What are the benefits of a museum visit? Whether it’s a science center, art museum, children’s museum or historical society, travelers are immersed in local history, culture, art or nature. You’ll be educated, entertained and inspired about the country you are visiting.
Most travel itineraries usually include at least one museum — Safe Travel Partner Atlas Obscura history tours always include a stop at a local museum — and some itineraries are entirely based on museum visits. Paris, for example, offers 130 museums within city limits and Washington, D.C., a mecca for school field trips, has 70.
In fact, 76% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities, such as visiting museums. More people visited an art museum, science center, historic house or site, zoo, or aquarium in 2018 than attended a professional sporting event, according to the American Alliance of Museums. Pre-pandemic, the top 100 museums in the world had 230 million visitors in 2019.
[Related Reading: Best Learning Vacations for Families]
A Revenge Travel Must-Have
There’s a reason that museums, large and small, are included on everyone’s revenge travel list. These hubs of knowledge and culture have something for everyone — at any age. According to Mastercard Economic Institute’s annual travel report, it’s all part of the “experience economy” in which travelers are investing in experiences — like museum visits — instead of things.
Each museum offers its own individual experience. The Louvre in Paris, visited by 9.6 million people in 2019, has mapped out museum trails based on interests — masterpieces, the Richelieu wing, the Tuileries Garden — and a Louvre passport for kids is available at the information desk under the Pyramid.
Visitors of all ages can tour the open-air exhibits of the Inhotim Museum in Brumadinho, Brazil by foot or by golf cart. The colorful contemporary art is featured in a natural setting, including forests, mountains and botanical gardens.
The Science Museum in London has more than 15,000 science and technology objects on display and the Wonderlab exhibitions give kids a hands-on chance to interact with scientific phenomena.
Iceland offered up a variety of educational activities from a geothermal tomato farm and restaurant to seeing two tectonic plates (Eurasian and North American) above ground, but Global Rescue member Lucy Thompson enjoyed the Lava Centre, a high-tech interactive volcano and earthquake museum located near Iceland’s volcanoes: Eyjafjallajökull, Katla and Hekla.
Photo by Lucy Thompson
“The museum was informative and Instagram-able,” said Thompson, who traveled to Iceland during her senior year of high school. “Every display was touchable, and you could learn about tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes at your own pace.”
Low COVID Transmission Risk
And, guess what? It’s safer to be in a museum than most public places. A study by the Berlin Institute of Technology in Germany determined the risk of COVID-19 transmission is far lower in museums and theaters than in supermarkets, restaurants, offices or public transportation. The criteria: having the museum at 30% capacity with everyone wearing a mask and following proper precautions.
COVID aside, there are few risks to visiting a museum. A few areas to keep in check:
- Research the parking situation before you go. Smaller museums may not have their own lots and the parking could be in a questionable area or far away.
- Provide safety education. Don’t start the adventure without children knowing what to do in an emergency, memorizing phone numbers, having contact info/ID on them at all times, and holding hands with adults in public areas.
- You’ll want to avoid visiting the museum at its most crowded periods, such as Saturday and Sunday, and keep an eye on your kids at all times.
- Be prepared for a security screening, with either magnetometers or hand wands. It is wise to limit the number of items you bring with you. Some museums have quick, easy lines for people with no bags and long, slow lines for people who bring a bag.
- Have a plan. Look at a map of the museum ahead of time and prioritize the exhibits you really want to see.
- Choose a meeting place if you get separated. “Identify two potential rally points where you can gather if you are separated. Cell phone service might be disrupted, especially if there’s an incident, so find two spots that are easily found a distance away from the venue. Make sure they are well-lit and not impacted by the crowd,” said Harding Bush, manager of operations at Global Rescue.
- Be aware of museum fatigue. You may want to spend all day at the museum, but studies show you stop seeing the exhibits after 30 minutes. Take breaks, especially for the kids, by stopping at the café.
- Make sure you have a travel protection membership. Not particularly for the museum visit, but for your trip in general. Global Rescue memberships include personalized advisory services, 24/7/365 emergency assistance and evacuation services at no additional cost to you. Learn more about the benefits of a travel membership.
Weird, Wild and Wonderful Museums
Most travelers will visit the well-known museums in their destinations and see exhibits like art at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, South African history at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, sculpture at the Acropolis Museum in Athens, or Egyptian artifacts at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
For those looking for something a little less traditional, there’s a wild world of museums with off-the-beaten path topics from a museum of mummies in Mexico to an international museum of toilets in India to a museum of taxidermied frogs in Croatia to a museum of bad art in Massachusetts. We’ve curated a few unique collections across the globe:
London, England and Washington, D.C., United States: Interested in British postal history? Check out the Postal Museum with tells the history of Britain via the medium of post. In the United States, philatelists will want to visit the National Postal Museum, which is actually located in a historic city post office building.
Notting Hill, London: By using exhibits of advertising and packaging from Victorian times to modern day, the Museum of Brands provides a different way of looking at history — via the marketing trends of toys, candy, cereal and other consumer products.
Zagreb, Croatia: It’s probably not the place to visit on Valentine’s Day, but The Museum of Broken Relationships has a collection of almost 3,000 objects, each with its own story. You can even add yours, if you’d like.
Toronto, Canada: The Bata Shoe Museum has a collection of 14,000 shoes from “Chinese bound-foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glamorous platforms.” There’s more than 4,500 years of history in this one-of-a-kind footwear museum.
Photo by Emmely van Mierlo and Corné Clemens
Utrecht, Netherlands: The Miffy Museum, based on Dick Bruna’s picture books, offers a series of miniature worlds for kids to explore. There are 10 rooms, each dedicated to a different subject, such as going to the doctor or visiting the zoo. It’s a great museum for kids ages 2 to 6.
Yokohama, Japan: The Cup Noodles Museum has four stories of history about the inventor Momofuku Ando and his invention, chicken ramen. There’s even a factory where you can create your own ramen recipe.
Springfield, Massachusetts, United States: Can you still recite Green Eggs and Ham by heart? Do you watch the Grinch every holiday season? Then add the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum to your travel list where you will learn all about Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.
Branson, Missouri, United States: As you enter the Titanic Museum, you’re given a boarding pass. Will you be a crew member or a passenger? You walk through a replica of the ship, complete with sloping decks, and view hundreds of artifacts. At the end of the tour, you learn if you survive, or go down with the ship.
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