This past summer, we visited so many children’s museums. I actually had a surplus of locations to blog about. So, I’m slightly embarrassed to be posting about our August trip to The Children’s Museum in West Hartford in November. I thought, well maybe I could post it and no one would notice… and then I realized my child was wearing shorts. And a tank top. Considering it just snowed last week in Connecticut, my secret was out.
We did visit a couple months ago, but from my understanding, most of what I am about to share has not changed (from what I can tell, just one exhibit is different now). In fact, the museum had a major facelift a little while back and it is a whole new place now. If you have not been in a couple years, you will be surprised at how different the museum looks! I actually visited many years ago with my nephew. And I went back to look at the photos from our trip, just so I could get an idea of what to check out with my boy. Well, none of that mattered because everything is so different now. And for the better! This place is fabulous now! (Not that it wasn’t before – but they did a really great job updating it!)
Our visit this summer was during a weekday. I was a little weary that it would be crowded since we were at the tailend of school vacation but I learned that coming right when they open, even during a school break, was the best time. Most of the people visiting at the time were parents with small children, like me. As we were leaving just before lunchtime, I did notice it started to get busy and the parking lot was filling up.
The Children’s Museum is located on Trout Brook Drive in West Hartford, which is right near Blue Back Square.
The entrance is pretty easy to find.
Up the hill, you’ll see the main doors to the museum, as well as Conny the Whale!
The parking lot is just past the main doors. There is also additional parking around the other side of the museum.
The main entrance is over by the big whale.
When you first enter, there is a small alcove where you pay for your admission. You’ll also find more information about their special events, museum hours and planetarium shows.
Before we visited, I made sure to check out our library’s museum pass program and I was able to check out a pass. This saved on admission! Basically I paid for myself, and my child was free!
Right after you pay for your admission, you’ll walk through the doors and see a coat rack and benches. In the cooler weather, you can hang up your coat and park your stroller as needed. The museum is not easily accessible with a stroller. There are no elevators and there are a lot of stairs. In fact, if you can, I’d leave it in the car. We held off on our first visit to this museum until I was sure my boy would be able to walk around with no issue. The last thing I wanted was to have to carry 35 lbs around the place!
The first room we checked out was called “Now Eye See It“. This room has a number of exhibits about color and light, and how we see things. It was a great little room and had a lot of hands on activities. We especially liked the one with all the different colored waters in the plastic bottles!
I noticed off of this room there was a small area with vending machines and tables. This is open to the public, but they do ask that you eat your snack in this area only.
We moved upstairs after this exhibit, and found a small area called play zone. And it had a train table. Oh boy…. It took a while before I could get my child to leave that. Now I know to save that room for last!!
While he was playing, I scoped out the little area right next to us, called Sound Studio. This area had different musical instruments and computers to record yourself playing and singing. It was a little too advanced for my child, but I think an older kid would love it!
Once I finally pried my child away from the train table, we checked out Tech City. Now, from what I understand, this was a special exhibit and as of October 1, 2016, this exhibit has been replaced by a new exhibit, Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl: Home Sweet Home. This new exhibit will run until January 16, 2017. As for Tech City, this was a super informative exhibit with lots of hands on activities teaching kids about earthquakes, dams, traffic and power.
The Lizards Lair is located right next to the special exhibit room, and features lots of reptiles. The tanks are at a lower height, so even my 2 year old could see right inside. He really enjoyed looking at these slithery little guys! More than I can say for myself!!
Also right near the special exhibit room, and the train table, is Imagination Playground. This is a room full of soft foam blocks for children to use their imagination and build things. They have a special challenge every day, and today ours was to build a castle!
We decided to go check out the animals finally – and headed over to the Wildlife Santuary! Here we saw some snakes, turtles, and more lizards and reptiles! I loved that these tanks were also my boy’s height, or they had small steps he could stand on to look in the tanks!
On the day we visited, we happened to catch a special appearance by this little guy! A chinchilla!
Right outside the Wildlife Sanctuary, we spotted restrooms and changing tables!
As we continued on our fun exploration, we stumbled upon a really great room- Critter Crossing! This room is a toddler play space and is intended for children ages 4 and under. It has a play house, books and puzzles, a ramp and slide, a tree to climb in, and a barn. It was a nice break for this mom- while my child ran around like a madman, I sat and relaxed!
We actually spend a good amount of time in this room. We even went back to it once more before we left!
Eventually though, we continued on with our museum tour, and headed down the stairs to the mezzanine level. This was a fair amount of stairs, but my child surprised me by walking down all by himself!
On our way down the stairs, we saw the Foucault Pendulum! It’s visible from the upper level, all the way down to the theater level where you can read more about it at the observation deck.
On the Mezzanine Level, the first room you encounter is Turtle Town! This is a room with basically turtles! Lots of them too!
Do you think they’ll notice that I took one home with me?
We headed to the next exhibit, Blue Planet Red Planet, which is about the planet Mars. The room is lit with red lights, and there is a lot of information about Mars. This was not really interesting for my 2 year old, so we breezed through this area quickly. We headed further downstairs to the Theater Level.
On the Theater Level, there are a number of exhibits, many that get your child thinking.
ElectriCity encourages kids to experiment with electricity! Safely, of course!
The Thinker Linker Studio encourages creativity and problem solving. They offer items for kids to design a building or create an animal.
Both of these exhibits were a little challenging for my 2 year old, so we didn’t spend much time in this area. But again, an older child would probably love them!
What grabbed my child’s interest? First, the lego display! The actual challenge was to design a vehicle that could race down this ramp, but they were also fun to just play with!
The other area he loved? Puzzled! This area had a number of tables set up with different puzzles to solve. My child loves puzzles, and although some of these were a little hard for him, he liked trying them all out.
Outside of this room, is the Travelers Center Science Dome and Planetarium. Althought we opted to not catch a show, we did check the area out. Important to note, if you do decide to see a show, make sure you add that on to your admission when you first enter. It is an additional cost, even if you have a library pass or a reciprocal museum pass.
Once we were finished in this area, we had the hard task of heading back up two floors by stair. But we did it! We did go back to Critter Crossing for a little while longer, and of course, checked out the gift shop, but as it was nearing lunch time, we decided to end our trip. Our last order of business was, of course, to go see Conny the Whale! What a sight she is! My boy liked her from the outside…
…but not from the inside! Get me out momma!
So, that was our trip to The Children’s Museum of West Hartford! It is an amazing museum, one that we are very lucky to have here in Connecticut. Make sure you check this one out, if you haven’t yet!
This about sums it up…
950 Trout Brook Drive – West Hartford, CT
Tuesday-Saturday: 9:00am to 4:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am to 4:00pm
Please see the Museum’s website for a list of holidays and other museum closures.
Children: $13.75 (ages 2 to 12)
Under 2 is Free
If you live in Connecticut, make sure to check with your local library for a museum pass to The Children’s Museum!
- Not Stroller accessible!
- Lots of Stairs
- Free Parking!
- Bathrooms & changing tables
- Vending Machine and seating available in a snack area
- Planetarium – Additional Cost for Show