When we moved to Ann Arbor with 3 young boys, about the only place people were adamant that we visit was the Hands On Museum. We have been there so many times, we basically have it down. It is a nice sized museum...smaller than some we have visited but bigger than others, with lots of interesting things for the kids to do and explore (best for ages 1 year to 9 years but older kids will find things to enjoy and interest them too).
Go at off-peak times. The museum is extremely busy in the morning with school groups and little ones who need an afternoon nap later in the day. If possible, try going between 1-5pm. Even during school holidays and during the summer, the museum is pretty open with just a sprinkling of kids at each interesting exhibit. If you have to go when it opens, it's fine too...maybe you will meet a new friend.
Blocks Rule. As you walk up the first set of stairs you will find foam blocks that are great for building houses, igloos...everything! We will often start with these and never leave or finish with them and play until we are ready to go home (best for all ages).
Go up, get older. The levels of the museum seem to loosely correspond to the maturity of the exhibits. This is not to say that a 4 year old would not love some of the cool stuff on the top floor, but don't rush to get up there with little ones, you will probably only stay a few minutes. They will be much more interested in the fun things on the first and second floors.
Check the calendar. There are often really great magic shows, science experiments or theme days at the museum. If there are experiments, they are all very hands on and the kids usually get to bring them home. Things like this often happen on holidays or during "member nights." These are free with your paid admission or membership. Again, try and attend these programs after 1 pm (best for ages 4 and up).
Preschool Power. One of the best things about the museum is its preschool room. It is fantastic with a rotating display, a play house, slides, water play, blocks, legos...really a toddler's dream. The downside if you have older kids is they are STICKLERS about the age requirement. However, if you have both older and younger kids, you can get a "sibling helper" badge, you just have to talk to one of the employees in the preschool room. They also need to understand that the room is for little ones, so no play that would disrupt the littles fun. I would suggest going one day with your toddler only. Well worth it. The other downside is that the room is very crowded in the morning. if you have a chance to go there in the afternoon, you might have the whole place to yourself (best for ages 8 months-4 years).
If you go.
Hours: M,W,F, Sa 10am-5pm T: 9am-5pm Th: 10am-8pm
Admission: $10 for everyone over 2 (including adults) Kids under 2 are free. $5 admission after 5pm on Thursday night.
Membership: $75 per family per year. This is an excellent deal as it includes grandparents too! We love our membership and have used it over and over again. It also gives you discounts or entry to other museums around the country.
Parking: This is my worst thing about the museum. You have to park on the streets of downtown Ann Arbor. Sometimes you get lucky and find a close spot, more often I park in a lot 2 blocks away. Bring QUARTERS!!
Food: You can bring your own food to the museum and eat it in designated areas only.
Birthday Parties: While we have not had a birthday party here, I have heard they are wonderful.
Labels: Ann Arbor, Birthday Parties, Culture, Indoor Fun, Michigan