“Kid”ding around at the new Glazer Children’s Museum
Not everything in the Sunshine State can be enjoyed outside. If you and the younger ones in your life want to enjoy a day of indoor exploration, visit the new Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa. The museum, which opened in September 2010 and took $21 million to build, includes 12 themed areas and 170 activities in a 53,000-square-foot area. The museum expects 200,000 annual visitors, according to its website. Its exhibits are aimed at children up to 10 years old.
If you’ve ever been to a children’s museum, then you already know that Glazer is not a traditional museum where nothing can be touched. To the contrary, you’re supposed to touch and play with almost everything there. Another nice twist is the Floridian spin the museum takes–many of the themed areas include settings that are in and around the Tampa area.
Let’s take a tour through the museum based on my recent visit there with my seven-year-old son.
Working with Water and Water Drops
After you pay admission ($15/adult, $9.50/child), hang a right toward the water-themed areas KidsPort, Tug Boat Tots for younger children, Water’s Journey, and Cruise Ship. You’ll find kids navigating boats in a simulated setup of Tampa Bay and leading balls through a simulated setup of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. You’ll also find on the wall of the first floor facts about the Port of Tampa–did you know that the Port of Tampa is the busiest port in Florida?
Nearby, young ones can “navigate” a cruise ship (they can even calculate fuel they’ll need for their trip) and play in sand-like material to dig for buried treasure on their own private island. When done there, kids can literally walk in water drops in the “Water’s Journey” area. As you’ll see in the picture above, there is a maze of “water drops” that kids can climb through. The area gives kids a sense of how a water drop travels through an eco-system, complete with pretend alligators, snakes, and other animals common in Florida. Of course, your child will probably just think it’s fun to climb up and down!
15 Minutes of Fame and Other Exploration Area
Once upstairs, you and your child can “be” on TV or a simulated version of YouTube in the Kids Network area. (When your child appears in front of a camera in the area, it is made to look as if a backdrop of a weather screen is appearing behind them, so they can pretend they are giving a weather report.) In the simulated version of YouTube, your child can record short clips of themselves acting like Internet stars and just being silly–if your child is like mine, they will do a funny dance and sing to ham it up.
The second floor has a number of other fun areas to explore. Is your child a budding pilot? They can make paper airplanes to “fly” over Tampa Bay and see how well their plane’s aerodynamics work. In Art Smart, young artists can paint with light, make a kaleidoscope, or dance to different types of music. In Design & Build, you can play with Legos, blocks, and electricity. My son particularly enjoyed a science-themed section of Design & Build, where air was used to make balls stay in the air. The Safety Village includes a firehouse (complete with a pole your kids can slide down), an Outback Cafe (sorry, no free Bloomin’ Onions), a hospital, a vet clinic, a bank; and a Publix Supermarket, complete with grocery cartons and cans that kids can fill their cart with and pay for at the cash register.
When all the fun has worn you out, visit the downstairs gift shop and Tiny Bites Menu, where featured food includes pizza, wraps, and kid-friendly sandwiches and drinks. Carlo had a pizza and I had a veggie wrap with a CapriSun.
Visitors to Glazer Children’s Museum may also be enticed to visit the adjacent Tampa Museum of Art and the adjacent new Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. The waterfront park, located on the Hillsborough River, includes an awesome playground (my son loved the museum and playground equally), fountains, and a dog park. One thing my son particularly enjoyed was a NEOS 360 ring, which, according to the Tampa government’s park description, combines video games and exercise. It is the first of its kind in the Southeast.
If you’re like us, you might decide to take a lunch break from the museum, visit the playground, and then decide to visit the museum again to explore certain areas.
The museum has programs throughout the year including a summer camp. It is expected to have an economic impact of $13 million and is one of about 350 children’s museums in the world. About half of those museums were built in the last 15 years, according to the Glazer Children’s Museum website.
Update, April 16: The Glazer Museums now offers Two Dollar Target Tuesdays, where everyone can visit the museum on the first Tuesday of the month for just two bucks between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Although the museum had offered a reduced admission on the first Tuesday of each month previously, they’ve now renamed the program and expanded the museum’s hours on that day to close at 7 p.m. The museum also now offers free admission to children and parents who otherwise could not afford the museum’s admission costs (the children and parents are referred by local community partners).
Two Dollar Target Tuesdays continues through March 2012 and is sponsored by Target. Two Dollar Target Tuesdays will coincide with a Fit Kids Playground event held from 4-7 p.m. at nearby Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Fit Kids Playground will include healthy snacks and activities.
Florida Culture has also recently learned that a children’s museum in St. Petersburg has had a grand reopening. Great Explorations Children’s Museum reopened this month and is famous for a pitch-black Touch Tunnel, where children feel their way in the dark to get out of the tunnel. Great Explorations costs $10 for ages 2 to 54 years and $9 for those age 55 and up. Children 2 and under are free.