Museum Childrens
A Photo Diary

What do kids think about San Diego's New Children's Museum? To answer this, I took 6 kids to the Children's Museum. Six kids to a museum - what was I thinking? That's the problem, I wasn't thinking. I was plum crazy. It was total chaos - but the kids loved it! Here's what we did...

First, there's no designated parking at the Children's Museum, so my choices were to:
  1 - circle round & round to find street parking or,
  2 - bite the bullet and park in a paid parking lot.
Guess which I did... paid parking, of course! (deduct $10)

Main Level (see layout of museum here)

New Children's Museum

The New Children's Museum is pretty spiffy - it's an open space, three-storey tall, warehouse-like with lots of cut-out section where you can look in, out, through, over and beyond. Enter the museum by walking on a narrow path - you're actually walking on a bridge over-top the lower level. It's a big drop to the lower level. so don't look down. Not only is it spiffy, it's also expensive: $10 per person (deduct $70 admission for 6 kids and myself).

    Above: artwork "Graft" by Lee Boroson suspends from the ceiling.
    Below: Enter museum through a narrow walkway suspended above ground.
    Right: Kid-powered vehicles "Legway" by Roman de Salvo.

To the left is the cafeteria and gift shop - let's leave that to the end. To the right you will immediately see kid-powered vehicles. Right away my six kids are fighting over the vehicles. Once they've organized themselves into groups, they begin disorganizing themselves by crash into each other (sigh... whose idea was this anyway?). After some time struggling and giggling we did manage to proceed to the next exhibit which was a giant tent.

New Children's Museum Giant Tent Zlatan Vukosavljevic
     Photo: Tent City by Zlatan Vukosavljevic.

The tent looks like a giant cardboard box that has been duct taped top-to-bottom. The tent is actually a combination of a maze and play room. To enter the tent you need to crawl along narrow passageways and then eventually pop-up into the play area. The passageways are lit with cheery lights and is very inviting. But don't be fooled, this maze is not for the very young as they will surely get lost and there are no provisions for rescuing them. Parents with big butts should not enter the crawlspace either since there are no provisions for rescuing you either.

New Children's Museum   Photo: Various functional elements which are also artistic and creative.

This main level has a large Paint and Clay Studio where kids can create (with paint and clay, of course). Facilitators will be there to encourage and help children work. One of the things I valued in this museum is the cool furniture: functional and full of expression.

New Children's Museum Volkswagen Beetle
  Photo: Paint a Volkswagen Beetle at the Clay and Paint Studio.

Half the Studio is outdoors: here you can paint a Volkswagen Beetle - for real! How often can you paint a real car? From the looks of it, this love bug has been painted over 100 times. We did our part by slapping some pink paint onto the car. Later, when we were leaving the museum, the Beetle was being painted blue. Painting the skeleton of a car is an idea carried forth from the Old Children's Museum. I guess good ideas survive the test of time.

New Children's Museum pottery clay   Photo: Pottery and clay creations by young children.

Clay is something kids don't get to work with very often because it's messy, it dries out, the creations tend to break, and the clay sculptures look like birds nest instead of tea cups. Here at the New Children's Museum, you don't need to worry about all that stuff. It's a place where kids can let loose, make a mess, have fun, and let their creative juices flow. Left to their own accord, I was surprised how good some of the pieces turned out - I would actually call it "art". Allow your clay project to dry and pick it up before you leave the museum.

Upper Level (see layout of museum here)

New Children's Museum Rain House
  Photo: Rain House by Ernest Silva is an audio and visual experience for young children.
  Right Photo: Outdoor Bubble Fountain.

The Upper Level has a beautiful playhouse painted in lively colors. Kids can enter through the oversized keyhole. Parents should enter through the back door so as to avoid having their backside stuck in the keyhole (it is a keyhole, after all). Inside the playhouse are kid-sized furniture, but the thing to experience here is the sound of rain. It's a rain house - an audio odyssey. It rains so rarely in San Diego that the sound of rain is a novelty. Great for young children ages 2 to 4-ish.

New Children's Museum rock climbing
  Photo: Port-a-Party by Nick Rodrigues transports you back to the disco age.
  Right Photo: Psychedelic mural ("Dynamics") gives rock climbing a new dimension in color.

To the left you will find a Port-a-Party. Port-a-Party not Port-a-Potty. Go in and close the door. You will be transported back to the 1970's when disco was the rage. Disco ball in combination with retro pop music: woo-woo! It was woo-woo for me but the kids couldn't figure out what it was about.

