The best of the trip is surely to revel in the strange and the unusual, and the sense of the pleasure of discovery.
So surely there is perhaps no better place to go abroad than in a science museum.
Forget your preconceptions. In the past, science museums offered little more than static displays of fossils, stuffed animals and crystals.
Many still do, but the best provide sample textbooks on how you can experience the world while having fun.
Interactive and innovative, these 10 discovery centers emphasize the eternal human capacity for wonder and curiosity.
Natural History Museum, London
One of the largest museums in the world covers fossils, minerals, animals, plants, and human biology, but it is most famous for its dinosaur exhibits.
It’s worth checking out Archeopteryx, the feathered “missing link” between reptiles and birds, and the rare colossal squid that resembles an alien preserved in its aquarium.
The state-of-the-art Darwin Center provides a glimpse into the future of research, with behind-the-scenes tours of laboratories and storage facilities.
You will be able to admire countless specimens during the tour, some bottled by Darwin himself; the drawers alone contain 3.5 million butterflies.
Enthusiastic curators talk on touch screens about their obscure specialties, and you can watch informal discussions and scientific demonstrations.
Ontario Science Center, Toronto
Push, pull, push, wield the wheels, watch butterfly wings, watch bees at work, straighten your hair, and measure your heart rate.
Canada’s best museum takes up the challenge of making science and technology accessible and entertaining, even with space dedicated to budding scientists under the age of eight.
Nature, astronomy, music and technology are explained through interactive exhibits using popular culture to enthuse visitors.
Recent special exhibits have themed Harry Potter by JK Rowling and mythical creatures, such as dragons and mermaids.
Particularly fascinating are the life-size 3D representations of the human body. Don’t miss the IMAX Dome cinema, where a 24-meter-high, 360-degree surround screen presents science documentaries.
National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC
Nowhere will you see a better collection of planes, spaceships, rockets and missiles.
Everything is on display, from a 1903 Wright Brothers plane and the 1927 Spirit of St Louis piloted by aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh to artifacts from space shuttle missions and the latest Martian probes.
Touch a moon rock, try out a flight simulator, and marvel at the outdoor model of the solar system at one 10 billionth of its actual size. Head to the observatory to observe sunspots by day and lunar craters at night.
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Tokyo
The emphasis is on technology in relation to everyday life in this futuristic museum.
The thematic exhibitions cover the environment, innovation, life sciences, nanotechnologies and genome research.
It sounds serious, but the museum is accessible even to children, with hands-on exhibits, volunteer staff giving demonstrations, and workshops led by scientists.
Take a peek inside the human head as you take a model apart, try puzzles, and learn more about earthquakes.
You can also get up close to ASIMO, the famous Honda smart robot, which waves, runs and kicks a soccer ball. In this crazy and endearing Japanese manner, visitors are followed by animated light bubbles and singing computers.
Heureka Finnish Science Center, Helsinki
Launched as a project of the University of Helsinki in 1989, Heureka today attracts 17 million visitors per year.
The museum’s interactive exhibits, which help visitors learn about topics such as papermaking, electricity, and astronomy, often require more than one person to operate, making it a great day trip. family.
English is used everywhere. Take a walk on the moon, build an igloo or an arch bridge, and learn how coins are made. Not weird enough? Kids will love the rats playing basketball.
Meanwhile, a stunning open-air science park teaches young visitors about water rockets, chaotic swings, and how caves echo. Please note: the fountains follow you as you walk.
Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
The largest science museum in the Americas has a submarine, huge miniature railroad, and NASA spacecraft among its exhibits. He also owns a rare Stuka plane and an old steam locomotive.
The museum is very convenient: visitors can build models, experience a flight simulator, climb into a space shuttle and a mock-up of a giant human heart, or walk through a recreated coal mine on a trolley. Indiana Jones type.
New displays examine the latest advancements, such as how scientists make frogs’ eyes glow, and why. Watch the birds hatch from eggs, marvel at a gigantic dollhouse, and marvel at the marinated human body that has been sliced ââinto very thin sections.
NEMO Science Center, Amsterdam
Housed in a spectacular building on the harbor, with a rooftop beach in summer, NEMO is one of the few museums geared primarily towards kids – there’s even a section on Pimples and Raging Hormones just for teens.
With a focus on the technology of the future, there is an abundance of touchscreens and virtual reality exhibits covering topics such as DNA technology and the psychology of memory.
Walk around a science lab and test for vitamin C or soap bubbles, make electrical circuits, or build a hydroelectric power station. Kids also learn why the ocean is blue, why toothpaste contains sugar, and the best way to boil potatoes.
Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne
Decorated with road signs, hubcaps and propellers, the exterior of Europe’s best transport museum reflects its clever and original exhibits. The interior traces the history and possible future of planes, trains and automobiles.
About 30 planes hang from the ceiling, while automotive history buffs will love the five Swiss car models from the early 1900s. Exhibits highlight the challenges of building road and rail networks across the Alps.
Try dozens of simulators, like the one that lets you drive a locomotive. Produce your own TV news spot using cutting edge media.
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
This museum is built in an ascending spiral to evoke scientific progress. Interactive displays cover areas from geology to chemistry and math, while Techno-Land aims to engage young children in science with models such as the brain.
The exhibitions devoted to light, astro navigation and health use cutting-edge technologies, while a section on robotics features dancing robots.
Compete your skills against a Go-playing robot or scare yourself by pressing your face against a magnifying glass to see live tarantulas that appear as large as aliens from horror movies.
An IMAX theater showing science films has a tilting screen, making viewers feel like they are floating.
The Exploratorium, San Francisco
The Exploratorium – part funfair, part laboratory of the mad scientist – presents the work of a research laboratory developing scientific innovations.
Having moved in April, he’s bigger and better than ever. In one of the most fascinating places in the world, you can observe glowing jellyfish, genetically modified green worms, and mouse stem cells. Explore physical phenomena such as weather, light, and electricity.
Then play games, enjoy warp rooms, and climb ladders and descend tunnels. Negotiating a black maze with just a torch is odd, but not as annoying as dissecting a cow’s eye.
Where to go
Finnish Science Center Heureka, 7 Kuninkaalantie Tikkurila, Vantaa, Finland, +358 9 85799.
Museum of Science and Industry, 700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, USA, +1 773 684 1414.
National Air and Space Museum, 600 Independence Avenue, Washington DC, USA, +1 202 633 1000.
National Museum of Emerging Sciences and Innovation, 2-3-6, Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3570 9151.
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, England, +44 20 7942 5000.
Ontario Science Center, 770 Don Mills Road, Toronto, Canada, +1 416 696 3127.
Science and Technology Museum, 200 Century Avenue, Pudong, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6854 2000.
NEMO Science Center, 2 Oosterdok, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 20 531 3233.
Swiss Museum of Transport, 5 Lidostrasse, Lucerne, Switzerland, +41 41 370 4444.
The Exploratorium, Pier 15, San Francisco, USA, +1 415 563 7337.