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From history to science, these are the best museums in the US

There are more than 35,000 museums in the United States, according to a figure released by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. That means there’s more than twice as many museums in the country as there are McDonald’s restaurants — a staggering figure.

To narrow that enormous number down to the best museums across eight categories, from history museums to science museums, we tasked an expert panel with nominating their top picks. Then, readers voted for their favorites to decide the winners.

Click on each category below to see the full winners list:

Best Children’s Museum: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis wins Best Children's Museum for second consecutive yearThe Children’s Museum of Indianapolis wins Best Children’s Museum for second consecutive year — Photo courtesy of The Children’s Museum of indianapolis

A favorite Indy attraction, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest museum of its kind in the world, encompassing nearly 30 acres of fun-filled exhibits. Kids can snap a selfie with a T. rex, explore outer space through the lens of NASA’s Project Mercury, travel overseas without a passport in “Take Me There: Greece,” and play one of 12 sports outdoors in a fabulous interactive sports park with health in mind.

Full list of winners: Best Children’s Museum »

Best Free Museum: National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center in Columbus, Georgia

National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center wins Best Free Museum for fifth year in a rowNational Infantry Museum & Soldier Center wins Best Free Museum for fifth year in a row — Photo courtesy of National Infantry Museum

Immersive exhibits at the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center in Columbus, Georgia, take visitors through the last 240 years of U.S. military history. More than 70,000 artifacts tell the story of what it means to be a U.S. soldier. Admission is free and tours are self-guided.

Full list of winners: Best Free Museum »

Best History Museum: Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Learn more about Pennsylvania at Heinz History CenterLearn more about Pennsylvania at Heinz History Center — Photo courtesy of Heinz History Center

The Heinz History Center preserves the history of Western Pennsylvanians and helps educate visitors with interactive exhibits spread across six floors. A highlight is the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” exhibit, which houses artifacts from the popular children’s show that was filmed in Pittsburgh. You’ll get to see the welcoming living room set, The Great Oak Tree, King Friday XIII’s Castle, and plenty of other notable items.

Full list of winners: Best History Museum »

Best Music Museum: Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tennessee

Johnny Cash Museum is the Best Music Musuem in the U.S. for second year in a rowJohnny Cash Museum is the Best Music Musuem in the U.S. for second year in a row — Photo courtesy of Johnny Cash Museum

This dedicated space to “The Man in Black” is packed with Johnny Cash memorabilia, including costumes, gold and platinum records, handwritten song lyrics, and even a piece of the wall from the home he shared with his wife, June. A small theater screens clips of Cash’s television and movie appearances.

Full list of winners: Best Music Museum »

Best Open Air Museum: Plimoth Patuxet Museums in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Immerse yourself in history at Plimoth Patuxet MuseumsImmerse yourself in history at Plimoth Patuxet Museums — Photo courtesy of Plimoth Patuxet Museums

The Plimoth Patuxet Museums in Plymouth, Massachusetts, feature meticulously reconstructed and preserved structures, including the Mayflower II, a full-scale reproduction of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America, and replica villages representing both the English and Native American villages. Visitors are immersed in a living history experience, interacting with historical interpreters who portray both Pilgrims and Wampanoag inhabitants and showcase daily life of the period.

Full list of winners: Best Open Air Museum »

Best Pop Culture Museum: Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana

Learn more about your faves at the Mascot Hall of FameLearn more about your faves at the Mascot Hall of Fame — Photo courtesy of Cary Jones

Who doesn’t love a good sports mascot? At this charming museum just a half-hour outside of Chicago, you’ll get to explore interactive exhibits and memorabilia honoring some of the most popular mascots of all time across numerous sports. That includes the Oriole Bird, Phillie Phanatic, Mr. Met, Rocky the Mountain Lion, and even the Chicago Blackhawk’s own Tommy Hawk.

Full list of winners: Best Pop Culture Museum »

Best Science Museum: The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York

Scenery and science make a great combination at The Wild CenterScenery and science make a great combination at The Wild Center — Photo courtesy of The Wild Center

Located in the Adirondacks, The Wild Center is situated on a beautiful 115-acre campus that’s home to more than 900 live animals. A 54,000-square-foot building houses the center’s main exhibits, while trails, a private pond, and river frontage form the outdoor experience. From naturalist-led walks to animal encounters, there’s always a special event happening here.

Full list of winners: Best Science Museum »

Best Small Town Museum: Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas

Museum of the Big Bend is a great resource for regional history and cultureMuseum of the Big Bend is a great resource for regional history and culture — Photo courtesy of Rebekah Antrosio

Located on the campus of Sul Ross State University, Museum of the Big Bend strives to preserve and share the history and culture of the Big Bend region of Texas and Mexico through exhibits and artifacts. It’s nestled in the mountains in the high desert in Alpine, Texas.

Full list of winners: Best Small Town Museum »

Congratulations to all these winners! Remember to visit 10best.usatoday.com daily to vote in our other Readers’ Choice Awards contests.

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