As the last days of summer wound down, I decided we needed another family outing. I’m the great-aunt and aunt to some intrepid youngsters, and probably the greatest adventurer in the group. One Tuesday morning, we struck out for Raleigh, North Carolina on one of our family field trips.
First Stop: Raleigh’s Capitol Building and Park
I had originally planned to pull over, let the kids hop out and take a few photos with them in the park surrounding the Capitol Building. Traffic was heavy and we saw no easy parking space to pull into, so I made an instantaneous decision to follow the Kids Museum signs that were posted thereabouts.
Marbles Kids Museum–The Reaction from Our Three Kids
When I announced to the family-filled van I was driving that we were headed to the Kids Museum, an instant, “Are we going to Marbles?” filled the air. I had heard of Marbles, and I associated it with the Discovery Place in Charlotte; yet, I had never been and didn’t really know what it was. It just sounded fun. I replied, “It might be. Help me find it.”
There was no mistaking Marbles. Think Madonna, wearing one rocket-cupped, see-through glass sculpted bra. Of course, I didn’t speak what I was thinking–this time. A huge glass projection jutted out from a brick building, large enough for several people to stand in, and every bit as pointed as Madonna’s undergarments. This was a kid’s museum? Judgment withheld.
Marbles Museum Parking: Where to Leave the Car
Marbles is located just two blocks southeast of the Capitol Building, on the corner of Hargett Street and Blount Street. Lots of on-street, parallel parking was available, each with a parking meter. The problem was that I drive an extra long van, and I had five back-seat drivers with me, all extremely vocal about where and how to park. I kept driving. The museum has a parking lot, but that was full. Lots of handicapped parking spaces were empty, but we didn’t qualify, so I drove around the block again. A tall parking garage was located right across the street from the museum, but I spotted a space and was able to pull in. A quick swipe of my credit card at the parking space pay station meant we had two hours in the museum.
Marbles Museum: Admission Price
I was secretly hoping this museum would be free, but I should have known. Admission was $5.00 per person, cheaper than taking them shopping. We could do two hours spending only $25.00. That sounded like a deal. Once inside, we looked for maps and brochures to tell us what to do, but instructions proved totally unnecessary. Our kids had been there before.
Both of their dads had helped build the museum when it was being constructed, I found out later. My brother told me all about making some of the hanging exhibits while my nephew talked of drink cans put together to make walls, or something similar. I just know it must have cost a lot of money to create all those spaces and to park it in downtown Raleigh.
Kids Museum: What Lies Around the Corner
As soon as we walked through the entrance, the kids dived into activities. They joined little kids, big and little, at every turn. Kids were climbing walls, playing with hula hoops and sitting at tables playing checkers on the checkerboard-painted tabletops. Area after area featured bright colors and cool things: a ship where kids could climb to the top and lean out like Leonardo and Kate aboard the Titanic; a laboratory where kids could perform realistic experiments; at least a big bus that kids could climb into and pretend they were driving and at least a dozen of minor exhibits we must have passed while heading onto bigger and better stuff.
Second Floor at Marbles Kids Museum–Where Things Get to Moving
A huge globe that really spins awaited us as we began working our way counterclockwise around second-floor exhibits. Stationary bicycles decked out with CD-looking disks that functioned as noisemakers were especially cool. Surfboards attached to springs against painted walls of ocean waves were filled with little surfers. Our kids, too, waited for their ride on the beach. A mini hockey rink reminded me of a small air hockey table, blown up to a size large enough for kids to become the players. Little kitchens where kids could organize meats, vegetables, fruits, grains and other food groups into healthy meals and wash up the dishes afterward.
Marbles Is One Giant Playhouse for Kids
Teachers gave mini art lessons while huge tubes of paint hung from the ceiling, each one oozing out its suspended fabric color to form rainbows of color above little heads. Mixing charts showing how primary colors turned into secondary and tertiary colors adorned expanses of wall. Rope clotheslines held art works of little hands while drying racks continued to fill with up-and-coming masterpieces.
Around the next corner, kids worked in construction–sawing boards with real saws, measuring, cutting, hammering and putting things together with wood glue. Mini lessons in conservation, recycling and creativity were apparent everywhere. What a joy it must be to teach in a place like this.
Marbles, Magnets and Gravity–A Favorite Wall That Kept Us Entertained for Half an Hour
We played with plastic, magnetized cups and troughs that used magnets, gravity and our imaginations to send marbles rolling, bouncing and skipping–mousetrap style–from top to bottom. What fun it was to see who could develop the most intricate vertical maze that actually worked. Gears, levers and pulleys turned into life-sized toys where budding engineers could feel their magical powers at work.
Marbles and Its Moneypalooza Space–A Colorful World Where Kids Can Play, Earn, Spend and Save
Our favorite room had to be a large area where kids ran lemonade stands, took orders for pizza; poured, stirred, assembled, baked and delivered. All the while, they collected money and rang up sales into a cash register, earning currency they could eventually save in a gigantic pink piggy bank that hung high overhead. Stacks of coins that lit up lined floors while stacks of dollar bills formed benches where older folks could rest and watch the savings pile up, mesmerized by the genius of it all.
Seeing All of Marbles Kids Museum Takes More Than Two Hours
We couldn’t see and do it all. There was so much to see. We made a quick trip through the Splash! room where water in motion taught kids about water and bubbles and sea life.
We missed all of the special programs that others had signed up for. We also missed going into the next door IMAX Theatre, which will certainly be a future field trip destination for us.
I go by a motto a close friend taught me long ago on a trip to Europe, “Always leave a place before you get tired of it. Always leave it wanting to come back.”
She is right. I want to go back to Marbles. . . Soon.
Marbles Kids Museum
201 East Hargett Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601