CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR FUN

For parents of toddlers through young middle schoolers, The Children’s Museum of Atlanta has a wide variety of stimulating, educational and developmental activities to appeal to children – and parents. I even found myself scampering up and down the piano stairs a few times!

This fun, hands-on, kid-centered history center and museum is fun for kids and parents alike!

CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR FUN
Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta

PLAY AND LEARN AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

Being a teacher and a parent, my first impression upon walking into the museum was that it was brimming with hands-on educational teaching tools. As a testament to how well the museum does its job, my four-year-old daughter had no idea she was learning. All she saw was tons of toys and play areas where she could explore, tinker and let her imagination run wild without fear of damaging anything, being told to quiet down, or not touch.

I could practically see the neurons rapid firing in her brain as a new concept unfolded and caused her world to make a little more sense. I heard her saying a lot of things like “This is just like how..” or “That’s why when I…” Even though the experience answered questions I didn’t even know she had, it inspired so many more in her, just as good education will do.

On the ride home, she and my husband, an engineer, were able to have an animated conversation about machinery and engineering principles that made his heart flutter. Concepts he had tried to explain to her before with little success had come alive for her in the Tools To Solutions exhibit.

OUR FAVORITE EXHIBITS AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUMS OF ATLANTA

TOOLS FOR SOLUTIONS

The first thing my daughter gravitated towards was a crane. After filling the bucket with colorful balls, she and another child were able to work together to operate the crane to dump the balls.

She was thrilled to see how one machine’s movement led to another and another, and she followed a few balls through the whole system, before running back to the beginning to figure out how it all worked together. She was able to take a few balls and insert them into various simple machines and move them with wheels, axels, levers, inclined planes and pulleys.

The crane is cool, and big, and the kids just have an absolute blast with it. It’s a definitely a must-do.

BUILD IT LAB

In a couple of years, I look forward to taking her into the Build It Lab portion of this exhibit. Geared toward children ages 6 and up, kids get to use real tools and materials! They can work on their own, or take one of the woodworking or maker skills classes offered here.

The Build It Lab is great because it allows kids to use to the tools they’ve seen grown-ups use — but maybe they haven’t been able to use until now. A safe, guided environment allows them to experiment and then marvel at their own creations.

I loved how this part of the exhibit was in a separate, windowed room, so there was no fear of a toddler wandering in and making off with one of the tools.

LET YOUR CREATIVITY FLOW

The next thing we absolutely had to visit and play with was the moon sand! Moon sand is kinetic sand, and it’s located in the center of the museum. It was my daughter’s favorite, both when she was a tiny toddler and now.

You’ll find two tables of moon sand, along with scoops and molds to play with. This area is a wonderful spot to stop — and if your child is like mine, you’ll probably stop here more than once throughout your visit.

The moon sand tables are part of the Let Your Imagination Flow exhibit, and are next to a large paint wall where children can don a smock and paint to their hearts content without fear of messing up their clothes. My daughter was nervous at first, because she knows we’ve told her not to paint on walls! But after watching another child do it, and making sure it was okay with me — she got to work and had a great time.

GATEWAY TO THE WORLD

Next to these stations is the Gateway To The World Exhibit, which pulls together the idea of continents, Earth and space in a larger-than-life way.

My daughter loved exploring the play tables that represented six of the continents. Kids will love learning about the continent’s geography, animals, transportation, and more at these interactive tables. Some of the most fun parts of the tables are checking the temperature of a glacier in North America, or feeling what an earthquake may feel like at the shake table in South America. You’ll also find lots of wooden trains on these tables, so kids can explore the “landscape” while having fun.

The highlight of the Gateway to the World Exhibit is the Globe. The Globe is a 2-story climbing structure in the center of the museum. Kids can climb up a two-story vertical tunnel and exit into the center of the Earth, which looks out over the museum.

Guests can use their mighty kid-power to make the outer skin of the globe rotate.  Like the rest of the museum, this exhibit is completely wheelchair accessible (via a ramp on the mezzanine level), and there is a toddler station to engage the littlest guests in the learning as well. 

Note: The Globe is currently closed, due to COVID-19. Check their website for updates.

Does your child have dreams of being a rocket scientist? Then you must check out the Rocket Launcher area. This fun space lets your kids build a rocket and launch it into space. They can try to build a rocket that reaches certain planets, and if it doesn’t, they can re-design and try it again!

LEAPING INTO LEARNING

After exiting The Globe, my daughter found the two-story climber which provides a 360-degree view of the museum. From this vantage point, she spied the huge fishing pond, complete with a waterfall, in the Leaping into Learning exhibit. She made a mad dash for the pond and began practicing a concept they had just learned in her preschool science class: what floats, what sinks.

She was thrilled to be able to talk to other kids about these ideas and experiment in a much bigger setting with new materials. There are also fishing poles and magnetic fish, another concept her science class had recently introduced. She loved seeing a new way to play with magnets, in combination with water!

