Hi everyone! Today is a really special day because we’ve got a fantastic NEW POST from our friend and fellow blogger, Ally Noel. Ally has been chatting with us for months and giving us so many great ideas for outings in her neck of the woods (Fairfield County), and now we are so excited to finally have her as a contributor on our site! Today she’s sharing one of her favorite places with us– The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT. And yes, you read that right! An art museum with so many great programs for children and families. Intriguing, right?
But first, let us introduce you to our newest “Out and About Mom”…
Ally Noel is a mom, a wife and an educator living in Norwalk, Ct.
Her 3 year old daughter, Miss C, enjoyed all the comforts of home for about 10 days before her mother bundled her up and headed out on their first Out & About adventure.
Nestled just a stone’s throw out of Ridgefield Town Center is the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. I have been visiting this museum with my now 3 ½ year old, Miss C, for about a year. Now, I know what you may be thinking, “Art Museums? With kids? Nothing sounds fun about that.” Before I came to the Aldrich, I was also in that camp. In fact, I literally envisioned my toddler running through the hallways destroying priceless works of art. However, the fabulous thing about the Aldrich Museum is they make this art museum very accessible for families with fantastic family programming. And the best thing about their family programming –specifically their Third Saturdays–is that it is FREE to the public (more about that below.)
Despite the fact that their Third Saturdays program is free, it has never felt overcrowded. They have a lovely team of educational staff and volunteers who are more than helpful when it comes to assisting Miss C with a variety of projects. We have made pinatas, paper, and even painted with bubbles. Some of our favorite activities are when the education team takes us on a tour of one of the galleries in the museum. They have some really simple, thoughtful, activities to do with the kids to get them involved. For example, once they simply spread out a rainbow of construction paper in different shapes on the floor, and asked the kids to go find the colors and shapes in the artwork that surrounded them.
The Aldrich is nestled behind The Christian Science Church on Main Street. Be on the lookout for a white and black sign. Once you head down the driveway, you will see a large parking lot. If you are anything like me, you may stop and think “is this the Church Parking or the Aldrich Parking?” The answer is yes! You can park in this huge spacious lot!
If you are a bit early, I like to check-in and see if there are any child friendly exhibits we should see and if there are ones we should avoid. I highly recommend doing this! I learned this while Miss C was in her “touch everything” phase. So, please feel free to learn from my mistake. The museum almost always has a few galleries that are appropriate for children.
After you have checked-in, you walk straight through the spacious atrium. On the left-hand side, after the stairs, you will find the Education Center.
If you are here, like we were, for an event in the Education Center, this will be your “homebase” while you are in the museum. I have literally left my diaper bag, coats, stroller, in this room while I go explore. So, get comfy! Since you will probably be making at least one stop in the bathroom during your stay, you should know that the restrooms are conveniently located by making a right as you exit the Education Center. This is the only restroom in the museum, and it does offer a changing table.
The Education Center is, as I like to say, “where the magic happens.” Upon entering the space, you notice that there are large walls covered in chalk board. They usually have the monthly calendar and upcoming events displayed. The space is beautifully bright and cheerful. The walls are decorated with other kid’s work. There is a large moveable “art table” that I secretly covet. It is filled with all sorts of materials to use for a variety of projects. If the day’s project is messy, they even provide you with smocks. They have these amazing little easel chairs that make me want to drop everything and sketch.
On the day we were there, we were given a slab of clay and a few tools to make some imprints in it. The intended purpose was to create a repeated pattern in the clay in the style of one of the current exhibitions, Ghost Versions. Of course, my favorite things to do is just sit back and watch Miss C get creative. She had a lot of fun pressing her fingers and various other tools into the clay. They gave us several slabs of clay to work with — mom and dad got to have some fun too!
Unfortunately, the Education Center is only open to the public during special events, and you can’t just drop in anytime (it’s also used for after school programs, camps, etc.). So you’ll definitely want to make sure you visit when one of their family programs is going on. The good news is that these events are typically drop-in events so you don’t need to register in advance.
While there is no cafe in the museum, you are allowed to eat and drink while in the Education Center. For obvious reasons, you cannot have food in the gallery spaces. There are also several small tables and chairs on a patio right outside the main entrance of the museum. If I can ever get myself organized, I have dreams of packing a picnic lunch and eating here when it is not 101 degrees outside. I should also mention that we cannot leave the museum until Miss C has jumped down the stairs in this patio space at least a dozen times. It’s a great way to burn off some steam!
If you decide to meander around the galleries, they are located on the first and second floor. There is a large staircase in the middle of the atrium space behind the admission desk.
There is also an elevator located behind the stairs (once it even had a musical installation in it, so now we always have to take a ride!) Each gallery usually has a member of staff available to answer any questions you may have, such as “is it OK to touch this?” (seriously, sometimes I just don’t know!) Upon occasion, they have helped guide me away from galleries that would just be a disaster with my daughter. They also love to remind you that you cannot take photos while in the gallery spaces.
Since the Aldrich is a relatively small art museum, it is completely possible to see everything in one visit AND do a program in the Education Center. Talk about a great feeling of accomplishment! Their exhibitions change pretty frequently, so there is always something new to see and experience.
Bottom Line: The Aldrich Museum has some of the best arts education programs I have participated in. It’s a great way to introduce your family to the world of contemporary art.
Please note that the Education Center is only open for special events. General museum hours are as follows:
|Monday||10 am–5 pm|
|Wednesday||10 am–5 pm|
|Thursday||10 am–5 pm|
|Summer Fridays||10 am–7 pm|
|Saturday||10 am–5 pm|
|Closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas
Weather announcements are posted on the Home Page, Facebook, and Twitter
|$5||Seniors (60 and over) and college students (with identification)|
|FREE||Members, K–12 teachers, children (18 and under), and active service military families|
|FREE Third Saturdays||Includes family workshops (10 am–3 pm) and a guided exhibition tour (1–2 pm)|
- Stroller Friendly: YES. The museum is only two stories high and there is a nice roomy elevator
- Coffee Mug Friendly: NO.
- Restroom: YES.
- Baby Changing Station: YES.
- Parking: YES.
- Food for Sale: NO.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES, but only in designated spaces
- Cash Required: NO.
- Dress Code: NO.
- Age Recommendations: The Education Center will clearly tell you what ages the activity is intended for. Different activities are planned for 2-5 year olds and 6-10 year olds.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- Discounts: YES. FREE for Members, K–12 teachers, children (18 and under), and active service military families. Many of their Education Programs are FREE to the public, so be sure to check their website. Guided exhibition tours are offered FREE with admission every Monday (1–2 pm)
- 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.
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