UPDATE 10/9/15: Please note that since our visit to the Children’s Museum in August of 2011, the Museum has made some significant renovations to many of their exhibits, as well as changes to their pricing and membership policies. We hope to post a new review with updated information soon. In the meantime, please click here to visit the Museum’s website for the most current information.
Last week my Boo turned one. It was a big day, and my husband and I wanted to do something fittingly big. I thought the Children’s Museum in West Hartford would be perfect. I mean, the place has a life-sized whale statue out front. You don’t get any bigger than that. Things looked promising as we pulled into the big parking lot to the rear of the building. No problem finding a space, even on an overcast day threatening rain. The website warns that the museum is not stroller friendly. That is not a suggestion. Do not bring a stroller. The frequent staircases and lack of an elevator will make it completely useless except for rolling from the car to the front door. The website recommends a baby carrier, but try getting my 12-month-old to sit still in one for more than five minutes. Not gonna happen. I was happy to have my husband there to hoist my 22lb son.
Once inside, I asked the friendly folks behind the admissions counter to point us in the direction of the exhibits best for babies. This place, I learned, had the Mecca of all mommy destinations: a baby room (A.K.A. Critter Corner). Just put ‘em down and let ‘em loose to explore in a secured area. What could be better than not having to tail your toddler (or crawler) around endless corners, plucking them from certain doom every 30
seconds or so? I was sold. A short flight of stairs later I was staring through a doorway at what I can most politely call a well loved (like a favorite teddy bear that is missing an eye; and maybe an arm; and has stuffing trailing out from the tail) area consisting of a play house, a pint-sized slide, a couple little tables and three tank-like contraptions with small critters—as in live ones—nestled inside. An adorable little girl, probably age 3, was having a ball playing in the house with all the plastic accoutrements of a gourmet kitchen.
My Boo got a big kick out of a slightly wacky wall mirror and a giant magnetic board. But he crawled around for a few minutes and only seemed to notice a few of the toys. We tried to show him the chinchilla scampering around like it had a foot cramp it was trying to work out or something, but he wasn’t interested. Sigh. So the baby room was a semi-bust, and we moved on.
A stroll through Turtle Town, walls and walls of turtle tanks, was thoroughly amusing for everyone, but Kid’s Corner, which is advertised for all ages, was way too, shall we say, boisterous for my little man to handle. However, the older kids were having a blast with the model car racing ramp, the Lego roadway set, the giant bubble machine, the shoot your own weather report exhibit (giant TV camera and all). We passed the planetarium where they play a variety of shows. It looked neat, but not for us. Some exhibits on space were interesting. Of course, they were light years too advanced for my Boo. Somewhere along the way we stumbled across a sizeable bead maze, and Boo couldn’t get enough of that one. Score!
Back upstairs, we ventured into the United Technologies Wildlife Sanctuary, but seeing as it was mostly snakes and lizards, and the cheerful voice over the PA had just announced it was feeding time, we didn’t linger there long. Next we sauntered through the dinosaur exhibit with eye-catching, realistic dino statues and a couple of very hands-on stations where kids could search for fossilized tracks and pan for unique pebbles. Some preschoolers were going to town decked out in the provided explorer gear (smocks, gloves, goggles). Out back we found a respectable mini-golf area. No fancy windmills or castles, but it looked challenging nonetheless. Of course, Boo will need to figure out how to walk before he can putt a round.
Unfortunately, the threat of rain soon turned into actual rain, and we hurried to spot the big cats in their cages at the back of the building before slipping out the rear gate and making a run for our car. The whole tour took us about an hour and 15 minutes. Not a terrible activity for a rainy afternoon with a baby/toddler. But for my $11 ticket, it left me wishing for more than the handful of age-appropriate exhibits for us. Bottom line: it’s not really a museum for children under 2 (maybe that’s why they get in free). That’s not to say we won’t go back. We definitely will. We’ll just wait a couple more birthdays.
The Children’s Museum:
950 Trout Brook Drive, West Hartford, CT
Get directions here:
Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. Check website for holiday hours.
Under 2: FREE
Ages 2-62: $11
Ages 63+: $1 discount ($10)
Planetarium shows are not included with general admission. Tickets cost $5 and must be purchased separately at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the show.
The museum also offers several membership packages. Check the website for details.
Corporate member employees receive free general admission when they present their company ID and $1 off each guest. They also receive a 15% discount on the purchase of a personal membership. The list currently includes UTC, Aetna, Travelers, First
Niagara Bank, and several others. It is constantly changing, however, so please
call the museum directly for the most up-to-date information.
Both West Hartford and Glastonbury offer passes to the museum as part of their Museum pass program. Glastonbury states that you receive one free visitor with purchase of each pass (up to four) and West Hartford just states, “one guest”. See their wesbsites for more information: West Hartford and Glastonbury.
For more information, including a schedule of daily demonstrations and planetarium show times, please check here.
Snacks/Packed Lunch (no food available on the premises except vending machines, but there are table areas for eating)
Baby carrier if you are toting an infant