By Josephine Matyas

If there is one type of attraction that spans the entire continent, it has to be museums. Every town, city and state – no matter the size – has one, two, three…or dozens.

The days of yawn-inducing presentations are long gone. Today’s museums are happening places, with energizing events and colourful, interactive displays for all age groups and all interests.

With such a wide variety, there’s something to match every interest. Consider this your “cheat sheet” to some of the gems out there.

Nature Research CenterNorth Carolina Tourism
Why Museums?
• Value-added at your destination of choice.
• Appeal to all ages and interest groups – from seniors to family-friendly spots where kids can learn a little and burn off energy.
• In the hot summer months, museums can be a great way to take a break from the heat.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Where: Tucson, Arizona
Who’s going to love it: Nature lovers, families.
Recommend this: Walking tours with the Animal Keeper or Raptor Free Flight, showcasing the natural behaviour of birds of prey native to the desert.

Musical Instrument Museum
Where: Phoenix, Arizona
Who’s going to love it: Music groovers of all ages.
Recommend this: Wireless “hot spots” stream music at the exhibits. The collection includes instruments from 200 countries.

California Academy of Sciences
Where: San Francisco, California
Who’s going to love it: Adults, kids and families, science and nature fanatics.
Recommend this: It’s the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a four-storey rainforest all under one roof. Schmooze with the free-flying butterflies in the rainforest bubble.

The Dalí Museum
Where: St. Petersburg, Florida
Who’s going to love it: Architecture buffs and lovers of surrealist art.
Recommend this: Unique architectural features: a spiral helical staircase and a free-form geodesic bubble roof made up of more than 900 triangular pieces of glass. Dalí was deeply influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Where: Sarasota, Florida
Who’s going to love it: All ages, families, circus enthusiasts, gardeners.
Recommend this: World’s largest miniature circus, Circus Museum, Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden, the palatial estate known as Ca’ d’Zan.

Museum of Idaho
Where: Idaho Falls, Idaho
Who’s going to love it: Science geeks, history buffs and kids of all ages.
Recommend this: King Tut: Treasures of the Tomb runs through November 24. Learn about Lewis & Clark’s historic Voyage of Discovery that opened up the Western frontier.

Field Museum
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Who’s going to love it: Anyone who loves the natural sciences.
Recommend this: The special exhibit, Extreme Mammals, looks at the biggest, smallest, oversized and weirdest living creatures (on exhibit to January 2013).

Nevada State Museum
Where: Carson City, Nevada
Who’s going to love it: Those who love historical Western lore, adults who enjoy games of chance, kids-of-all-ages who dig palaeontology.
Recommend this: Slot Machines: The Fey Collection of 24 historic mechanical gaming machines dating from 1895 to 1937. America’s largest exhibited Columbian mammoth.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
Who’s going to love it: Science geeks, families.
Recommend this: The brand new Nature Research Center inside the Museum is designed to demystify science. (Did you know the Milky Way tastes like raspberries?) Watch “science in action” at working laboratories.

Columbia Maritime MuseumTravel OregonColumbia River Maritime Museum
Where: Astoria, Oregon
Who’s going to love it: Those who love cartography and maritime artifacts.
Recommend this: Envisioning the World, a special exhibit of the world’s first printed maps. The last active floating-duty lighthouse on the West Coast.

National Museum of American Jewish History
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Who’s going to love it: History and politics buffs.
Recommend this: Artifacts trace a social history from religion to charity, immigration, arts, sports and work.

D The Sixth Floor MuseumJosephine MatyasThe Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Where: Dallas, Texas
Who’s going to love it: History and politics buffs.
Recommend this: Movies, audio, photographs and articles chronicle the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Special exhibit by American artist Bernadine Stetzel, whose paintings include scenes of JFK’s inauguration, the March on Washington and scenes of his assassination and funeral.