I'd be remiss if I didn't have a post about the Children's Museum of Tacoma. Seriously, what kind of Tacoma children's blog would this be without it? I'll tell you, not a very good one. This was one of the first posts I planned to write here on Raising Tacoma. I'm ashamed to say it's been over three months and I'm just getting to it now. Better late than never, right?
We go to the museum at least once a week. We love the programs and the open museum play space. It's even where we had Caleb's second birthday. I am so grateful we have the Children's Museum here; it's definitely saved my sanity more times than one. If you haven't been, then you need to drop everything and go. Okay, that's hasty, you probably have questions. I always have questions. Let's tackle some of those questions.
How much does it cost?
It is "pay as you will" admission. Basically, you give what you can each time you visit. The other option is to buy a membership. The membership is paid annually. They have several levels of membership so the price varies from $40 to $140. They have some discounts on it around the New Year and sometimes you can find a Groupon. I have found the membership definitely worth it. You get some great benefits, the best being you can go during member-only hours where it is much less crowded.
Where is it?
Right in downtown Tacoma! 1501 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98402.
What are the hours?
The hours change with the season, so be sure to check before you go. The current spring hours are generally Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm. Mondays are member only. In the summer, they tend to close earlier at 4pm. Also be aware that during the early fall, they close for about two weeks to do deep cleaning and updates to the playscapes.
Is there parking?
I'm not going to skirt the issue, this can be an issue. As a member, you get a parking pass. However, they only have 10 parking spots for this pass and it's on a first come basis, so you don't always get a spot. There is a three-hour time limit to the member parking as well.
If you're not a member, then you are stuck with street parking. There is a long strip of street parking on Pacific Avenue, so you have a fairly good chance of finding a spot. On busy days, though, you might end up circling around to find something. Luckily street parking is not an arm and a leg - $1 per hour. It's important to note, that you should not park in the paid lot next to the museum (where the member parking spots are located) unless it's Saturday or Sunday. This is reserved parking for that building only.
What are the best ages for kids?
We started going regularly to the museum once Caleb was one year old. Looking back, we could have started earlier when he was even just crawling and sitting. However, it's probably best once they are on two legs. As for how old, that is harder for me since I only have my son for reference, but I would think maybe up to about eight years old would still find something fun there. If you have an older child, weigh in on the comments!
How crowded is it?
As you probably know, this really depends. Weekends definitely tend to be busy especially when they have a special program happening. We avoid the weekends, but if you're a working parent, I can understand this is your only option. If so, then the late afternoon is usually a bit less crowded. Mid-mornings are often pretty busy. It can also depend if they have a class or field trip visiting the museum. Holidays and spring break are definitely crowded times.
If you are a member, this is so helpful for avoiding big crowds. There are special member hours and days. Mondays are member-only days, then Friday and Saturday it's member-only from 9am to 10am.
Is there anything outside?
Unfortunately, they don't have an outside area. You will see something that looks like it's an outdoor area, but that's part of the preschool and daycare, I believe.
What is the play space like inside?
The museum is a great environment for kids to learn and explore. Everything there encourages them to be creative and develop cognitive and motor skills. I love how there are so many windows that it's always nice and bright inside, even on gloomy winter days. It's shaped a bit like a U with the studio inside the U. Maybe that's a weird way to think of it, but that's what I've come up with.
1. The Woods - Ramp Nook & Stuffies
This is the first area you'll encounter when coming through the doors. I think this is great for younger kids that are crawling or just walking. Caleb immediately starts running through the tunnel when we arrive. Always. Right now the tunnel is decorated as The Hungry Caterpillar.
There are a bunch of stuffed animals ("stuffies") to play within the first nook area. A ramp and stairs that have a "cave" underneath. Caleb enjoys rolling pillow tires down the ramp. There are also some door knobs that Caleb was fasinated with for a while.
The Woods - Play Structure
Next to the nook is a play structure. There are two sides with a little bridge connected them. One side has a pulley system for bringing random things up and down. There is also a kitchen with play table settings and food.
The other side has a tire climb wall, a dark room with cool lights to draw on the wall with, pegs to align wood pieces, a telephone, and costumes.
2. Becka's Studio
They are always changing up what's in Becka's Studio, which is so fun. Lately, there has been a buffalo and moose to paint. There have been chalkboards, watercolor, painting, and much more. The back wall changes up as well. Right now it's a still life wall where kids can put little trinkets into the cubes.
Becka's Studio - STEAM Room
The STEAM room is a little creator's paradise. They have tools and materials (like cardboard, wood, bottles, screws, nails) to make masterpieces. They have protective glasses, screws, hammers, rulers, scissors, clamps, and more. They have handouts to help guide you in a creation if your kid is interested, too.
I honestly get a wee bit nervous in this room, but Caleb loves it. I think it's going to stay the STEAM room, but they used to change it out occasionally. Once before it had these magnetic beads on a board, hence the photo.
This is many a kid's favorite area in the museum. They have aprons, but bring a change of clothes! Learn from my mistakes. Either your kid will refuse to wear the apron, they make such a splash that the apron has little chance to protect, or they get their sleeves soaked. If Caleb gets a drop of water on him, he will notice and that's the end of it.
This area is great, though. There are levels of water that splash down with all sorts of toys and gadgets. Some things you maybe wouldn't have even thought to put in water are there and the kids love it - like funnels, whisks, and measuring cups. One time they brought in a ton of plastic ducks. So much water fun.
4. Voyager - Block Nook
Honestly, I don't know where this little area fits in with the playspace names. It's in between the water area and Voyager ship. I would say Invention, but that area is on the other side of Voyager. I'll put it here; I think you'll get it.
It's small nook with blocks and toys (like dinosaurs, rawr). This is a good little area for younger kids. There are costumes next to this area that has recently been a thing for Caleb especially the lobster hands, construction vest, and butterfly cape.
Voyager - The Ship
The ship is pretty cool and is another favorite area. Underneath the ship are a bunch of switches, levers, and buttons. We've spent some good time there. Also, another pulley system to bring toys up and down.
Upstairs are pedals that make the wings of the ship go up and down. There are two steering wheels with some more switches and buttons to "steer" the ship. You can crawl through the rope tunnel to the circle area that has a telephone inside. This is a popular area for the bigger kids.
Voyager - The Slide
What kid doesn't like a slide? Okay, maybe a few out there, but this is great to have for slide loves. Underneath they change out, but they've had green foam blocks, fall leaves with rakes, and a water theme.
This is the last area of the museum and it's a big space. On the wall are what they call Airways. You can put scarves into the tunnels that have air running through them. The scarf goes all around and then jumps out at an end. You can switch the airways to change the scarf's route, too. This is a super popular area as well.
In the back is the Whoosh Wall where you can send a bull up a tube. It comes down some pipe tunnels that you can move around. Hint: the trick is to cover the hole where you put the ball into the tube to make the ball go up.
In the center, they have building materials like logs and wood to make towers and houses. Plus there are some other little things to do like a glowing tabletop with colored shapes or fan that blows scarves up into a big tube. Lots of fun to be had here.
Did that get confusing? Here's a map I made so you can get an idea o how it's laid out.
There is so much more to talk about with the Children's Museum of Tacoma. They have some great programs and resources, but those will have to wait for another post some other day. I hope you enjoyed your "tour" of the museum. Now go play and learn!