My boys and I wanted to sneak in a little more fun before my oldest started Kindergarten, so we made a trip up to INK Gainesville GA. INK, the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, is actually a non-profit organization that was created to engage children’s bodies and minds through a warehouse full of interactive exhibits!
Of all the places to visit in Georgia with kids, this one in Hall County is pretty cool!
We loaded up on car snacks and drinks and headed north. We arrived around 11:00 am on a Thursday and were so pleased with the crowd size. There were several families going in and out of the various exhibits, but it wasn’t overrun with people and there was plenty of space for my little guys to run around without worrying about them getting lost in the crowd.
Gainesville Interactive Neighborhood for Kids Inc (or INK) is open with two-hour play time blocks Monday-Saturday (10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.) and on Sundays (12:30 pm. -2:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.) so plan accordingly.
As you enter the museum, you’ll find an extensive gift shop full of educational children’s’ toys, puzzles, games, they even have dress up clothes! You’ll also purchase your tickets for admission here. Another reason our family loves this place is the cost. It’s only $9 per person each day.
FAMILIES IN MIND
One of the things we love the most about coming to the INK Museum is that we feel welcome. Lots of places created for children, don’t seem to factor in a lot of families’ needs. That isn’t the case at INK. They’ve thoughtfully accommodated families in a number of ways.
The first is incredibly clean restrooms. There’s nothing worse than walking into a restroom facility that clearly hasn’t been cleaned recently, and trying to keep curious, tiny hands from touching everything. The restrooms at INK are obviously cleaned regularly and provide ample space so that multiple families can change diapers, wash hands or wait in line without being on top of one another.
Speaking of diaper changes, we’re still in the throws of potty training with my second born, so we needed to complete a change while we were there. In the front of the women’s restroom there was a very clean, large diaper changing station complete with padding and disposable bags for dirty diapers! The sinks almost all had step stools for those shorter legs, as well as low soap dispensers so that children need little to no help washing their hands. Thank you INK!
While they don’t allow eating in the exhibit areas, the museum has provided a couple areas where food is allowed. There is an area between the lobby and the exhibits with multiple round tables and chairs. This is a great spot for those hot/cold days and you don’t want to eat outside. For those beautiful days, there’s also an outside area, right in front of the entrance, where you can sit at picnic tables and have your lunch or snacks. INK also has some snack items and drinks available for purchase in the gift shop.
Another thing that makes this museum a great experience is that there is ample seating located throughout the museum. It may be long Bankhead seating with padding or a bench next to an exhibit. There are chairs in many of the exhibits as well that are perfect for a break for mom or dad.
The safety aspect is a big win for INK! There is a large hallway down the middle of the museum with rooms off of it on both sides. None of the rooms have doors, so everything feels very open. There’s also only one entrance in the front of the building, so you don’t have to worry about people coming/going and a little one escaping. I attended solo with my two crazy boys and had no problem keeping a close eye on the little one, while feeling ok about allowing my older one to wander and explore. There are museum staff members around all the time too.
One of the things that I enjoy the most about INK is that it is fun and engaging, but not loud and crazy. There’s no pulsating music or strobe lights, which can be great, but sometimes it’s nice as a parent to be able to watch your children calmly engaging in fun activities. INK is a great place for children that get overwhelmed in loud, crowded spaces. They can actively play, without feeling stressed by the environment around them.
I adore the way INK is laid out. As you walk down the main hallway, you begin to see different areas of ‘town’ in each room.
There’s INK Grocery Store. Shop and check out groceries in their pint-sized grocery store. My boys were able to fill child-size shopping carts with a variety of food items, pretend to scan their groceries, check out at the register, and bag the groceries. Even be a store clerk and reshelve items. Let your child practice their social skills by being the checkout clerk or the customer with this interactive experience.
Pinnacle Bank is next to the market that my boys loved. It has an ATM, computers, and an air tube that allows children to send scarves back and forth, replicating a Pneumatic tube found at banks. At home, they’re normally asked not to touch mom and dad’s computers, so it was great fun for them to be allowed to bang on the keyboard and play banker. Practice handling money as you help your children fill out bank deposit slips, count money, and make deposits.
Gainesville Radiology Department’s imaging room, or x-ray room, is a favorite with my boys! There are real x-rays to look at and touch. A giant screen that plays film showing x-rays on a loop. Large posters show children the body’s muscular and vascular systems. Don’t forget to wave hello to the friendly skeleton that sits up by the ceiling. Visitors gain a better understanding of and how the Radiologist analyzes the images, reaches a diagnosis and then advises other doctors on necessary treatment.
Pretend to be a vet in the Vet’s Office and learn about the health and caring for animals.
Next up is the medical clinic, sponsored by Northeast Georgia Health Systems. This is such a creative and thoughtfully put-together area for children. Hanging on the wall, there are white doctor coats for children to try on. There are full-size wheelchairs and walkers that kids can roll around in. There are stethoscopes, clipboards, and x-rays to help spur children’s imaginations.