Perhaps more interesting is the Rock Climbing Room. Here, kids can kick off their shoes and start climbing the walls There are no ropes and belaying, just climb at your own risk. Like all rock climbing gyms, it is an open space, but this one has very cool murals. Kids ages 5+ do well here; kids under 5 need constant parental supervision. There is one facilitator there, but really, you've got to keep an eye on your own children.

New Children's Museum pillow room
  Photo: Kids have a blast in the Pillow Room concocted by Kaprow & Dick.

While the kids climb, you can start lining up for the Pillow Room. The walls and floor in this room are covered with mattresses. Piled high are pillows shaped like car tires. "What do you do here?" you might wonder. It's obvious! Just jump around and crash into walls, climb through the pillows, get buried in pillows, trap people in a stack of pillows etc. Why not slide down a mattress? Everyone enjoyed this room - everyone from ages 2 through 10 (and up!). Fifteen children enter the Pillow Room at a time and each batch is allowed to stay for 10 minutes. Parents can join the fun, but this rarely happens. Facilitators are there to minimize accidents.

After your 10 minute dose of pillow fighting, you might wander towards the Design Studio. As with the Main level, there are work tables here where kids can do some quiet play: either assembling words from letters or buildings from blocks. Outside is a colorful Bubble Station where young ones can delight themselves with bubbles.

Lower Level (see layout of museum here)

New Children's Museum Improv Theater
  Photo: Kids dress up and act at the Improv Theater. Elaborate cage-like stage by Rene Peralta.

Compared to the Upper and Main levels, the Lower level is most subdued and brings kids back to the basic. The first thing you will see is a large stage where children can dress up and perform theatrical plays. This staged area is particularly popular with the younger crowd (ages 4-ish). Parents like it too because they can finally sit down and rest a bit.

New Children's Museum Shadow Puppets
  Photo: Haunting mural (left) by Mark Mulroney provides a great backdrop for
       shadow puppets and shadow play (right).

Also in the lower level is Shadow play. Kids can cut out paper puppets which can be used to make shadows. As an adult, I was quite interested in how the shapes, size and resolution changes as you move the puppets closer and further from the light source. However, I noticed that children quickly bored of this low-tech activity.

New Children's Museum Studio Q
  Photo: Studio Q makes you feel like you are underwater swimming with the dolphins.

Finally, the last room in the Lower level is Studio Q. Studio Q is designed so that you feel like you are underwater. Flickering lights simulate filtered sunlight. The walls are brimming with sea activity: dolphins, scuba divers and the like. This space is enjoyed by children of all ages though for different reasons. Younger children enjoy running around and feeling free. Older children enjoy determining which projector is responsible for the images on the walls. Some are mesmerized by the surreal quality of the studio.

If you visit every room in the museum, it would take a good 2 to 3 hours. If you bring 6 kids, it takes longer. At this point, it was time to head on out. But before we left, we picked up the artwork from the Main and Upper levels (paintings, pottery etc). And, let's not forget a visit to the museum's cafeteria and gift shop (affectionately called Gizmo Garage).

New Children's Museum Gizmo Garage
  Photo: Various items at Gizmo Garage, the gift shop in the New Children's Museum.

Don't be fooled: it may be called a "garage" but it's not "garage sale" prices! T-shirts and clothes are displayed on hangers and in washtub. Most toys are cleverly packaged in attractive boxes, bins, and buckets. Unfortunately, very few (if any) of the toys at the Gizmo reflect the activities found within the museum itself. I ended up buying a puzzle (deduct $30).

It's a good thing I asked everyone to bring water & a snack because the cafeteria only takes cash and I was definitely running out of cash. We sat down on the funky chairs and drank our water and ate our same-ol-same-ol snacks. Other good folks ordered sandwiches and drinks which we ogled with envy.

Final Verdict

So what do the kids think of the Museum? Generally speaking they enjoyed it. They had fun, they liked it, and they would go again. For the 5 to 10 year old age group, they liked best the Clay Studio, the Rock Climbing Room, and the Pillow Room. However, at $10 per person, would I go again? Answer: no. It's too expensive. Today, I paid $10 for parking, $70 in entry fees, and $30 at the gift shop totally $110. Can't keep doing that every week! However, I would consider buying family membership ($75) for a year. Here's a secret: museum is free every second Sunday of the month!

dolphin show at SeaWorld   All rights reserved
Information is accurate at time of publication but can change without notice.