Day Trip: Madison Children’s Museum in Wisconsin

My family loves to visit children’s museums. I’ve tried to visit all the ones near me and we always seek one out when we’re on vacation. In Illinois alone, we’ve been to the one in Oak Lawn, Rockford, Naperville, Champaign, and Glenview. We hope to hit them all in the coming years too! This time, we decided to venture a couple of hours away from home to visit the Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, WI. It’s only a little over two hours from my house – and it’s totally worth the drive.

Madison Children's Museum

Let’s be honest – any kid would love a trip to a children’s museum. Some of the exhibits at the Madison Children’s Museum, though, make this one of our favorites. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Controlling the water.

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Climbing the Wildernest.

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And running across the Wildernest.

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Transporting the veggies at the Wildernest.

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Painting on the windows at the Art Studio.

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Rearranging the magnets on the refrigerator.

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Admiring the sculpture on the Rooftop Ramble.

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Climbing the hay bales on the Rooftop Ramble.

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Ahoy matey! Hoisting the pirate flag.

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Nice view of the Capitol Building from the Rooftop Ramble.

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And no children’s museum visit would be complete without a trip to the train table. Notice the building in the center?

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As you can see, there’s lots of fun to be had at the Madison Children’s Museum in Wisconsin. They are open Tues – Sun 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. plus the last Monday of each month. As of April 2014, admission for both adults & children is $7.95.

When’s the last time your kids enjoyed a children’s museum?

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Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids #VisitIndy

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Indianapolis with my family.  Considering I live in the Chicago area – and it’s only a 3-hour drive from the Windy City – I’m surprised that I’ve never ventured to Indy before.  Little did I know that Indy had so much to offer families visiting the area.  From parks and museums to festivals and fantastic food, Indy has it all!  I broke it down to my family’s Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids – do you have a favorite spot that I’m missing?

Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids

5. Indianapolis Firefighter’s Museum

Firefighters Museum_Indy

This small museum is sure to please any fire truck enthusiast in your household.  The upstairs is designed like a real, working fire house and you’re introduced to everything from the beds the firefighter’s sleep in, to the uniforms that they wear, and the equipment they use.  Located in the trendy Mass Ave. Arts District, there’s plenty to see if you take a stroll afterwards.  Have some froyo right across the street at YoguLatte.  Their coconut mocha latte is delish!

4. Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo is a must-see in Indy.  Their new International Orangutan Exhibit was completed this summer, and a new aerial cable ride (not yet open when we visited, but check the park for current availability) will allow guests to view the animals like never before.  We saw orangutans climbing the structure and they are mesmerizing to watch.  The zoo’s Dolphin Adventure Pavilion is gorgeous too and their interactive dolphin show is very entertaining.

3. Rhythm! Discovery Center

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My 3-year-old had a blast at the Rhythm! Discovery Center, and I’m not gonna lie – I totally did too!  We must’ve banged on every drum, shaken every tambourine, and played every xylophone in the place!  Probably our favorite parts of the museum were the sound-proof rooms that allowed you to play a real drum set and be as loud as you wanted to be – we felt like rock stars!  Handy Tip: Visit this museum late in the day.  We arrived about an hour and a half before closing and had the entire museum to ourselves.  I’m sure it’s very noisy (and migraine-inducing) at peak times.

2. Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum

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Visiting the Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum was, by far, the highlight of our trip – for me at least.  We also had two teenagers with us, and they would undoubtedly say the same.  The historic aspect drew me in, but there’s so much for kids to experience here too.  For one, their indoor Discovery Station is designed for younger kids and allows plenty of room for free-play, exploring, crafting and climbing.  The Civil War exhibit even has an outdoor splash pad (open Memorial Day through Labor Day) and an indoor play area with a large climbing structure.  All that is really fun for kids, but it’s the people at Conner Prairie that really make this visit worthwhile.  They never break character, and you really feel like you’re living in the 1800’s.  I cannot say enough good things about this place – get there if you can!