The pond is seriously big and full of hands-on learning opportunities. In our experience, a water table is always a favorite playtime experience and this pond takes it to a whole new level. Besides floatation and magnets, children can see how the flow of water works and use materials to manipulate the flow’s direction or dam it up.

Rain jackets are on hand to borrow in this area, so your kids won’t get totally soaked.

A KID SIZED TREEHOUSE

Directly beside the pond is every kids’ dream treehouse. With multiple levels, a bridge, a slide and lots of climbing, it’s pure fun. You’ll also find a puppet theater space here, so kids can put on a show for you!

I love the adorable infant and toddler area of this exhibit, which features a play house and car. There’s also a bubble and light interactive wall here for the littlest members of your group to enjoy.

The museum takes care to include the little ones at every turn, which truly makes it a great destination for the whole family.

FUNDAMENTALLY FOOD

The Fundamentally Food Exhibit is where you’ll find a child-sized diner, a “farm,” a John Deere tractor, a milking cow, and a delivery truck and forklift! It’s a great area for kids to learn where food comes from, and how it makes it to their plates.

THE DINER

In the diner, my daughter found toy food and began “cooking” and “serving” the “patrons” (parents) at the counter. Before she could snatch a bottle of milk from another “chef,” I pointed to the adjacent grocery store where she could grab a tiny cart and go shopping for ingredients, then purchase them with play money at a cash register. So fun!

As she was shopping, she saw other children unloading boxes of produce from a delivery truck and sending them down a conveyor belt (more engineering!) to be stocked in the store. She really thought this area was super fun. While checking out the delivery truck, she saw what turned out to be her favorite part of the whole museum, Buttercup the Milk Cow.

MILKING BUTTERCUP

Surrounded by chickens laying eggs, a corn field, and John Deere tractor, Buttercup moos as children kneel down and actually milk her. THIS was the biggest, brightest light bulb of all!

My daughter loved “milking” the cow, and I think this exhibit really helped her totally understand where milk comes from. It was a great learning experience for her, and a super fun too.

GIANT PLAYER PIANO

The most significant change from the recent renovations is the new mezzanine level. Accessing this level might be the best change too! The stairs leading up to the mezzanine not only look like black and white piano keys, but you discover that they play the notes as well!

I had heard about this feature, but had not mentioned it to my daughter, and I am so glad I didn’t. After running up a few steps, she turned back with a look like she had discovered buried treasure. It took us a few minutes to actually ascend to the mezzanine while she, and admittedly I too, played on the stairs. 

STEP UP TO SCIENCE

The Step Up To Science Exhibit features all sorts of fun, hand-on, STEAM-related activities. In this area, you’ll find a light table with Magnatiles, a circuit bench, a giant pulley wall, a programming art station, and more. You could spend hours in this section alone!

Kids can use metal links to complete circuits at the circuit bench, practice early coding skills at the programming art station, practice their architecture skills by building structures from simple materials, and shoot an air cannon!

My daughter loved the futuristic robot she could control from an iPad-like display, and spent more time and energy than I anticipated figuring out how to make a robotic arm pick up a ball.

DAILY PROGRAMMING AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

As my daughter was milking Buttercup for the fourth time, she heard one of the Daily Programs beginning and ran to grab a front row seat. It happened to be a mini musical number from a couple of cowboys.  Looking around, all of the kids of various ages were captivated. The quality was excellent and on par with performances we have attended at children’s theaters. 

The performance was short and sweet and included an interactive opportunity, that was thankfully low-pressure, as my daughter is shy in those situations. Mercifully parent participation was NOT required.

We ended up seeing a few of the daily programs throughout our time at the museum, so if you miss one, no need to fret, you’ll definitely catch another before you leave. They are loud enough to where you notice they are happening from any place in the museum, but not to the point that you are distracted or irritated.

Besides the mini-musicals, programming includes science demonstrations, story times, “Meet the Holidays” –featuring holidays from around the world, cooking demonstrations, and music and movement classes.

DROP-IN ACTIVITIES

The museum offers drop-in activities as well, and they’re included with your price of admission. Activities may change throughout the year, but you’re always guaranteed to find something fun.

Examples of drop-in activities include making animal masks in the Art Lab, learning how animals use echolocation in the Science Bar, or exploring animal migration in the Innovation Station.

FEATURED EXHIBITS AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR FUN
Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Enjoy these traveling exhibits designed for children to experience the power of play, featuring their favorite animated professional actors — from the Wild Kratts to the pups of Paw Patrol!

WILD KRATTS: CREATURE POWER!

June 11, 2022- September 5, 2022. Step into the world of Wild Kratts® to explore the secret lives of amazing creatures in this brand-new exhibit. Immerse yourself in animal habitats from around the globe, discover incredible creature powers, and go on a mission to foil the villains’ nefarious plans!

PAW PATROL: ADVENTURE PLAY

September 24, 2022- January 8, 2023. The heroic PAW Patrol pups need your help in Adventure Bay! You and your family will join Marshall, Chase, Skye, Rubble, Everest, Rocky, Zuma, and Tracker as you explore your unique abilities, overcome challenges, and help friends. There’s no job too big and no pup too small!

