Free Museum Day – Thanks, Smithsonian!

I’ve written before about how much I love the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. It is amazing that we have these resources available for FREE. And now we can thank them again, as they offer their “Museum Day Live!” program, which is a day that museums around the country are offering free admission. This year, it is on Saturday, September 27 and two local (SLC) museums are participating:

Once you register, you can download a voucher for 2 free admission tickets (which you can conveniently show on your smart phone — printing hard copies is so last decade). On the Smithsonian site is also a comprehensive list of other museums around the state that are participating, but I thought these two were the most relevant to a SLC and child-oriented audience.
For your consideration, here are the detailed comparisons between the two options:
  • Discovery Gateway
    • Open from 10am-8pm on Saturday, Sept. 27
    • Usual Admission price: $9.50 for anyone over age 2
  • The Leonardo
    • Open from 10am-5pm on Saturday, Sept. 27
    • Usual Admission prices: $9 for adults, $7 for children age 6-11, Free for children 5 and under
    • The Leonardo has special exhibitions that you can “upgrade” to see by paying an additional fee
We have been to both museums and I think they are both great. Being value-minded, I tend to consider which one is the most “bang for your buck” in terms of getting free admission. So it will of course depend on the size of your family and the ages of your children, plugging in the formula of how much it would cost you to pay on a regular admission day vs. this free museum day.
But I think it is a great opportunity to check out a place you may not have been before, or take advantage of a favorite and visit it again!
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A Curious Destination

Today we went to visit the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. To make it even more of an Adventure, we took the Frontrunner train from Salt Lake to Lehi to the museum.

I’ve mentioned the Frontrunner train on this blog before, when I mentioned taking it to the Treehouse Museum in Ogden. I have been a frequent traveler on many public transport systems while living in Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. but I have never encountered a more pleasant commuter train ride than the Frontrunner here in SLC. It is always exactly on time, pristinely clean, and never crowded. You can take it as north as Ogden and south as Provo. We’ve ridden the entire line and I’m so glad it is an option. Anyway, kids 6 and under are free, and adults can buy a group pass that pays for itself if you have 2 adults riding roundtrip.

When we arrived in Lehi, we had to walk about 1 mile from the train station to the museum itself. It was a scenic walk along a golf course for most of the way, with sidewalks available. Once you reach Thanksgiving Point itself, there is a stretch of road into the museum where there aren’t any sidewalks so we had to walk carefully along the side of the street. It is still paved, so a stroller would be doable, but I was surprised that they wouldn’t provide a sidewalk along the main thoroughfare into the children’s museum.

It’s in sight! We made it!

The museum only opened a few weeks ago, and even on a weekday morning, it was very crowded. Like wait-outside-in-a-line-just-to-get-in crowded. I’m used to doing that going into a concert or something like that but to have restless kids involved is not as much fun. We eventually made it inside and took a look around!

We hit up every area of the museum with the exception of the high ropes course, which was an additional fee. Everything was bright and new but nothing really jumped out at me as exceptional, or unique to the museum. In fact, one of our favorite parts was going into the Children’s Discovery Garden (which they thoughtfully planned to be connected to the museum). I tend to think the most impressive part of Thanksgiving Point is still the outdoor gardens.

Overall, it was an enjoyable day trip since we involved the fun of taking the train back and forth, but it probably won’t be a very frequent destination since it’s pretty far away for what it is and about double the price of the children’s museum we have close to home. But I’m always glad to see more infrastructure being built for children and families and I’m sure it is a welcome addition to the Utah county area.

Free Monthly Activities

Did you know that you could fill all of your Saturdays every month with FREE activities for kids? There are lots of ways to keep busy and have fun all without paying one penny!

Here are some ideas:

1st Saturday of the Month — “Books 2 Movies,” Park City Library

On the first Saturday of every month, the Park City Library (1255 Park Avenue, near Main Street) shows free screenings of kids movies that have been adapted from books. We went to see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (a Roald Dahl book) a couple months ago.