Stop by the Post Office. Put on one of our US Postal uniforms donated by the Gainesville, Georgia US Post Office to sort and deliver mail. Drop your letter into our original early 1900’s mail box!
My personal favorite part of ‘town’ is the 50’s Cafe. It is a fifties replica diner and completely adorable! There are booths and tables with checker board tablecloths, a real vintage jukebox that plays classic oldies. Behind the large counter, there is a variety of play food and dishes. There’s a pretend grill and stove to cook up a delicious meal for their customers!
IMMERSIVE PLAY AREAS
My boys spent a lot of time in the train section. They enjoyed playing with the train sets located between some of the exhibits. They loved the different tables with a variety of different types of trains and tracks. Is your little one a Thomas the Train fan? Good news, there are two Thomas the Train tables.
Also nearby is the model train. Children can operate the train with the touch of a button, but INK has also installed many other fun moving objects and music that children can operate as well. My two-year-old especially loved watching the characters dance around or the carousel spin with music.
Also worth noting is that the life-size wooden train car is located in the same area that children can climb in and explore. They can put on the conductor hat and ring the bell too!
INK’s Dairy Farm includes Haylee the Hen, who talks about all kinds of fun facts about chickens at a push on a button. Be sure and milk Buttercup, our own custom milking cow. Then visit the “moovie” room to find out the process of getting milk from the cow to your table and ready to drink.
Let your child become the hair stylist or stylee in this fun exhibit. Equipped with salon chairs and even a few mannequins, our Beauty Salon is sure to be fun.
If you have active little ones that need to burn off some energy, no worries, they have you covered. There is a carpeted play space is designed for our four-year-old and under visitors. Children can crawl through a tunnel; explore colorful objects, toys, and games, and walk (or crawl) into our castle and slide down to a safe padded area.
There is also a Family Playhouse. This 20′ x 20′ colorful modular play system is ready for kids to explore, climb, slide and crawl through the brightly colored maze featuring cargo nets and a cobra copter.
Also, coming soon, Imagination Playground! Imagination Playground is an innovative play space that encourages learning, social development, movement, and above all fun! By using your imagination in open-ended play, these lightweight blue blocks encourages self-expression through deep, joyful play.
Let your imagination run wild at INK’s Paint-Your-Own Pottery Studio. Create your own pottery masterpiece at Interactive Neighborhood for Kids’ Paint-Your-Own Pottery Studio! For an additional cost, you and your child can paint your own pottery…no experience required. Pick up a paint brush and get started. Also, if you can’t visit our museum, but are still interested in pottery, we can do that too! INK’s Paint-Your-Own Pottery Studio is also available as part of one of INK’s many birthday party packages and a great addition to any field trip. Only acrylic paints are used at this time for all pottery pieces.
INK has recently added a tremendous area with life size blue foam blocks. These can be used to build houses, bridges, archways; the sky’s the limit! This is a great spot for older children especially since the blocks could be a little heavy for small hands.
There’s a small area nearby with roadway rugs, car track towers, and lots of toy cars to use. My two-year split most of his time between this area and the train tables. He loves anything vehicle-related! While he was content with the cars, his older brother explored other exhibits nearby.
Teaching children about the people who help their community through work or volunteering is an important value for us. Getting exposure to things like police cars, fire trucks and courtrooms will help children learn what people in public service do.
As if the train exhibits aren’t enough, there are several more real-life modes of transportation that your child can experience. Located near the trains, there’s a full size vintage fire engine! This is another exhibit that children can experience ‘hands on’. There’s a fireman’s jacket and boots that children can put on, and then climb into the driver’s seat. The fire engine is beautifully maintained, it’s truly amazing that children are allowed to touch it. My boys loved climbing on board and making the siren noises as they creatively pretended to be firefighters.
After trying out the motorcycle and fire engine, we discovered an actual police cruiser! There’s a courtroom area to help children learn about the criminal justice system, which is very informative. The police car is located in this section. Children are again able to climb in and out of the front seats and let their imaginations run wild. The lights turn on and off, which my boys thought was pretty great.
Just when you thought you’ve discovered everything, you find an airplane in the back of the museum. Grandpappy Airlines has a parked propeller plane. The plane is decorated with fun, brightly colored circles. Children are encouraged to climb into the cockpit and play with all the controls. There’s also a control tower command center for other children to have an opportunity to have different experience while waiting for their turn to enter the plane.
We’ve visited the INK Museum twice in the last year. We live in the North Fulton, Georgia area, so including the drive and time spent exploring the museum, we typically spend 4-5 hours on the trip. My boys ask me all the time when we can return for the next visit!
I love that they can learn through interactive play and have fun together as a family. It is definitely worth a trip to Gainesville to visit this one-of-a-kind interactive kids museum.
*All photos are courtesy of INK Gainesville GA
MORE INFORMATION FOR GEORGIA TRAVEL WITH KIDS
- YOUR GEORGIA VACATION
- CHILDREN’S MUSEUMS OF ATLANTA: Your Ultimate Guide to Fun
- 65 KID-FRIENDLY: Things to do in Atlanta this Summer
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