1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Childrens Museum of Indianapolis

What visit to Indy with kids would be complete without a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?  The almost 500,000-sf facility is the largest children’s museum in the world and is visited by more than 1.2 million people each year.  We love visiting children’s museums and I can honestly say that we experienced things here that we haven’t at any other children’s museum we’ve seen.  Where else can you let your imagination run wild and run a Chinese restaurant , slide down a long Great Wall of China slide, be transported to the land of dinosaurs, or create a colorful sculpture – all in one place?  Only at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

HOTEL BONUS: Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel

Marriott North Indianapolis_Room

Image courtesy of Marriott

Staying at the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel was a no-brainer for us.  With two teenagers in tow – that had NO interest in visiting some attractions with my preschooler – it was important to me to be located near a place that they would find interest in.  Thank goodness for Keystone at the Crossing, a shopping mall located within walking distance of the hotel!  The hotel itself was great too – friendly staff, clean rooms, and a nice swimming pool are all things I look for that will be sure to please my family, and the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel did not disappoint.  Be aware, however, that this hotel is located about 25 minutes from the downtown area so plan your excursions accordingly.

GOOD EATS BONUS: Great Restaurants in Indy

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I honestly didn’t think I’d be overly-pleased with the food in Indy, but I’m so glad to say that I was wrong.  Breakfast at Café Patachou was one of the highlights of my dining experience with their fresh and healthy food (and fabulous coffee too!), dining outside at Iara’s Italian Restaurant with my whole family was fun – and their portion sizes were huge – we definitely did not leave hungry, Shapiro’s Delicatessen was a delicious surprise, and Arni’s Restaurant probably had the best pizza I’ve ever had – and I’m from Chicago so that’s saying a lot!  You won’t be disappointed with all the restaurant options in Indy!

As you can tell, we had a fabulous weekend in Indy – and I am confident that we will be back.  It would be impossible for me to list all the fun things to do with kids in Indy, and I feel like we just hit the tip of the iceberg on our weekend stay.  I wish we had planned on a weeklong visit – there’s still so much to see.

What about you – have you ever visited Indy?

For more information on the Indianapolis area, connect with Visit Indy!

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Disclosure: My family was invited to visit Indianapolis by the Indianapolis CVB, Visit Indy, and were provided with complimentary admission to many attractions and a hotel stay.  I was not compensated for this post.  I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Kids will Love the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum! #ExperienceGR

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, and just a short walk from other attractions in the area. I knew my toddler would love the activities there, but had no idea that my teen would have a good time there too! (I was just as shocked as you probably are by reading that.)

GR Childrens Museum_Exterior

My family visited the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and the museum opened at noon. Admission is $8.00 for ages 1-64 and $7.00 for ages 65 and up. Children under 1 are free. There was a bit of construction going on at the intersection where the museum was located when we visited, but I noticed a few open parking spots right out front. Upon entering, there is a fairly large closet area where we were able to park our stroller. They do not sell food items here and I didn’t see an eating/snack area either. You could, however, rent a room for a birthday party.

Our first impression of the museum was that it was MUCH larger inside than we thought it would be. The two-story museum features some permanent exhibits, along with some rotating ones to change it up a bit. Some of my toddler’s favorites were the Construction Zone area where he built a foam “brick wall”, the bubbles exhibit (because, what kid doesn’t love playing with bubbles?!?!), the train table (always a favorite), the alphabet carpet squares, and hanging apples on the apple tree.

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GR Childrens Museum Trees

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Surprisingly, some favorites for my teenage daughter were the Mom & Pop Store (she relived the times when I used to take her to children’s museums), the Wee Bank (where I determined that she should NEVER work for a bank because I asked to withdraw $1,000 and she proceeded to give me the money WITHOUT asking for identification… LOL), and the Play Day Café where she was the waitress and I was her customer. I thought she would be bored to tears here while her brother played, but she surprised me by making the most of it.