2nd Saturday of the Month — “Family Art Saturdays,” Utah Museum of Contemporary Art or UMOCA

The UMOCA downtown (previously known to me as the Salt Lake Art Center, where I used to volunteer in high school) has Family Art Saturdays on every 2nd Saturday of the month from 2-4pm. We went last month and did a stamping/sticker-making project and toured the exhibitions.

Theo placing a wish on Yoko Ono’s WISH TREE.
Placing stickers all over the museum, as part of Family Art Saturday.

3rd Saturday of the month — “Third Saturdays,” Utah Museum of Fine Art

I’ve written about the UMFA on here a couple times before but wanted to mention again that every 3rd Saturday of the month from 1-4pm they have free admission and kids crafts, that coincide with a current exhibition.

Ongoing Saturdays of the month

I’ve previously written on here about the¬†kids cooking classes¬†available at Williams-Sonoma, which run weekly on Saturday mornings.

Also check the Utah Film Center’s schedule for their year-round Tumbleweeds screenings around the state which are always free.

Sweet Treats

We could smell the (pumped in?) scent of chocolate from here.

The Natural History Museum of Utah is a favorite and we have been charter members since they first opened a few years ago. We were very excited to see a new exhibit at the museum, which will be here until June 1, 2014.

For a $1 fee, you can learn about the development of chocolate from cacao to candy bar.

The exhibition originated at the Field Museum in Chicago, which is the natural history museum I grew up going to, so I felt a sense of nostalgia sharing something with Theo from my own youth, as tenuous of a connection as it may seem. We learned all about how the chocolate we eat first comes from the cacao plant seeds and the history of cultivation and trade around the world. Chocolate was first served spicy before sugar was introduced and it became a sweet treat!

Theo and his friend pose in front of the giant chocolate box backdrop.

The exhibition does not have an extra charge on top of regular museum admission prices, but there is a special chocolate sampling presentation for $1 per person with timed entry. We thought it was worth it for the little taste of chocolate at the end after you have been thinking and smelling and craving chocolate throughout the exhibit.

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One of the co-sponsors of the exhibition is the Sweet Candy Company, which is a local company based here in Salt Lake City. They used to offer public tours of their factory but recently suspended them and are developing a new visitor’s center. We went on a tour in 2011 and had a great time, and look forward to learning about what they will be offering soon.

Theo, age 2, with his post-tour treat.
Moms and Toddlers ready for the tour with their mandatory hairnets.

Night at the Museum

One of my favorite childhood books ever is From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I’ve actually read it several times as an adult and it still holds the same magic for me. It just seems so charming to live among the treasures in a beautiful museum, no?

I never watched the Ben Stiller (he’s hit-or-miss for me) movies, Night at the Museum, but I imagine in real life, spending the night at a museum is nothing like either the book or the movies. Now we’ll get a chance to see!

The Utah Museum of Natural History — a local favorite of mine, and I was spoiled growing up in Chicago going to the world-famous Field Museum — is hosting a Family Sleepover event. All of the information can be found on their website here. I love the idea of being able to see a place after-hours and have fun in a different way than usual.

UMFA, F Yeah! Part 2

I have previously posted about my love for the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), but I just went again yesterday and found another secret gem: the gift shop!

Now, I know art museum gift shops are a “thing,” and I do love them, but I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse and child-oriented the store at the UMFA was. The products available were curated with such care and I found books and toys there that I had never seen before. I wanted to buy almost everything.

Love the Asian-American children’s books available.

I spoke to the store clerk and learned that the Store Supervisor, Carol Bigelow, recently started buying for the store and is the mother of four sons herself. Thus, the particular attention to children’s items. Of course, the other offerings there are lovely as well, but I now have another store to add to my list of go-to shops for kids (hmm, idea for another blog post percolating…).

And, if you are a member of the UMFA you get 10% off everything in the store. Check it out!