The combination of kids and museums can be a joyous exploration of discovery for young and old—or a whiny, toxic mix that will ruin a family weekend away. Save yourself the angst and head to one of these exhibits before they close. There’s bound to be something here to engage your offspring. Just don’t hang around acting like, you know, a parent.
- Kids with the want-to-be-an-astronaut gene can indulge their flights of fancy at Columbus, Ohio’s hands-on science museum COSI. The Cosmic Summer experience here is built around Be the Astronaut, a traveling blockbuster that premiered at Houston Space Center. The exhibit uses video game technology to take visitors through the demands of planning and executing an imaginary space mission in the future. As part of Cosmic Summer, COSI’s big-screen theater is showing Journey to Space in 3D, a documentary that explains what NASA is up to now. The film looks back at the space shuttle program and ahead to efforts to build a craft for deep space exploration. Also on tap: the planetarium show Asteroid: Mission Extreme, which explores the possibility of using asteroids to hopscotch through the cosmos. Closes September 4.
- If you have tweens, the odds are ever in your favor in Louisville. That’s where The Hunger Games: The Exhibition has been raking in crowds at the Frazier History Museum. The traveling show features seven galleries given over to the blockbuster film franchise that made Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence a star. With costumes, props, and interactive games, there’s plenty to please fans of the flicks and the books, plus lots of technical behind-the-scenes stuff to inspire future cinematographers. Bonus: Your entrance fee comes with a Panem Citizens Card you can use to get discounts at restaurants, hotels, and other Louisville attractions. Closes September 10.
- Yeah, haul your teen to Chicago and he/she will probably eye-roll at the prospect of seeing the Field Museum’s T. Rex again. But you can’t miss with this: Tattoo, an exhibition devoted to the history, culture, symbolism, and significance of ink on skin. The presentation explores this body art from its ancient roots—the scar tattoos of East Africa—to vintage and contemporary photographs of tatted-up men and women. There are tools of the trade, including the electric stencil pen invented by Thomas Edison in 1876; life-sized silicon forms fabulously decorated by masters of the art; and a working tattoo parlor where museum visitors can watch clients get their ink on. Closes September 4.
- And what about your inner child? Indulge that neglected youth with a visit to Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A special exhibit spotlights Indiana’s favorite son, John Mellencamp, journeying all the way back to his Johnny Cougar days and tracing his transformation into a 21st-century performer, visual artist, and champion of America’s farmers. The installation includes artifacts such as the ’65 Honda motorcycle he rode in high school (below), the handwritten lyrics to “Small Town,” and the Gibson Dove acoustic guitar that he used on stage for the better part of 20 years. There are photographs, performance outfits, and six of his recent paintings, as well as an extensive interview with the rocker done for the Hall of Fame. Originally scheduled to close in September, the exhibition has been extended to February 4, 2018.