or walk the nature trails at Kaleideum North and make a “fresh” dozen of Krispy Kreme doughnuts Downtown. Either way, kids of all ages will have a blast exploring!
Fun Tidbit: If you purchase a ticket at one Kaleideum location, you get in FREE to the other as long as you visit on the same day! If this changes, please let us know because we really enjoyed this perk when visiting.
Both of these museums are among our favorite things to do during a weekend in Winston-Salem!
Kidzu Children’s Museum, Chapel Hill
Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill mixes long-standing (Farm to Fork) with rotating exhibits for kids who come through. There’s a big emphasis here on STEAM and “maker education,” where kids craft with real materials.
Kidzu is looking to expand its space and we’re really looking forward to seeing them grow.
A visit to Kidzu is included in our guide covering a weekend in Chapel Hill and Orange County, too!
Marbles Kids Museum, Raleigh
Play, learn and discover at Marbles Kids Museum in Downtown Raleigh. With large interactive play exhibits, an IMAX Theater, cafe, and more children experiment through play and are encouraged to “use their Marbles.”
Marbles is the first of a few museums in Raleigh that appeared in our guide to a weekend there!
Museum of Life and Science, Durham
At Durham’s Museum of Life and Science (MLS), you can see baby red wolves, build a tornado with your hands, and climb in a spaceship. You can also hang with bears in this interactive science museum.
With 84-acres of space, you’ll find treehouses, a butterfly garden, lemurs, a train, spray ground, and so much more!
We share more things we love about the Museum of Life and Science here!
North Carolina Aquariums, Multiple Locations
Operating for over 40 years, North Carolina Aquariums offers education, resources for rehabilitation, and research for marine creatures. Locations include Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher, and Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.
If you have a museum membership elsewhere, check to see if there’s a reciprocity agreement supported by NC Aquariums and save yourself some cash for more snacks!
Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh
North Carolina’s most-visited museum is great for all ages and is especially awesome for kids.
Permanent exhibits include natural North Carolina from the mountains to the sea, a butterfly room, prehistoric specimens and recreations, and the really cool Arthropod Zoo.
We also love this Raleigh museum for day dates in Oak City at any time of year. It’s one of our favorite free things to do in the city and during the “cold” months, it’s a crucial part of our guide to winter things to do in Raleigh.
North Carolina Transportation Museum
You’ll find trains, trucks, and tractors galore at the NC Transportation Museum, which commemorates the Spencer Shops, Southern Railroad’s largest steam locomotive repair facility on the East Coast.
Within this 60-plus acre complex, you can go on a train ride or attend special events like the Fire Truck Festival, Days Out with Thomas, or The Polar Express Train Ride!
The North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro
It’s not fair that we’re adding the NC Zoo in Asheboro to the mix, but this is the state’s ultimate outdoor learning space. Oh, and it’s the world’s largest natural habitat zoo, with 1,800 animals native to North America and Africa (Asia coming soon).
There’s even a ropes course for the adventurous, and paddle boats for those seeking some watery relaxation.
We also created a guide to a weekend in Asheboro and beyond in Randolph County, mentioning the NC Zoo and more!
Notasium, Durham and Cary
They can slide down a giant guitar or stop their feet to the beat. Singing loudly is encouraged and picking up a drum stick is required!
The Wilmington Railroad Museum
The Wilmington Railroad Museum is truly a museum for everyone who loves trains, but especially little ones. Here, you can learn about the history of train transport, climb inside a retired boxcar, and spend hours watching 20-plus model trains go around the track.
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
We’re going to continue searching for fun children’s museums in North Carolina because we know more are out there. If you’ve been to any that we didn’t mention, we’d love to know more.
In the meantime, we look forward to sharing our adventures through North Carolina here and on our social media pages, especially on Facebook and Instagram. And we hope you’ll follow along, too!