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Back in August I took my middle child on a quick father-son getaway to Atlanta before we kicked off the current school year. Atlanta wasn’t high on my list of U.S. destinations, but we took advantage of a great fare deal that kept the travel cost to only a few dollars out of pocket (SEE: My first win with “The Flight Deal”).
After checking out the Delta Flight Museum (SEE: 3 reasons why the Delta Flight Museum is an avgeek must-see), we headed into downtown to see other Atlanta attractions. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta was our first stop. I thought about spending the entire day at the Georgia Aquarium, but given that the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is located a stone’s throw away and we had all day, hitting both up seemed doable.
The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is a bit expensive, at least expensive on what I’d expect a children’s museum to cost. Our last Children’s Museum experience was in San José, Costa Rica, and it was only a few dollars, if I recall correctly. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta has variable pricing depending on a published calendar on their website. Days are split into three categories:
- Value Days – $12.95 online / $15.95 on site
- Regular Days – $15.95 online / $16.95 on site
- Peak Days – $15.95 online / $18.95 on site
The pricing encourages you to purchase tickets online, which is what we did. The prices apply to all guests over the age of one year. The biggest gripe I have with the pricing it that it is brutal for the family visiting from out-of-town. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta offers an annual family membership for $130 which is a great deal if you live in the area and would even come once every couple months. However, this is useless for the visitor passing through.
For my son and I visiting on a value day, we paid $12.95 each, plus city tax of $2.31, which comes to a total of $28.31. For comparison, our entire family on a regular or peak day would cost a whopping $86 and change.
The Museum doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m. no matter the day of the week, and it is closed most Wednesdays. It closes at 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and 5:00 p.m. on weekends. The location is fantastic, and the museum is just steps from Centennial Olympic Park and other downtown Atlanta attractions, such as the Georgia Aquarium and The World of Coca Cola. You don’t have to go out of your way to visit it.
My impressions of the Museum
It quickly struck me how small the Museum is. I guess we haven’t visited many children’s museums, so I’m mainly comparing this one to the museum we took the kids to in San Jose, Costa Rica during our adoption trip, which is quite large. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta left me thinking, “is this it?” But maybe the size would be outweighed by the quality of the exhibits. My son and I first made a pas through the museum to see what there was to do, settling on the changing exhibit in the back that was broken into various rooms with a medieval/Elizabethan theme to them.
We had some fun playing dress-up, constructing nail-less furniture, and cooking. The furniture was by far the most engaging, since it was a puzzle to put together. The other areas lost their appeal ratehr quickly for my almost eight-year-old. Had my four-year-old been with us, he surely would have enjoyed both the dress-up and the kitchen immensely.
From there we moved on to the treehouse area, and then to the map exhibits, including a sand table that lets kids form islands and hills and will project topographic lines on them. Super cool.
One of the other areas my son enjoyed was the climbing platforms. In one section you can climb up a good 20 feet inside an enclosed structure with stacked platforms. Adjacent to it is a rotating globe that kids can climb inside, surrounded by hands-on exhibits of the continents of the world.
There was a supermarket area that allowed kids to fill a cart with play food items and take it to a checkout counter. However, the grocery store empties directly into a restaurant, where a few kids were busy cooking and serving various food items to parents, myself included for a while. This is all fun, until none of the food makes it back to the supermarket for other child shoppers. Great idea, poorly executed. The Museo del Niño in San José, Costa Rica had a much more purposeful system that made the kids clean up after themselves. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta either needs a staff to help clean up, or another kid-driven system that ensures food makes it back into the store.
We also caught the tail end of a play performed by a couple of the museum staff. Other cool things in the museum included a musical piano staircase heading upstairs, as well as the art/painting area.
The biggest highlight of the Children’s Museum of Atlanta
It took my son and I maybe an hour to make it through most of the Museum. He enjoyed a few of the areas, but nothing really held his attention especially long. He is pretty active and enjoys things that move, can be thrown, climbed, etc. Climbing up and down the globe structure a couple times was one highlight. Given the small size, I didn’t know if our visit was going to last longer than 90 minutes.
The part of the museum that really turned the whole visit around is the Tools for Solutions exhibit. We’d passed it by at the beginning, and I’d noted the area looked super cool. Tools for Solutions involves moving plastic balls around with various simple machines from one section to another. Everything is cleverly designed so that the plastic balls circulate back through the whole system; however, given that certain parts are more interesting than others (at least to the kids), they tended to pile up in certain places.
We spent over an hour in just this section. It was that fun. I was enjoying myself as well, sending the plastic balls up an Archimedes Screw and watching them race down the track at the top into other tanks and containers. My son’s (and many of the other kids’) favorite part of Tools for Solutions was understandably the crane. Everyone wanted to take a turn. I’m glad there weren’t very many kids at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta that day. The only issue with the crane is that many of the kids weren’t very careful, and entire loads of plastic balls would get dropped in the middle of the floor instead of into the bin, rolling all over the place.
After finally wrapping up our time in our favorite exhibit, we made one last pass through the museum before heading on to lunch, followed by the next item on the itinerary: the Georgia Aquarium.
I left the Children’s Museum of Atlanta feeling satisfied enough, but slightly underwhelmed. My son had fun, and we had a great couple hours. I’m not trying to say the museum was bad. There are some very cool areas and touches. It’s just not quite up to the standard I anticipated. This assessment is strongly influenced by the price of the museum. At $14 per person (including tax) on a value day, it is pretty steep. Like I mentioned before, we have to lay out over $80 for our whole family on a regular or peak day, which is steep, in my opinion. For comparison, our local kids museum costs $25 for the whole family, and the annual membership is similar to what the Children’s Museum of Atlanta charges. It’s like they are driving families to simply sign up for a membership, but this definitely penalizes families from out of town looking to take there kids here.
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No Museum reciprocity agreement?
Jennifer – it looks like it does belong to the ACM reciprocal network. I’m guessing that because Ian lives in the middle of nowhere 😉 that he doesn’t belong to a member museum, so it wouldn’t help him.
Spot on. I should at least look into the one in Eureka and whether it belongs to a network. But it’s cheap, like $4-5 per visit, so I’ve not considered a membership.
Been to a few kids museums and usually feel the same way–a bit underimpressed. Seems like exhibits appeal to different ages and if you only go with one kid, he or she can go through their age appropriate exhibits fairly quickly.
Agreed. I kept thinking there were a number of things that would be far more appropriate for our 4-year-old. Glad they had the Tools for Solutions. Otherwise, we would have been gone quite quickly.