UPDATE 5/24/16: The Summertime Saturday Puppet Show Series will be presented on six Saturdays, July 2nd through August 6th for the 2016 season. Each show will be performed twice, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Admission is $6 for children, $8 for adults. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. See here for details about this season’s performances. The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00am to 7:00pm.
When I was a kid, The Sound of Music was one of my all-time favorite movies. Sure, I loved all the singing and the dancing and galavanting about, but my absolute favorite part was when the von Trapp crew put on that goofy puppet show. Do you remember it? It had music. It had mayhem. It had yodeling goats. What more could a kid ask for?! So when I found out about UConn’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry up in Storrs, I knew it would have to be a future destination for a blog outing.
As luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself this summer when I happened upon the info for their Summertime Saturday Puppet Show Series taking place on select Saturday afternoons during the summer months. These diverse puppet theater events are aimed at family audiences, so it’s the perfect excuse to visit this intriguing destination with your little ones.
You may not know that the School of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut has a renowned Puppet Arts program. And the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is currently commemorating 50 years of UConn puppeteers with their latest exhibit!
But let’s back up for a minute here and start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (sorry, I couldn’t resist!).
The Summertime Saturday Puppet Show Series offers family-friendly puppet performances on six Saturdays during the summer months. We attended the 3rd performance weekend, but there are still two more chances to bring your family to this unique event. Including a very special performance of “Aladdin” this coming Saturday, July 25th by the famed Indiana-based marionette company, Stevens Puppets, and then a show entitled, “Superheros, Villains, and Spaceships, Oh my!” the following Saturday, August 1st (2015). There are two showtimes for each show: 1:00pm & 3:00pm. You can purchase tickets in advance either in person at the museum or online, or you can buy them the day of the show right outside the theater (cash, check or credit card accepted).
Can I just say that I love going up to UConn in the summer. It’s so picturesque up there with all the rolling countryside. It’s quiet and without all that hustle and bustle that accompanies the academic year. The vibe is always laid back–people are out strolling around, eating lunch outside, reading books on the grass. There are so many fun places to explore, and of course, there’s the UConn Dairy Bar with its incredible ice cream.
Our plan for today was to head up for the 1:00pm show and then grab some ice cream at the Dairy Bar afterwards. And for the most part, the plan worked. Yay!
The biggest wrinkle actually occurred right at the beginning, as we were trying to find the museum. We knew it was located on Royce Circle (and the theater is actually in the museum), but every time we drove by that little red dot on my iPhone GPS, we saw no physical sign of Royce Circle! Ahhh! Well, here’s why.
We came in on Storrs Road (Route 195). And as you can see above, Royce Circle does not actually intersect with that road as my smart phone GPS indicated (maybe yours will be smarter!). So it took us a bit to figure out that we had to take either Dog Lane or Bolton Road Ext. to get back to Royce Circle.
The second little issue was parking. At first we were looking at street parking in front of the museum/theater, but it turns out all those space were open because they have a 30-minute time limit. No good for us!.
Then we saw this sign for the nearby public parking garage and headed around Royce Circle to find the entrance.
By the way, this map is posted near the corner of Storrs Road and Dog Lane, in case you are wandering around and need some direction 🙂
Here’s a detail of the map key so you can see what other places are located in the general vicinity of the museum.
Once we knew where we were going, it was very easy to find our way to the parking garage entrance. (There was a bit of construction going on while we were there, but it didn’t interfere with our ability to access the parking garage.) Parking is FREE for the first 2 hours, and after that it’s only $1 for each additional hour.
Since it was only a short walk to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, we didn’t bother bringing a stroller. But you definitely could. The general area and the museum are stroller-friendly.
We headed out to Dog Lane and walked the short block to Royce Circle, past the UConn Bookstore and to the museum entrance.
There is no admission fee to visit this museum, but donations are gratefully accepted.
It’s not a large space, which makes it great for managing little ones. And there are plenty of eye-catching items to look at!
Although admission to the museum is free, you do need to buy tickets to the puppet shows. As I mentioned above, you can do that ahead of time in person or online, or you can buy them at the door. That’s what we did.
The theater is small, so there is a limited number of tickets. If you are planning to buy them when you get there, I would suggest getting there a little early to purchase the tickets. Plus, that way you’ll have time to check out the rest of the museum first. And you can also wander over to the UConn Bookstore, which is adjacent to the museum (and you can walk right into one from the other inside). There are some fun things over here.
The restrooms are also located here. Head straight back past the children’s section and you’ll see the signs.
There’s also a cafe in the bookstore (Le Petit Marché ). It has a variety of foods and beverages. And it serves the famous UConn Dairy Bar Ice Cream too 🙂
Before we knew it, it was time to head into the theater for the 1:00pm performance.
You’ll have to excuse the quality (or lack thereof) of my next few photos. The museum does not allow flash photography either in the gallery or in the theater, and the lighting was very low in here. Someday I will actually take the time to figure out how to use this fancy camera I have!
The theater environment is very casual. There are benches up front for kids and even pillows on the floor if they would rather sit there.
