Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

The following post is written by Pit Stops for Kids’ Midwest contributor, Kate Basi.

There are two kinds of children’s museums—those that focus on science and hands-on learning, and those that focus on play. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum falls in the latter category.

Grand-Rapids

In a northern climate, where winters last a long time, this museum is a place that will keep kids occupied for several hours. It occupies two stories, with the first floor generally aimed more toward children six and under and the second floor toward older kids.

The museum prides itself on rotating its exhibits periodically. At the time of our visit, the main floor was divided into two major areas for pretend play. A kid-sized town, including a gas station, post office, library, auto shop, and grocery store, occupied one side of the building. The other side was a construction site where kids could build walls and play with shredded-tire mulch, running it over a conveyor belt or hauling it in buckets.

Grand-Rapids-with-kids

My kids were entranced by the stage between these two areas, which had backdrop, proscenium, limited costumes, and wing doors (not to mention a kid-sized guitar).

The second floor, as our ten-year old said, was filled with “things to do and not just things to pretend with.” A music area included piano, steel drum and other percussion instruments. In the bubble area, the boys spent quite a while trying to encase themselves in a giant bubble. A large spinning disc on a table challenged us to try to get a tire rolling on it without being flung off. There was also a play farm and a real, functioning bee hive connected to the outdoors by a tube so the bees can come and go (the outside entrance is on the second floor far away from human interference).

Grand-Rapids-museum

The second floor also includes the “Wee Discover” area, aimed ages 0-4. The museum offers occasional staff-led activities, from guided sidewalk chalk design to craft projects. The staff will occasionally zero in on a child who is showing particular interest in an area and spend some time playing with them one on one.

As you might expect, a place with this much to offer can be crowded. A sign states that parents are expected to remain with their children; however, the museum is well laid-out, with distinct areas and fairly controlled entry and exit to each. Parents can sit on the benches scattered around the building and still be able to keep track of their kids. However, if you have a wanderer, it might be a good idea to bring along an extra pair of eyes. There was an employee stationed in the entryway to help keep kids from getting out without an adult, but it’s not as tightly controlled as some child-oriented businesses.

Grand-Rapids

There is no food on site, but re-entry is permitted by hand stamp, and there are plenty of restaurants within a block or two, as well as a war memorial park across the street where families can picnic in good weather. Allow a minimum of 2-3 hours, but with so many interesting things to play with, your kids might want to spend the whole day. Our family spent 2 1/2 hours there before breaking for lunch and nap time, after which we came back for another two hours, and the kids would have stayed longer still. It was their favorite place we visited in Grand Rapids.

Hours/Admission:

Admission is $8.25 for ages 1-64, with discounts for seniors and military personnel. It is closed on Mondays and open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 to 5 and Sundays from noon to 5. Thursday “family night,” admission is $1.75 from 5-8 p.m.

Directions:

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is in the heart of downtown at 11 Sheldon Ave. NE, a short walk from DeVos Convention Center and a number of hotels. It does not have a parking lot, so if you try to drive be prepared to feed the meters. If you’re close enough, I recommend walking.

Our family visited Grand Rapids Children’s Museum as guests of Experience Grand Rapids in exchange for an impartial review.

About the author

Kathleen Basi Freelance writer Kathleen Basi has lived her entire life in "flyover country," but she's an old pro at road trips, having taken the first of many extended driving vacations at the tender age of five. She's a huge proponent of letting kids see and experience the space between "here" and "there." Find her at http://kathleenbasi.com/blog/.

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