Some museums know that filling halls with dinosaurs isn't the only way to get youngsters interested. Across the country, fine-art institutions host programs that make boring exhibits approachable--and even cool.
In Cincinnati, the Taft Museum of Art's self-guided family tours present works of art in cool ways: The Witches and Wizards tour, for example, points out mythological figures that are similar to Harry Potter characters (513/241-0343, taftmuseum.org, $7, free under 19). The Denver Art Museum's Just for Fun Family Center welcomes kids to try Japanese memory games, mix and match clothing to create interesting designs, and play with a puzzle inspired by a New Guinea sculpture (720/865-5000, denverartmuseum.org, $13 adults, $5 kids). Los Angeles's J. Paul Getty Museum hands out Art Detective Cards with instructions in English and Spanish for sleuthing out surprises--like the feather and leaf fossils in a block of travertine marble in the garden (310/440-7300, getty.edu, free).
A couple interesting programs require a little coordinating and advance planning. The Salvador Dalí Museum, in St. Petersburg, Fla., hosts Monthly Breakfasts with Dalí, in which 5- to 12-year-old kids take guided tours of paintings specially selected to appeal to them. A guide might explain, for instance, how Dalí purposely spilled coffee and eggs on his shirt just to see the resulting designs. Kids also create souvenirs such as cutouts of Dalí's stilt-legged elephants with glued-on pipe-cleaner legs (727/823-3767, salvadordalimuseum.org, $20 for one adult and one child). New York City's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, meanwhile, offers private 90-minute family tours that cater to 5- to 10-year-olds and include time for sketching and making collages inspired by what they've seen. (212/423-3500, guggenheim.org, $15 per family).