Text: R. Collins
Grand Rapids is full of distinctive buildings, from Van Andel Arena’s icy blue, glass exterior and larger-than-life figures on its plaza; to The B.O.B.’s prominent stature on Fulton Street; and the Amway Grand Plaza’s historic grandeur nearby. On the corner of Fulton Street and Division, there is another such building: the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.
With a glittering mural by 2009 ArtPrize participants wrapping the museum’s façade, the building’s outdoor presence foreshadows the exciting, experimental activities inside. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum’s, or GRCM’s, value for the power of playtime is seen in its extensive and inclusive programming, exhibits, and events. Throughout the course of 21 years the museum has served more than 3.75 million guests as the only museum presence dedicated specifically to kids in the downtown area.
“We are so fortunate in Grand Rapids to have strong leaders—and in the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum’s case all women—who knew that open ended play is critical for the healthy emotional and physical development of young children,” said Maggie Lancaster, chief executive officer of the GRCM.
Frequently rotating exhibits like Bubbles, where kids can step inside the squeaky-clean shapes of their own creation, or the indoor observational honeybee hive, offer settings to let young minds wonder and curious hands create. Frequent programs like the $3 Family Night—March 5 brings the Wizarding World of GRCM’s Family Night—and the muddy, slimy, cloud doughy Imagination Laboratory offer more interactive fun, while low-sensory programming ensures that calming and cozy, yet tactile spaces are included. The museum’s rich, diversified programming and activities make it a unique destination on the downtown Grand Rapids scene, and one that is convenient for pedestrians and travelers.
“As a mother, I know it can be hard to traverse a city you are not familiar with. The GRCM is located extremely close to every hotel downtown and very safe to walk,” Lancaster said. “Once you arrive, families can spend hours inside our museum exploring our thoughtful exhibits, creating anything their imagination wants with Legos, Bubbles or Dominos; or learn what Clean Mud and the Scientific Method have in common during our programs.”
Spring Break travelers to the GRCM can learn what it’s like to be a First Responder at “To The Rescue;” an interactive, hands-on exhibit where kids can steer a firetruck, slide down an escape slide and more. The summer sun brings more fun, with the GRCM’s “Day of Play” event in July and “Learn From a Child Day” in June.
Admission for ages one- to 64-years-old is $9 and babies under one-year-old get in free. Active military and school faculty members receive $7 admission and Thursday family nights are just $3. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and from 12:00pm to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. After a full day at the museum, grab a snack at the Grand Central Market and Deli just down Monroe Center or a pick-me-up at Local Mocha across the street.
Spring Break Updates:
- Friday, April 3
Imagination Lab: Scented playdough
Program 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: Make an egg carton creature
- Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5
Program 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Stamp a picture
- Monday, April 6
Open 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Program 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, April 7
(Program TBD from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
Quiet/sensory room from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, April 8
Performances: Interactive, improv, percussion, and music by Dan Rickabus
- Thursday, April 9
(AM performer TBD)
Performance by Laura Armenta and Friends 6:00 p.m.
- Friday, April 10
Performances: Music, interactive, and silly songs by Randy Kaplan at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
- Saturday, April 11
- Sunday, April 12