By Guest Blogger Allyson McCauley
Winston-Salem has a wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, so deciding where to spend a vacation day can be a happy challenge. But the recent merger of two long-standing institutions – the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and SciWorks Science Center – provides an option that will afford your family a full day of fun without breaking the bank.
When the museums merged into one organization, they kept both locations open, but adopted a single new name: Kaleideum, a combination of the words kaleidoscope and museum. They also established a new unifying mission: “Inspiring wonder, curiosity, and lifelong learning in our children and community through interactive play and discovery.” And both facilities offer seemingly endless opportunities for young people – and adults – to do just that… play and discover!
You can begin your day at either location. Just be sure to hang onto your receipt because you can then present it at the other location for free admission… as long as you go on the same day. Kaleideum Downtown is easily accessed from Business 40. The museum is geared towards younger audiences, but tweens and even teens can also find things to explore and enjoy here, especially in whatever current special exhibition is featured.
The museum’s most popular permanent exhibits include several structures that visitors are invited to climb: the colorful, crocheted outdoor Kaleidoscape, the famous giant Beanstalk Climber (which links the first and second floors), and the Lucky Climber in the lobby. My 9-year-old makes a beeline for the Lucky Climber each time we enter, and I’m convinced that she would, if I let her, spend hours crawling and lounging in the wavy, multi-tiered exhibit.
Once I convince her to move along, however, she’s always excited to visit The Prop Shop, a 1,000 square-foot “maker space” where visitors can create, invent, and tinker using real tools and an abundance of materials – from buttons and beads to fabric, wood, cardboard, and much more. All it takes is a little imagination and experimentation and your child will have a unique creation to take home as a souvenir. There is also a toddler area with a small slide, so the young ones can play while the older kids create.
Other fun and educational exhibits include Hoopla!, where kids can help design hula hoop sculptures, the Amazing Library, which invites visitors to relax and read one of the many books, and the Enchanted Forest, a so-called “forest village of folklore, fantasy, and fairy tales.” In the Food Lion Supermarket exhibit, children can shop for fresh (felt) fruits and veggies, try out the (non-heating) ovens, and practice counting at the cash registers. This space includes a seating area, so it’s a great place to rest your feet while the kids play. Similarly, the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Factory offers seating, as well as a padded “Baby Doughnut” where little ones can play while older siblings send plastic doughnuts through the conveyor belt system, collect the doughnuts in boxes, and take them to the delivery truck.
If your family isn’t too tired, grab lunch and make the ten-minute drive to the sister campus, Kaleideum North, accessible via US 52 or by taking University Parkway from downtown. This expansive museum sits on 31 acres and offers experiences in the physical and natural sciences in its eight indoor science halls, a 119-seat Planetarium, and an outdoor Environmental Park. (Don’t forget that receipt for your free admission!)
Exhibits are divided into theme areas: physics, health, sound, Mountains to Sea (about North Carolina environments), and the ever-popular live animal displays. Most exhibits are hands-on and interactive, allowing participants to learn as they play, which is always a plus! KidsWorks is an exhibit space specifically for ages 5 and under. It’s adjacent to a visitor favorite, the racetrack, where visitors learn about energy transfer as they race on sit-down “turtle racers.” The Planetarium offers shows about space, as well as laser shows and nature programs. (A bonus is that there’s no additional fee for the Planetarium.) The Environmental Park includes a barnyard with farm animals and natural habitats for deer, raccoon, and (our family’s favorite) a river otter.
For specific information about hours, pricing, special exhibitions, and daily activities at both locations, visit www.kaleideum.org.
View our list of other TMoM Day Trip Ideas here!
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