GR Childrens Museum_Car

GR Childrens Museum_Store

One aspect of the museum that I couldn’t take my eyes off of was the bee exhibit with REAL, LIVE BEES! I was fascinated because I have never seen so many live bees before. My whole family tried to locate the queen, with no luck. The elusive queen was nowhere to be found. We all thought that it was really cool to see a bee colony in action – though we were thankful that they were all behind the glass!

GR Childrens Museum_Bees

Overall, we enjoyed our time at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum immensely. If you’re visiting the Grand Rapids area with kids, I’d put this attraction at the top of your list. Kids of all ages will find something to do and, chances are, will learn something new too.

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum to facilitate this review, and I was not asked to provide a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

The inside scoop on everyday travel with kids.

This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

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Let the Kids Explore at the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, Illinois

Ever since my son was born – or, more accurately, ever since he could walk – I have been obsessed with Children’s Museums.  I think I’ve made it my personal mission to visit as many as I possibly could.  I have no doubt that we’ll get through every single one in Illinois, and I’m definitely aiming for a few neighboring states too.  Recently I got to check the box on another one on my list by visiting the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.

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I’m not exactly sure what I expected when we entered the museum.  Would it be small?  Worth the drive there?  Too crowded?  I had no idea.  I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by this museum.  I mean, the quote on the wall said it all for me.  We were excited to start learning and playing!

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“We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

The first level of this museum – oh, did I forget to mention the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn is multileveled?  Yes.  Two huge floors for hours worth of playtime and imagination!  Anyhow, back to the first level.  The first few exhibits you’ll come across teach children about basic concepts like motion, gravity, momentum…and the big red slide beckoning kids in the center of the room was a real treat.

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Also on the first floor was the sand table, water table, and other fun exhibits – including a police car to explore.

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But the second my son noticed the alphabet on the stairs leading up to the second floor, it was off to explore the second level.

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The second level is a large, open area with lots and lots of exhibits.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but my son especially enjoyed the train table (predictably), the supermarket, and building with blocks.

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I especially got a kick out of watching him play at the café.  He loves to bake with me in the kitchen, so it was no surprise to watch him hold a whisk for at least 20 minutes while he played in this area.

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It’s a giant Operation game!

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The dress-up area and stage was so big!

I loved how the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn had a little craft area set-up with all the craft supplies to decorate a kite and the chalkboard displaying the letter of the day and some cute drawings of things that start with that letter.  The creative juices were definitely flowing in that room!

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Know Before You Go:  There’s no cafeteria inside the museum to eat inside, but there are plenty of nearby restaurants to satisfy your palette.  Admission (as of March 2014) is $7.00 for both kids and adults and the museum is open 9:30am to 5:00pm (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday), 9:30am to 8:00pm (Friday), 10:00am to 5:00pm (Sunday).

What’s the last children’s museum you visited?

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BOGO at Discovery Center Museum in Rockford!

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We love this children’s museum in Rockford, IL!  They have everything you’d expect at a children’s museum – without the crowds of a big city museum.  In fact, we visited last winter to check out everything the museum has to offer, then made a return visit for the Treasure Exhibit.  We have so much fun and can’t wait to go back!

The amazing Discovery Center Museum is full of over 250 exciting hands-on exhibits spread over a two-floor area.  Out in the museum’s backyard, visitors can explore Rock River Discovery Park, a giant, multi-level science park with a hands-on twist!  The museum also hosts traveling exhibits, special events and programs throughout the year.

My readers can take advantage of this special offer to the museum: Buy One General Admission and Get One Free.  Not valid with other offers. Offer valid up to 3 free admissions.

To learn more about the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, you can like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

Have fun!

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FREE Admission to Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL

Discovery Center Logo

What is treasure?  How do people hunt for treasure?  What do YOU treasure?

