by Allison Carter
February usually marks the winter doldrums for our family. We try to combat this by doing a little adventure. I am not sure where we'll end up this year but we're considering going back to Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC.
Discovery Place is smack downtown, not to be confused with Discovery Place KIDS which is in Huntersville. KIDS is a 20 minute drive from downtown Charlotte and, while still great, the downtown location of this spot makes a weekend trip a full family affair. Here you can do something funfor all ages, stay in a prime location, and visit some great restaurants during your stay.
The admission price here isn't cheap. It was $10 for kids over 2 and $12 for adults. If you want to do IMAX (which is available) that is extra, of course. You will have to fork out some cash and you might feel like you were ripped off when you then look at the map and see that it looks tiny. But don't be, there is a lot here.
We headed immediately for the KidScience area, for kids 7 & under. This reminded me some of Marbles, yet it was all contained in a tiny area. There was an enclosed place for crawlers and wee ones. There was a water table, light board, crafts (overseen by staff), instruments, puzzles, dress-up, and who knows what else that we missed. This was great! It was definitely more learning-centric than Marbles or Greensboro Childrens Museum. There were signs around explaining, demonstrating, and hypothesizing. Of course, most kids in this area don't care and don't read.
After some time there, we headed out to the rest of the museum. We went into a little rainforest area. Downstairs you look through glass (they have shows in here) and upstairs you are on a bridge....and you can go over a rope bridge....exciting stuff!
We passed a python held by a museum worker that I got to touch but C wouldn't come near.
We personally skipped over the wild nature center as these were microscopes and exhibits for older kids. Instead we made our way to the fish aquariums in the back. It's the little things that make a place great: like the benches that they had placed under every display window in the aquarium portion so that little tykes could stand and see.
All that was just the first floor! On the second floor there were electronic and electricity booths; there was a rotating exhibit section; there was a section that I didn't get to that was called "Think It Up" where kids make their own footwear, play with stop motion animation, experiment with air tubes, make stuff out of foil, and run through holograms; there was an area to walk through looking at microbes (ew); there were hands-on things for older kids such as pulleys and slingshots. There were also little hidden surprises along the way (check out the light up sticks on the second floor).
We didn't try out the shows at either the IMAX or the 3D theatre. With our 2 hours our little guy was amused enough by exhibits. But you can spend all day here.
We got there right when the place opened on a super hot Saturday morning (10 am). And while we were never crowded out of any place it felt like the place was filling up quick. I can imagine that summer weekend afternoons could be packed.
There is a parking garage on site for the museum. You can also try your luck parking downtown.
If these pictures here aren't enough to tickle your fancy, and/or you are a visual person, and/or you are bored and really would like something to click on, you can check out more pictures online of the place at my photobucket site here.
There is a cafe on site but we didn't evaluate the prices. Instead we ended up walking 2 blocks to a Brixx. Yes, the same chain that we love here in Chapel Hill. We assumed it would be kid friendly (it was; lots of families), it was open (we ate early), and it was super close. They even gave us the same dough ball to play with.
Bathrooms at Discovery Place are gorgeous with changing pads. Everything is stroller friendly....really, all the things you can think up for a good kids museum. What I personally liked about this was that it seemed to work well for all ages and felt like there were opportunities to learn. Some of these kids "museums" are simply imaginative play stations (which I love, no criticism) but Discovery Place actually had a lot of learning and science in it for the older ones.
FYI, there is a cute little park 1 block over on the corner of Trade & Tryon that is at a church but open to the public. If you want to get some outdoor (free) playtime in combined with this visit, I recommend it.
301 N Tryon Street