When I was a youngin', I was very curious and loved to play pretend. Plus, I had hippe parents who were all about educational play and feeding my various curiosities. Because of all this, I was practically raised in children's museums.
There was one on the south side of Chicago, by the Museum of Science and Industry, that was my favorite. They had an ambulance and a fire truck and some really great dress-up clothes. Now that museum has moved to Navy Pier, and I hear it's even better.
My family lived on the north shore (ish), so heading to the south side was kind of a trek. When we weren't equipped for a quest to the "best" museum, we headed to the Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview. This museum was a little less overwhelming, and certainly less crowded. Plus, they had a complete grocery store with carts and everything - BUT it was scaled down to be the perfect size for someone about four feet tall.
I feel pretty lucky to have had such interesting places to go when I was a kid, and I'm still a HUGE children's museum fanatic, even though I'm too old to hang out in them without being arrested. The thing is, these kids today are being catered to in ways I never even dreamed of. And I'm completely, utterly, 1000% jealous.
One such museum has inspired me to thinking of ways to abduct a child just to that I could have an excuse to go there and get my educational play on. It is in the Sawgrass Mill Mall in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Titled "Wannado City," this museum's theme is that it is a complete working city (with grocery store!) where kids can adopt certain careers based on what they "wanna do." The museum is about 140,000 sq. feet, and there are an astounding amount of activities. Just to mention a few, kids can be doctors, chefs, jewlers, TV reporters, and (the one I would have gone apeshit over) palentologists.
The museum is all indoors, but is set up to look like a mini-city. There are streets, buildings, fountains, and much more. Plus, nothing gets in the way of the theme being executed with stunning realism. Say you're taking care of babies in the hospital, but you start to get hungry. There is no traditional theme-park restaurant in Wannado City, instead a child must put on a different career's hat and become a chef - actually making their own lunch (pizza, natch).
Another great innovation at this museum is that there are 120 total careers kids can adopt, even though there are just a handful of specific areas. For example, in the hospital you can take care of premature babies, perform surgeries, and be a nurse or an EMT. In the television studio you can direct, anchor, film, or produce a news broadcast. This not only allows all aspects of children's imaginations to be stimulated, but it keeps large groups of kids happy and busy while their parents look on adoringly (or go shopping).
If I were only a decade or so younger, I would be nagging my parents incessantly to take me to Wannado City. Now I'm just excited about getting to relive the magic of children's museums one day with my own kids. Or the ones I abduct in order to justify my continued love for educational play...