Did you know that on the second Saturday of every month, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has a family day? Best of all, the family days are FREE!
If you haven’t been before, the museum is located in the heart of downtown Hartford, right off Main Street. It is the oldest public art museum in the United States, having been founded in 1842 by Daniel Wadsworth. The building is beautiful, it houses a wonderful permanent collection and there is always a new and different current exhibit to see.
In my pre-kids life, I had visited the museum a few times and enjoyed a leisurely, quiet stroll through the building while taking in all the beautiful and interesting pieces of art. In my current life as mommy to a growing brood, I never really thought that a visit to the museum would even be feasible, let alone enjoyable. So, when I heard they offered a family day, I knew I wanted to check it out.
The family day is held on the second Saturday of every month and provides FREE access to the museum from 10 am – 1pm. All Second Saturday events include a hands-on art project, facility tours, live music and more.
We decided to attend the November event for which the theme was “Food for Thought”.
As I mentioned before, the museum is located in the heart of downtown Hartford, right off of Main Street. Parking is available in several nearby garages, but the best parking option for a Saturday is street parking which is FREE on the weekends.
We were lucky enough to find a spot. (Side note: If you decide to go to the museum during the week, street parking is $1/hour with a 2 hour max and the machines accept cash or credit card).
We loaded the twins into a stroller, put Sweetheart in a baby carrier and headed towards the museum.
I was assuming the building would be handicap accessible, which would mean it would be stroller accessible, but I really wasn’t sure. As we came up the front sidewalk I started to realize there were stairs everywhere leading into the building. I couldn’t find a ramp for the stroller so my husband and I got the kids in the stroller up the stairs. Before we went much further, I went inside to find out if there was a better way. Well, fortunately, there was! Maybe I should have just read their parking information page a little closer. It says right there, “The side entrance on Atheneum Square North is accessible to wheelchairs and baby strollers.” So we actually had to get the stroller back down the stairs and then over to Atheneum Square North. Much easier!
Once inside, they welcomed us to the museum and gave us our tickets and a copy of the event schedule.
Straight ahead of us was Avery Court where they had music playing and the “hands-on art project” was being conducted. The project for that day was to draw bowls of fruit and vegetables using pastels. It was a very simple project that worked for kids of all ages. The activity seemed to be well-organized and the children were enjoying themselves.
There were also several tours being held throughout the morning. We caught up with the “ABC’s Tour: Art, Books, Connections”. They basically would stop in front of different paintings, explain the painting and then read a story that related in some way.
My kids were a little restless and I really just wanted to explore the museum, so we didn’t stay with the tour group very long.
Our first stop was one of their current exhibits, Ahmed Alsoudani / MATRIX 165 which runs September 6, 2012 – January 6, 2013. The exhibit is part of the Matrix series which is a changing exhibition of contemporary art. In this current exhibit, Ahmed Alsoudani paints scenes from the Iraq war. It is a rather intense collection, but it is also made up of a lot of primary colors, which my kids enjoyed.
We also spotted this fun piece on the first floor. I swear it looks real . . .
We made our way through most of the first floor with the kids in and out of the stroller. I really wanted to see the “Medieval to Monet” exhibit (which remains until January 27th). So, we headed to the second floor to check it out. There were at least two elevators that we saw. We took one of them to the second floor.
The elevators were both very large and easily fit the stroller and the rest of us. We got off on the second floor and Sparkles immediately started running across a bridge that was to our right. It freaked me out for a second, but there wasn’t an issue. Just be cautious of the kids in this area. I certainly don’t think they could fit through the railing, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
Lion . . .
When we reached the end of the second floor, there was only a stairwell to exit. We needed to weave back through the exhibit in order to reach the elevator.
Right near the exit from the elevator was this landing which freaked me out a bit as well. Just make sure you watch the kids closely around here or keep them in the stroller.
Basically, I would just suggest keeping the little ones in a stroller when you are on the upper floors.
This floor did have some additional entertainment for the kids.
They could leave a comment . . .
There was also an activity where the kids could stand in front of a mural, take their picture, and email it to the museum. They would then be included in some sort of online exhibit. I couldn’t even get them to stand there for a picture, so the other parts of this process are a bit blurry to me 🙂
I did remember to take a picture of the info, though . . .
We eventually made our way to the opposite end of the third floor and found the other elevator. We took it back down to the first floor in search of food and restrooms.
I did learn that the restrooms are only on the first floor. I neglected to find out exactly where the most family-friendly restroom was located. By this point the kids were getting hungry and a bit cranky, so I just ducked into the first bathrooms that I spotted. These were located right near the museum’s cafe and they were not the best family restroom option.
You wouldn’t even remotely be able to fit a stroller in these restrooms. I did notice a bit later that the map showed a few other restrooms on the first floor. At least one of them had a baby symbol meaning there was a baby changing area. I guess I would just say that all the restrooms are on the first floor and a baby/family-friendly restroom does exist there, I just didn’t get a chance to see it.
Since the kids were hungry, we decided to check out the museum’s cafe which is also located on the first floor.
I took a look at their special Second Saturday menu.
There was also a regular menu which you can access here.
I would have preferred to actually eat in the cafe. They had both indoor and outdoor seating and high chairs (a key feature for this family of little ones).
But my kids were ready for their nap, so we needed to order some food to go. I ordered two hot dogs which came with a side of chips and grapes. The only issue was that the grapes were the fancy, large grapes that contain seeds. That fruit didn’t work too well for the 1 year olds, but everything else was great.
Overall, I think both my husband and I were surprised that we could have an enjoyable outing at a museum with three little ones. We were impressed with the friendliness and patience of the museum staff as they dealt with the large volume of families visiting that day. It was so nice to have set visiting hours dedicated to families.
If you would like an opportunity to expose your children to the oldest art museum in the country and introduce them to the world of art, this is a great event to attend.
Even better, coming up next week will be the December Second Saturdays event (December 8th). This one’s theme is “Light up the World” and it is part of their Festival of Trees and Traditions event. Here are the details on that event:
Celebrate world holiday traditions during the annual Festival of Trees & Traditions! Listen to music and create festive ornaments inspired by global traditions.
You will have a bonus at the December event. Not only will there be music, a craft, and an opportunity to explore the museum for FREE, but you will also be able to see the beautifully decorated trees.
We are hoping to make it back for the December event, but, if not, I know there will be many, many more family trips to this museum in our future.
600 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
Get directions here:
Hours & Admission
The event is offered on the 2nd Saturdays of each month. The next scheduled event is Saturday, December 8, 2012 from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
- Runs from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm on the 2nd Saturday of each month.
- Includes a hands-on activity for the kids (November was drawing a fruit basket using pastels and Decembers is the making of holiday ornaments).
- Includes beautiful live music playing in the main area
- Join a museum tour group or explore the museum on your own
Tips and Things to Bring:
- Weekend parking on the side streets is FREE. Other parking information can be accessed here.
- Building access for a stroller or wheelchair is off of Atheneum Square North.
- This is an all ages activity, so the whole family should enjoy it.
- If you have a toddler, I would recommend bringing a stroller for their use.
- There is a cafe on site and they offer a family-friendly menu for second Saturdays.
- All restrooms are located on the first floor and there is a restroom that has a baby changing area.
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