Feed your child’s imagination at the Wilmington Children’s Museum along the North Carolina coast. An afternoon of discovery leads you through a science lab, environmental habitats and “kids’ only” art studio. The museum, located in the downtown historic district is designed for children between the ages of one and ten. Unlike contemporary museums created to appeal to those above four feet tall, the interactive exhibits are touchable and at just the right height for youthful guests.
The idea of creating a space for children to utilize all of their senses while on a quest for discovery was born in 1991 by a group of Wilmington parents. The Junior League of Wilmington partnered with the parent group and worked toward funding a children’s museum. Doors opened at the facility in 1997 with curious and excited youngster tugging their parents from exhibit to exhibit.
Due to the popularity of the museum with both tourists and residents, the staff was expanded at the 3,000 square foot facility. A desire for growth prompted a capital campaign in 2004. After acquiring the needed funds, the museum was relocated to the old John’s Museum of Art building. The children’s museum reopened at its’ new location in 2006, offering 17,000 square feet for childhood adventure. The added space allowed room for a “secret garden,” outdoor courtyard and a gift shop.
The Ahoy Wilmington! Display features a life-size boat play structure. The “canon” is fired at noon daily. Children walk the plank and run about the wooden structure while playing with the interactive problem solving, role playing and building components of the exhibit.
Explore all of the nooks and crevices in the Courtyard. This outdoor exploration area include a climbing wall, tunnels, “fossil” digging and a balance beam. When digging for “fossils” or buried “treasure” your child might find a sharks tooth, coral, plastic turtle poop, dolphin’s teeth or even a sting ray skeleton. Complimentary “fossil” bags are available at the front desk. Take a break on the spacious patio while the kids try their hand at building their own little world with giant Legos. Water table, complete with bubbles are also fun on a hot day. Eight separate learning stations promote helmet safety, playground manners, identifying “stranger danger,” pet care, car seat safety, plant care and safety around water. The School Bus Greenhouse can also be found in the Courtyard area. Special events, summer day camps, garden club meetings, exercise clinic and educational workshops are often held in the courtyard during warm weather months.
Young artists get inspired when they don a paint shirt and pick up a brush inside the Art Studio. Children can use all of the items displayed on the work tables to paint, weave, sculpt and draw.
The Port of Call display is an interactive play area consisting of scale shipping vessels, freighters and railroad trains.
A Grocery Store exhibit is a child-sized market with little grocery carts and a cash register. This role-playing area allows children to select “food” from the shelves, operate the conveyor belt and bag their groceries.
The International Diner located in the upstairs of the grocery store works in conjunctive play with the shipping market. Parents don’t have to worry about the stoves being hot and let the kids channel their inner chef abilities. A jukebox keeps the grown ups entertained while the little ones prepare “meals” and do all of the clean up.
Teddy Bear Hospital is also an interactive play area where children can become doctors, nurses and receptionists. Kid-sized laboratory coats and teddy bear check up lists bring imaginations to life as the bears are weighed, height checked and bandaged. There is even an “x-ray” machine and related toy medical equipment to enhance the feeling of realness for the youthful care givers.
Sing like a rock musician on the Star Maker Sound Stage. Children will feel like they are the toast of Hollywood while singing, acting and playing on the sound stage. A glow in the dark fun activity room is also a part of the interactive exhibit. Working television and movie sets let children watch their performance on a scree and arrange the stage props to their liking. Don’t forget to take your camera to preserve your child’s stage debut.
The Imagination Circus area boasts a colorful circus tent and interactive circus themed equipment and a dress-up area. Let your child be the ringmaster and direct her very own circus of puppets, ride a unicycle and play in a clown sized car. A host of hands-on play areas will keep you in this section of the Wilmington Children’s Museum for close to an hour.
Explore the world through a scientist’s perspective inside the Science Center. Children learn how to measure, balance objects on a scale, plant growth, conduct weather experiments and log scientific observations. Various science programs occur at the center year around, and is a popular place for a scout outing or school field trip.
A Toddler Gallery is designed for babies and toddlers to explore in a safe environment. Youngsters hone their sensory skills and learn about baby animals. A toddler obstacle course lets them run off excess energy while enjoying the colorful activities attached to soft play mats.
The Toothasaurus Dental Exhibit enlightens children about dental hygiene and tooth care in a fun filled environment. Children grab a lab coat and help the stuffed dinosaurs brush and floss their teeth. Parents can help teach their youngsters about the food pyramid with the wooden puzzles stored on the play stations in this play area.
Located inside the St. John’s Lodge building is an open area used for story time. The Traveler’s Stories exhibit shares stories of outdoor camping and cultural diversity through images and interactive props. Children step inside the forest or onto a floating riverboat without leaving the museum. The faux camping set-up includes tents, sleeping bags and camping equipment.
The Wilmington Children’s Museum offers themed birthday party packages. A fee and advance booking is required to host your child’s party or scout event at the museum. Packages include items such as a t-shirt for the birthday child, goody bags for guests, a party room with planned activities, invitations and museum admission.