Say it with me: Museum trip. Do you find yourself suddenly filled with dread and foreboding? Don't be. Just because museum visits are educational, they don't have to be torture sessions for you and your kids. In fact, with proper planning and execution, you'll be adding an exclamation point (Museum trip!) in no time.
Many museums have stepped it up lately, creating kid-friendly programs and exhibits that are far more interactive and, well, fun than you remember from your own childhood field trips. Take London's Victoria and Albert museum, which houses everything from priceless paintings to textiles and furniture. It has interactive activities in many galleries, letting kids (or, ahem, easily bored adults) assemble a model of the chair they are looking at, or try weaving on a miniature loom. (The V&A also has a "Museum of Childhood" with historic toys, dolls and an amazing collection of dollhouses.)
But let's back up. Most cities and towns have some sort of children's museum, and the best way to get your kids in the habit of looking forward to museum trips is to start taking them to these creative wonderlands early. I still remember the enormous bubble trays at the children's museum I went to as a child. Look into special events—many museums have art and craft classes and special performances daily.
Another good "beginner's" option is a science museum. Facilities like the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), in Portland, have tons of interactive exhibits for kids to play with, and no one cares about a little noise and excitement from the young experimenters. (Try this on for size: OMSI has an "earthquake house" that simulates the effect of a 6.8 quake. This is the height of awesome to your typical 6-year-old.)
Before any trip, look at the museum's website, and see if there are any pre-visit activities aimed at kids, like scavenger hunt lists or child-focused museum guides. Sit down with your child and explore the site, to see which parts of the museum they're most excited about. Most children go through phases of obsession with certain topics (dinosaurs, knights, space travel). Target your children's interests, whether it's the medieval armor collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Paleolithic beasts housed across Central Park at the Museum of Natural History, and you might be the one begging to head home first.