The shows run about 45 minutes to an hour, which was a perfect length for my 5-year-old, but the 2-year-old did get antsy after about 30 minutes and hubby had to take him back out to the gallery. However, I was told that there are regularly kids in the audience who are two or younger, so it all depends on your own child’s disposition.
This show was called “The Nature of Nature” and it featured several independent stories linked together by the common theme of nature. The vignettes were funny, educational, entertaining, sometimes involved audience participation, and were interesting for the adults as well as the kids.
Most of the shows this season are performed by UConn graduate students in the Puppet Arts program, but the July 25th performance features a professional marionette company.
After the show, the kids were ready for some pre-ice cream snacks, so we headed across Royce Circle to the Town Square plaza where there are some tables scattered around.
Hubby ran over to nearby Moe’s and grabbed us a couple of burritos (we hadn’t had any lunch yet), and the kids chowed down on an assortment of snacks we had brought them.
There are a lot of casual eateries around here, so there are many options for grabbing a quick meal.
Forget about college students pulling all-nighters. I think this cookie delivery service should be available for parents of newborns!
Sometime after our visit, I also learned about an incredible candy store in this area called Sweet Emotions.
I’m simultaneously sad and relieved that we didn’t have an opportunity to browse in there 🙂
After lunch/snacks we headed back to the parking garage to claim our car and head up the road to the Dairy Bar. We ended up going just over the 2-hour limit so we had to pay $1 (no biggie). There’s a pay station where you pay for your parking and receive a ticket that gets you out of the garage. There’s a window with a cashier but also an automated machine. I don’t know for sure because I forgot to ask, but I would assume you have to go through this process even if you don’t owe any money since we needed a ticket to get out of the garage.
Of course, if we had seen that green sign first, which says “PAY HERE Before Returning to Vehicle,” we wouldn’t have accidentally packed ourselves back into the car and tried to find the exit only to have to pull over on the side while hubby hopped out of the car to pay (but it did make it easy for me to snap a good pic!).
And then it was off to the Diary Bar for some frozen treats.
Because no matter what brings you out to UConn country, that’s really the only way to end a summer adventure in Storrs 🙂
Summertime Saturday Puppet Show Series
Remaining date/times: 7/25/15 @ 1:00pm & 3:00pm; 8/1/15 @ 1:00pm & 3:00pm (details here).
- There is no admission fee for the museum, although donations are accepted in a box near the entrance.
- Summertime Saturday Puppet Show admission is $5 for children ages 12 and under, $7 for adults ages 13+ (for the 2015 season). You can purchase tickets in advance in person or online, or outside the theater on the day of the show (limited seating is available though, so arrive a little early to make sure you can get your tickets).
- Stroller Friendly: YES.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: It’s a museum, so I’m going to go with “no” on this one. But you can buy and enjoy a cup of coffee in the adjacent bookstore (while the kids browse in the children’s section).
- Restroom: YES. There is a restroom located in the adjacent bookstore.
- Baby Changing Station: Hmmm. I don’t think I saw one. I have to start writing these things down sooner!
- Parking: YES. Convenient parking is available in the Storrs Center Parking Garage. The first 2 hours are FREE, and then it’s $1/hour thereafter.
- Food for Sale: Not at the museum, but there is food for sale in the bookstore cafe and lots of eateries nearby.
- Outside Food Allowed: Probably not since it’s a museum, but again, the bookstore is right next to it (and you don’t even have to go outside to enter it) so you can bring your snacks and eat them there or outside on the plaza.
- Cash Required: NO. You can use a credit card to purchase show admission and pay for parking.
- Dress Code: Nothing special.
- Age Recommendations: This series is aimed at families, so they are expecting young kids in the audience and I was told they regularly see kids as young as 2. Some shows seem to have content more suited to very young audiences than others, so just check out the show descriptions before you go. My five-year-old enjoyed the show, but my two-year-old did get pretty antsy and hubby had to leave with him about halfway through. That’s not saying your two-year-old wouldn’t love it though 🙂
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- Discounts: None that I know of.
- Connecticut Children’s Medical Center – The state’s only free-standing hospital that offers comprehensive, world-class health care to children. Based in Hartford, Connecticut Children’s also provides services at several locations throughout the state.
- Mandell JCC – The Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT, welcomes and serves families and individuals of all ages, stages, backgrounds and faiths. Our fitness, wellness and recreation, arts and culture, camp, early childhood education programs, classes, clubs and services are open to all. You Belong Here!
- Musculoskeletal Health Centers – Located in Simsbury, CT, MSH Centers specializes in general chiropractic medicine with a focus on pediatric and prenatal chiropractic care. This fall, they will also offer the first all inclusive fitness center in Connecticut with personal training memberships starting at just $29.99/month for one session/week.
Interested in advertising opportunities with Out and About Mom? Get more info here.
Want to keep up with things to do with kids in Connecticut?
Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we dish up more Momsense for getting out and about with your little ones. Don’t have time to check back in? Let us send you an automatic notification of new posts straight to your email inbox by signing up here. Also, you can like us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest posts and get some extra tidbits we share only through those sites.