Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on November 25, 2023.
Our state is filled with awesome museums for all ages, but we know many parents (like us) are always on the hunt for children’s museums in North Carolina! 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.
Read More: Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
Children’s Museums in North Carolina
These children’s museums in North Carolina are alphabetically organized by place name. If the location is unclear, we’ll add the specific town or city after the place name in parentheses.
Asheville Museum of Science
Thankfully, you can visit the Asheville Museum of Science. Kids can enjoy their French Broad River Water Table, Southern Appalachian Forest play space, Hurricane Simulator, and more.
Read More: The North Carolina Arboretum
Asheville Pinball Museum (and the Appalachian Pinball Museum in Hendersonville)
We group these two children’s museums in North Carolina together because they’re owned by the same group and pretty similar in composition. Of course, you can easily spend a few hours at either place, starting with the Asheville Pinball Museum.
This place and the Appalachian Pinball Museum in Hendersonville are both home to dozens of games that you can learn about and, of course, play. Some of their machines are for sale, in case you want to take one home.
Each of these wonderful museums gets busy fast, so show up early or prepare to wait a while before getting in.
Read More: Restaurants in Asheville
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.
Read More: Amazing Restaurants in Hickory
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!
Read More: Day Trips from Greensboro
Children’s Museum of Wilmington
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 covering things to do in Charlotte. Oh, and when talking about children’s museums in North Carolina’s biggest city, don’t forget about Discovery Place Nature. Discovery Place Kids also has locations in Huntersville and Rockingham!
Read More: Winter Getaways in North Carolina
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.
Read More: Day Trips from Raleigh
Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum
20-plus exhibits and an awesome outdoor section make up the Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum (formerly 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.
Read More: Things to Do in Greensboro
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.
Greensboro Science Center and the Children’s Museum are two of many awesome museums in Greensboro, in case you’re wondering.
Read More: Things to Do with Kids in Greensboro
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.
Read More: Things to Do in Chapel Hill
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.”
Read More: Restaurants in Raleigh
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!
A visit to the Museum of Life and Science is easily one of our favorite things to do in Durham!
Read More: Things to Do with Kids in Durham
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 the following:
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!
Read More: Things to Do in the Outer Banks
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh)
The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is North Carolina’s most-visited museum and 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 date nights. 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.
The NC Museum of History is diagonal from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and pairs nicely for an entire morning, afternoon, or all day!
North Carolina Transportation Museum (Spencer)
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!
Read More: Things to Do in Mooresville
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.
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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 Schiele Museum of Natural History (Gastonia)
Founder Bud Schiele knew when he was a young man that he would one day open a space to display his nature collection. When he was 67 years old, Bud’s dream became a reality when the then Gaston County Museum of Natural History opened.
Today, the Schiele features exhibits about North America and North Carolina’s natural wildlife, as well as an outdoor wildlife garden and interactive farm exhibit.
You and your little ones can walk the surrounding trails and explore Catawba Village, a display detailing the rich history of the region. Many Gaston County locals love this place, but it’s also a great day trip from Charlotte, just one county west of Mecklenburg.
Wilmington Railroad Museum
The Wilmington Railroad Museum is truly a museum for everyone who loves trains, 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.
This amazing kid-friendly museum is one of our favorite things to do with kids in Wilmington.
WNC Nature Center (Asheville)
Part of what makes this place special is that it’s a tree-covered mountain, which quickly takes you away from everything. Of course, there are the 60-plus species you’ll find here, including bears, otters, and endangered red wolves.
Read More: Great Hikes near Asheville
Ready for These Awesome Children’s Museums in North Carolina?
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!