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The science, technology, history, and thrill of treasure hunting are explored in the fantastic traveling exhibition Treasure! The Hunt Has Just Begun.  This joint project of Burpee Museum of Natural History and Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL features 5,000 square feet of artifacts, hands-on activities, videos, biographies, and tales from around the world.

The traveling exhibition opens May 25 and runs through September 2.

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Delve into the technology employed by treasure hunters and focus on the people and personalities lured by the promise of prosperity.  Be enticed by shipwreck and treasure site artifacts, and learn to use the tools you’d need to find a fortune.  Dig for treasure and pan for gold.  Operate a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) in a tank of water.  Use a metal detector.  Use maps, compasses and clues to locate treasure.  Learn how to geocache.  You can even try your hand at cracking a safe!

Treasure! can be uncovered in the Woodward Exhibit Hall. Admission: $2 for Members; $4 for Public + general Museum admission of $8/person. Parking is free.

Make sure to check out Discovery Center Museum on Facebook!

My readers can get FREE admission to Discovery Center Museum with one paid general admission!

Chicagoland Spots: Discovery Center Museum

Venue: Discovery Center Museum

Website: http://www.discoverycentermuseum.org/

Location: 711 North Main Street, Rockford, IL  Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes from Chicago – off of 1-90 in Rockford.

Hours: Open daily from 10:00am – 5:00pm

Admission: $8.00 per person, kids under the age of 2 are free

Parking: Free – plentiful

Discovery Center Museum Rockford

My Experience:  Last week, I told you about my visit to the Rockford Art Museum, and how I was just itching to get back to take my son to the Discovery Center Museum, located in the same building.  I had no idea that Rockford had a Children’s Museum and, although this was a bit of a drive for me, I couldn’t be happier that we decided to go.  I knew that my son would likely enjoy spending some time there, but there would have been no way for me to guess just how much he would love it.  There are just so many reasons why I loved about this museum, but, in order to keep this post at a reasonable length, I’ll take you through my top 5.

Fewer Crowds

Discovery Center Rockford Space

I can remember taking my daughter to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier when she was younger and literally have to wait around for an exhibit to open up so she could play.  I’m a working mom so most of my family outings are on the weekends – of course when most kid’s venues are jam packed.  We visited the Discovery Center Museum on a Saturday afternoon, and I was shocked to see that, while yes, there were a lot of people there, I wasn’t bumping elbows with anyone while following my kid around.  The place was uncongested enough that I felt comfortable letting my son roam around, while my husband and I simply followed him wherever he wanted to go.  A big plus for this place!

Plentiful Space

The Discovery Center Museum has exhibits that would interest children of all ages with subjects ranging from math & science, to agriculture and weather, this museum has age-appropriate lessons for all kids that encourage learning through play.

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You’d never know from the outside, but the Discovery Center Museum is a huge space spanning 2 levels.

Tot Space

One of our favorite places in the Museum was the Tot Spot, a learn & play space specifically designed for kids under the age of 6.  Here we made pizzas, played in the water zone, learned how to work on a car, played with the train table, and so much more.  We spent a majority of our time here (as you can see from the photos below) – he still asks every day if we can go back to the “zee-um”.

Discovery Center Museum Tot Spot

Outdoor Rock River Discovery Park

This part of the museum looks really cool, but we visited on a cold day in January so, of course, it wasn’t open.  The Rock River Discovery Park is a hands-on, outdoor science center where kids can learn about different subjects like dinosaurs, sound, and just run around and play!  We can’t wait to come back when the weather’s nicer!

Discovery Park Rockford

Hands-On Exhibits

Once again, this entire space is hands-on and the kids really love it.  There are so many things to do and explore here – we are so glad to took the trip and will definitely be back again soon.  We are seriously considering a membership because, at only $80 for the year, it would pay for itself in a little more than 3 visits for us – and I know we’ll be back more than 3 times in the next year.

I’ll leave you with a few more photos of our experience.  If ever you’re in the area, please stop by the Discovery Center Museum and let me know how you liked it! Smile

Discovery Center Museum Exhibits

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