With the recent renovation of Olympia’s Hands On Children’s Museum and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, Western Washington has become even more of a hot spot for children’s museums — places designed to spark exploration, learning and imagination. This winter, try them all; most have special deals for certain days of the week, and can be a great anchor for a day trip to a new area.
1. The Children’s Museum, Seattle. In the shadow of the Space Needle, the Seattle Children’s Museum specializes in hands-on exhibits designed to ignite curiosity and spark life-long learning. The “Fort Adventure” exhibit opening November 10 allows families to hone communication and cooperation skills as they construct a fort, clubhouse, or tent together. Another recent addition is the Bean Sprouts Play Cafe, a cooking/food play space that matches a real-life kid-friendly restaurant upstairs in the retooled Seattle Center Armory food court. Also notable: The First Saturday of every month is Sensory Sensitive. The museum opens with minimal lights and sounds.
Admission: $7.50 adults and children; $6.50 grandparents, $6 active military. Free for children under 1. Passport to Play program offers free and reduced admissions for families in need. Annual memberships range $50–$105.
Deals: For the last hour of every weekday (4–5 p.m.), entry is donation only.
2. KidsQuest Children's Museum, Bellevue. KidsQuest supports learning, growth, and exploration with community-based programs and play. One highlight is “The Backyard” exhibit, a bright, safe playspace for kids 0–3 that brings the outdoors in with whimsical playhouses, a play pit, and a rowboat.
Admission: $8.50 ages 1–59; $7.50 Over 60. Free for children under 1. Annual memberships from $88–$250.
Deals: Free admission, the third Thursday of the month, from 5–8 p.m. Enjoy 50 percent off admission the first Friday of the month, from 5–8 p.m.
3. KiDiMu Kids Discovery Museum, Bainbridge Island. KiDiMu, located just a short walk from the ferry terminal on Bainbridge Island, invites children and their families to explore art, science, and culture. Popular exhibits include Our Town, Science Hall, Totally TOT, and the Pirate Tree House. During museum hours, an art studio supports sensory exploration and creative play.
Admission; $6 adults and children; $5 seniors over 65; $5 military. Annual memberships from $85–$1,000.
Deals: Free the first Thursday of every month.
4. Imagine Children’s Museum, Everett. Imagine Children’s Museum supports learning and growth through hands-on play and community-based programming. In November 2012, children can explore rhythm and dance at FUNdamentals of Music and Movement, a 30-minute class offered Sundays in November at noon and 1 p.m. for kids 18 months through 6 years.
Admission: $9 general admission. $4.50. Annual memberships from $65–$165.
Deals: Half off admission on Thursdays from 3–5 p.m
5. Children’s Museum of Tacoma. In a downtown Tacoma location that opened in January 2012, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma fosters playful exploration and joyful learning. Six interactive Playscapes invite hands-on, sensorial learning.
Admission: Pay-as-you-will admission sponsored by Key Bank. Annual memberships from $100–$125.
6. Hands on Children's Museum, Olympia. In a completely re-imagined space on Olympia's East Bay waterfront that holds true to its Olympia roots, the new Hands On Children's Museum is the largest children’s museum in the Pacific Northwest. It boasts eight galleries and more than 150 exhibits sprinkled liberally with artwork by local artisans, authentic marine fixtures, green building materials, and homages to local landmarks. In the spring of 2013, a state-of-the art outdoor exhibit will open as well. Read ParentMap's review.
Admission: $9.95 general admission for age 2 and up; $7.95 seniors; $6.95 toddlers 12–23 months. Babies under 12 months free with paid admission.
Deals: First Friday of the month is FREE from 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
7. Discovery Village, Gig Harbor. A hands-on indoor playground and museum featuring an ADA-compliant playspace with a Pacific Northwest theme, water and sand play areas, classrooms, and a toy store. Community programs include music, dance, art, tumbling, language, and culinary education.
Admission: $8.50 children 12 months to 12 years; $6 siblings. Supervising adults free. Annual memberships $349.
Malia Jacobson is a Tacoma-based freelance journalist and mom. She blogs about family health and parenting at thewellrestedfamily.com.