By Terry Gardner, Special to Tribune Newspapers
9:40 PM EST, December 18, 2012
Learning through play is fun at any age, and these three children's museums are must stops if you're anywhere near Philadelphia, Indianapolis or even far-afield Brookings, S.D., for the holidays and want to occupy kids in clever ways.
Please Touch Museum: Founded during the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial, Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum is geared toward younger kids.
Since the museum relocated to Fairmount Park's historic Memorial Hall in 2008, the building itself is a feast for older eyes.
Interactive exhibits include Wonderland (maze, optical illusions) and Roadside Attractions (virtual road trips). Admission $16; 215-581-3181; pleasetouchmuseum.org
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: With 472,900 square feet of exhibit space, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the world's largest children's museum. Its collection of more than 120,000 artifacts ranges from fossils to clothing to vintage toys from Barbies to a 1920s Raggedy Ann.
An eye magnet for adults is Dale Chihuly's Fireworks of Glass sculpture with its a 43-foot tower of 3,200 pieces of handblown glass and a ceiling filled with 1,600 pieces of glass. Other popular exhibits are Dinosphere, the Power of Children and the largest water clock in North America. $17.50 adults, $12.50; 317-334-3322; childrensmuseum.org
The Children's Museum of South Dakota: Located in downtown Brookings, the eco-friendly Children's Museum of South Dakota opened in September 2010 after transforming a 1936 grade school into kid heaven.
Interactive zones include Splash (all kinds of liquid play), Kidstreet and Prairie Play (the prairie is a 1.5-acre outdoor exhibit). When I visited, two hours were not enough, and the museum's Cafe Coteau alone is worth the 59-mile drive from Sioux Falls. My favorite exhibit allows visitors to climb into the clouds. Most of my fellow cloud crawlers appeared to be younger than 8. Admission $6; 605-692-6700; prairieplay.org.
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