A World of Exploration Opens at the KidsQuest Children's Museum
The spectacular two-story climbing structure calls to kids as they enter the relocated and expanded KidsQuest Children's Museum.
Photo: Ashley Breckel
When we heard that the Kidsquest Children's Museum had greatly expanded its offerings with a move from its original spot in the Factoria Mall to downtown Bellevue, we knew we had to check it out. The new space is twice the size with more than nine multi-sensory hands-on exhibits, and the location downtown makes it easy to make a day out of the trip—places to eat, playgrounds and the Bellevue Regional Library are all within walking distance. So, along with a few other Seattle mom friends, we packed up the diaper bags, a plethora of snacks, and a gaggle of kids ranging in age from one to four, and crossed the bridge to the Eastside.
We arrived a little after 10 a.m. and easily found free parking in the Ashwood parking lot. To get there turn off NE 112th into the Bellevue Regional Library parking lot (the library is right next door to KidsQuest). Go to the back of the library parking lot and drive into the Ashwood lot. There's also a small, free museum parking lot behind the museum.
Once we made it inside, the kids headed straight for the climbing structure. This two-story climber is perfect for working on those gross motor skills—not to mention Spiderman moves. Parents are welcome to climb around inside as well, and since some of the smaller ones were nervous about scrambling up the ropes to the top, up, we went too.
Pro tip: stash your bags and coats on the hooks and in the lockers behind the climbing structure before you start exploring the exhibits. It makes getting around the museum much easier, and you won't have to worry about losing anything in the chaos of moving from spot to spot.
Apple trees with magnetic fruit in the Tot Orchard.
After some climbing, we headed upstairs to the Tot Orchard. This comfy and contained area, designed for kids aged birth to three years, is a safe space for the younger ones to explore since bigger kids won't accidentally squash them. Most of the toddlers will want to fight for a chance to drive the tractor first, but the apple trees will quickly move to the top of the list of preferred activities. Magnetic apples, peaches, and cherries can be "picked" and added to baskets, or taken to the gourmet kitchen for some pretend pie-making. Nearby, a white picket fence has all the features of the best busy boards, with handles and locks to keep little hands and minds occupied, and a mini train table rounds out the activities here.
Bonus: there are plenty of places for parents to sit in the Tot Orchard, like the adorable knit apple poufs scattered around the room. Our favorite features, though, were the beehive bin for toys that had been "slimed" and needed sanitizing before being put back into circulation, and the Shh Station with low lighting and books for nursing moms or just a quiet moment to regroup.
Socks to accompany reading the book about socks in the Story Tree Gallery.
From the Tot Orchard, our little ones made their way to the Story Tree Gallery—easily the most adorable exhibit in the museum. Complete with a stage and costumes for acting out favorite stories, the Story Tree is full of nooks and books for reading. Head up the secret spiral staircase inside the tree to discover the loft of books upstairs, or explore behind the tree where interactive stations let you play along with the book. We spent a few minutes reading a book about socks and playing with the different kinds of socks there that matched the ones in the story.
Next stop—Bellevue Mercantile. The kids loved pretending to buy fruits and veggies at the old fashioned cash register and visiting the ice cream parlor. Scooping dried beans into scales to be weighed kept them occupied for at least fifteen minutes and then it was time to brush the sheep, collect the eggs from the chickens and the real highlight: use the air hose to "wash" off the cow. Make-believe is the name of the game in this exhibit.
By now, it was almost noon, and the museum was getting busier and louder, so we decided a trip to one of the classrooms was in order. The Art Studio was a nice calm spot where parents could sit and chat while the kids painted with watercolors and had a little quiet time.
The giant semi-truck cab in the On the Go Gallery.
Quiet time didn't last long, though. Soon, the kids were asking about the next exhibit, and we headed back downstairs to see what was happening in the On the Go Gallery. This exhibit was super fun—like being in your very own mini UPS warehouse. A giant blue big rig semi-truck cab dominates the room, and the kids were intent on holding onto their spot in the driver's seat for as long as possible. The rest of the gallery hums with the activity of conveyor belts moving boxes along the walls and crisscrossing overhead. Kids ran back and forth, filling rolling canvas bins with boxes, putting them on the conveyor belt and loading them into the truck—over and over again.
By the time the kids finally tired of driving and loading up the big rig, it was getting close to nap time for the little ones, so the decision was made to hit the Water Gallery before lunch.
With our "under-5" group, the Water Gallery was the favorite.
Despite the big success of every exhibit we'd explored so far, the Water Gallery was far and above the favorite of the day. We made sure to put each of the kids in one of the smocks provided for staying dry, but we'll be honest—it didn't matter. They were soaked by the time we left—wet but happy. They dumped water into troughs and down pipes, through funnels and tubes, into pools and over dams. They pumped it, they sprayed it, they poured it, they splashed in it. Even the smallest kids could reach the troughs and faucets in the Tot Splash Zone, and staff was on hand to help the older ones perform experiments with fountains and whirlpools.
After the excitement of the Water Gallery, even the moms were in need of naps. We ate our snacks on the soft seating around the climbing structure, feeding the kids bites between last-minute climbing sessions, and then it was time to make our way home. We were all exhausted but in the best way possible—worn out by a morning of exploring, learning and playing.
We'll be back again.
If You Go:
Where: 1116 108th Ave NE., Bellevue
When: Tues - Thurs 9 am - 5 pm, Fri 9 am - 8 pm, Sat 9 am - 5 pm, Sun - noon - 5 pm. (Museum member-only hours Thurs, 5 pm - 8 pm
Cost: $12 per person, under age 1 FREE. Museum memberships start at $95 annual fee for one adult and one child (unlimited admission, free parking, and other benefits)
For more information go to KidsQuest Children's Museum Plan Your Visit.
For a video preview of the museum go here.