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Kids create their own adventure at the new Children’s Museum Cleveland

Nov 20, 2017 11:40AM

By Mary Flenner

Stand near the entrance to Adventure City and you’ll get a sense of the wonder and excitement that overcomes children as they arrive at the new Children’s Museum Cleveland.

“You see their eyes light up, and they just go,” says Executive Director Maria Campanelli.

After the former Children’s Museum closed its doors in January 2016, families in Cleveland patiently waited for its opening day in November.

You may be wondering how the Children’s Museum Cleveland (CMC) compares to the previous location.  “There is no comparison,” Campanelli says proudly.  And she is right.

The renovated Stager-Beckwith mansion almost looks like a larger-than-life dollhouse, which gives an air of magic as soon as you pull in to the parking lot.  I spent the afternoon exploring the museum with two toddlers and am excited to report on my findings.  Here is my list of the top 10 reasons to get excited about the new Children’s Museum Cleveland! 

1. It’s all about the kids
A sign inside reads, “Let them play!” and that’s what it’s truly all about.

“We believe self-directed, open-ended play is the best way for children to learn… Let the child decide how they want to play.  They’re creating their own adventure; writing their own script. Give them time to imagine, experiment, problem solve, communicate and interact with peers,” says Campanelli.

2. There’s something for everyone
The CMC is a museum for all children—of all abilities, backgrounds and ages. They understand that a two-year-old plays much different than an eight-year-old, and their wide variety of exhibits reflects that.

A younger child may love splashing in the water in the Wonder Lab and become more interested in Adventure City as they get older.  They can grow with the museum.

The CMC even collaborated with the Monarch Center for Autism to develop a sensory-friendly room, which offers special lighting, classical music, and other sensory equipment such as a body sock, weighted blanket and more.

3. It’s expertly designed
“The CMC took all the things people loved at the old museum, but reimagined them in a completely different way,” Campanelli continues.  The new space is also about three times bigger.

They’ve brought everything they’ve learned in the 35 years at the prior location with them.  The CMC also obtained feedback from 100 early childhood experts and collaborated with other distinguished children’s museums while developing the new institution.

4. Adventure City awaits
Your child’s imagination—and feet—will run wild in the museum’s largest exhibit, Adventure City.  It’s a bustling mini city with a market, construction site, hospital, two-story climber, nets, ladders and tiny corners, all with endless possibilities for imaginative play.  With a story to step into and something to climb at every turn, kids could easily spend the whole day exploring this area alone.

A reading area offers a quiet escape just outside Adventure City, and is filled with cushy chairs and cozy nooks to curl into.

5. Discover endless experimentation in the Wonder Lab
Kids can explore how things work and why things happen in this world of water, science and wonder.  Experimenting with funnels, force, streams, suction, tubs, and tubes make this lab hard to leave.

Tip: While the museum has water smocks available, they recommend bringing an extra change of clothes if your kids like to play in the water.


6. Create something wonderful in Arts & Parts
In this sunny art studio, children can create unique objects to take home or add to a communal project.

7. Make believe with Making Miniatures
A very large, and very unique, dollhouse on the top floor lends itself to hours of open-ended play.  Kids can draw inspiration from the many gorgeous, handmade dollhouses on display as well.  We visited this room last, but I plan to start here on our next visit, as it’s a quieter way to ease into the museum.

8. Convenience & comfort are all around
Each exhibit has been thoughtfully crafted, for an enriching and comfortable experience for children as well as their caregivers.  It’s clean.  It’s filled with natural light.  It’s modern, yet homey.

I find that little things like the coatroom, nursing locations and bathrooms on every level (complete with mini potties) make all the difference.  You can also bring in your own food or order delivery via UberEATS.  And the museum is conveniently located on Euclid Avenue near downtown and minutes from the highway.

9. There’s SO much to do!
My kids could probably visit once a week for a year and find something new to play with each time.  Not only are there so many different activities and exhibits, but they’re all so open-ended that children can find a new way to play each time.

10. It’s affordable
Admission is $12 for adults as well as any child over 11 months.  If you see yourself visiting more than once, (and you will), consider supporting the museum with an annual membership.  A membership for 2-3 people is $80, and a membership for 4-6 people costs $120.  Annual members also get free parking.

If after exploring the museum you decide you’d like a membership, you can apply the cost of your tickets toward the membership fee. 

“The new museum was a campaign of faith.  We refused to believe that a city like Cleveland was going to let the Children’s Museum close,” says Campanelli.  As a result, Cleveland families finally have a children’s museum they can be proud of, on par with Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Start planning your trip today at www.cmcleveland.org.


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