WAYS TO SAVE AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

The museum offers tons of ways to save too. Here are a few:

  • Educators get a $10 discount on a museum membership
  • Reduced group rates for 20+
  • 50% off general admission for members of the Association of Children’s Museum (and reciprocity to other children’s museums) for up to six people.
  • Military personnel receive $10 discount on a museum membership.
  • Babies under 12 months are admitted for free. (Tickets are still required.)
  • The museum sometimes offers Family Free Day. They offer free days several times a year. Check their website for updates.

CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA MEMBERSHIPS

Membership packages are available at various levels with the aforementioned discounts. You’ll also get a discount if you renew a previous membership, and you get two additional months free if you purchase in January.

Memberships include guest passes, reciprocity to nearly 200 participating children’s museums nationwide, are fully tax-deductible, provide discounts to select ticketed events, pay for themselves after the third visit and children do not have to have to be part of your household (ex. grandchildren). 

Check with the museum, as some of the memberships and discounts require you to purchase in person at the museum, but many can be done online.

SENSORY DAYS AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

The Children’s Museum of Atlanta also caters to those with sensory challenges by offering a sensory-modified setting on select Sunday mornings, which take place during Session A.

These Sensory-Friendly Sessions include limited admission and sound and light adjustments. The museum also has a social story to help prepare families for their museum experience.

Admission is $15.95 per person for non-members and free for members. Advance ticket purchase is required.

2022 Dates: Aug. 7 | Oct. 2 | Nov. 6 | Dec. 4

2023 Dates: Feb. 5 | Mar. 5 |  Apr. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 |  May 7

HOMESCHOOL PROGRAMS AT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

Note: We are still waiting on information for the 2022-23 school year.

Unique programming is also available to home school students on Home School Days and runs from 1PM-4PM. Talk about fun field trips!

These programs are geared towards K-4th graders and focuses on math, science, language arts, and social studies, and include facilitated activities and workshops. Check the museum calendar for specific dates and call for availability.

10+ TIPS TO PLAN A TRIP TO THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

The key to a successful visit to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is preparation. You can have a perfectly wonderful experience if you just walk in off the street, but you can get so much more with a little pre-planning.

Here are 10+ tips to help you plan:

  • Check the website for hours of operation, as they change during the summer.
  • The calendar of events is regularly updated, so check it first.
  • A quick phone call could also go a long way to planning a great day. You can get an inside scoop on events that are in the works during your dates, and check the times of daily programming.
  • The museum is located at the corner of Baker Street and Centennial Park Drive in the heart of downtown Atlanta, so there are a few things to consider — especially traffic!
  • There is no dedicated parking for the museum, so factor in some time and money for one of the surrounding lots or parking decks. The Coca-Cola MuseumGeorgia Aquarium and American Cancer Society have covered parking decks close by that have reliable rates and security. Note that Atlanta is cracking down on parking violations and booting cars. You may want to spend a few extra dollars for one of the nearby attraction parking decks, rather than risk it.
  • If you’re going during nice weather, bring swimsuits for the kids and let them hit the Olympic Rings fountain in Centennial Park and play on the playground after your visit.
  • During winter months, there is an ice skating rink set-up in the park; again pre-plan for this diversion, as it is ticketed and sometimes has a long line.
  • Be sure to wear comfortable play clothes and shoes – parents also should wear comfortable shoes, as you will be walking back and forth a good bit. I would also recommend dressing in layers. Our visit was on a busy day and it did get a little warm, plus my daughter got hot from all the running and climbing she did.
  • Check out the museum shop on the way out. I’m not normally one to recommend this, but the gift shop offered some wonderful educational toys and products that I had not seen before. You can grab a memento from your trip here, like some of the moon sand or the waffle set like they play with in the diner. There are also lots of bilingual options available.
  • With any children’s event or destination I attend, there are always two factors that concern me most: security and ease. The museum has one exit and entry area at the front that is manned by several employees at all times. Adults are not permitted without children, and children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • As for ease of the process, besides the hassle of driving and parking in Atlanta, the museum itself was totally hassle-free. Advance online reservations are required, making entry easy for all.
  • Employees are always on the floor straightening up and keeping an eye on the children. The bathrooms are clean, have changing tables, and there is is a family restroom as well.
  • The museum welcomes you to nurse anywhere and there were several little areas I saw that would offer a quiet spot to sit down. There is also a Family Resource Room available for more privacy.

DINING AROUND THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA

There are lots of dining options around the museum, but if you plan ahead you can pack a lunch and utilize the cafeteria tables in the museum on the mezzanine level. There are also vending machines available here with some healthy options.

Your tickets are good for re-entry all day, so if the weather is nice you can make the most of it. Take a break and get some fresh air in Centennial Olympic Park across the street, have a picnic lunch, then head back for round two!

WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE MUSEUM

MORE TO DO IN ATLANTA:

This post was contributed by By Miranda Haley.

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