At The Children's Museum of Wilmington, kids have so much fun they won't even know they're learning. In each and every hands on educational exhibit, children take a central role, scanning purchases in the grocery store, giving teddy bears their yearly checkups, and experimenting with art-making media in the studio. Children are allowed to roam freely, as they direct their own learning experiences. Here's what you need to know before you go.
Size: 17,000 square feet
Eye Catcher: Ahoy Wilmington! features a pirate ship, where kids can fire the cannon, swab the deck, and dig for treasure
Permanent Mainstay: the Toothasaurus Dental Exhibit keeps kids up-to-date on dental health as they care for a dinosaur's enormous teeth
Don't Miss: the Grocery Store, where tots can role-play as customers or staff, even filling orders for the play diner upstairs
Hidden Gem: at the Forest Friends Toddler Treehouse, kids four and under don animal costumes, carom down slides, and put together puzzles
Pro Tip: the museum hosts birthday parties that include an educational activity and free admission for all guests
Special Programs: in addition to the hands-on exhibits, the museum hosts activities such as preschool science experiments and cooking classes for kids
It's natural for kids to engage in creative play, becoming architects, veterinarians, swashbuckling pirates, or tenured professors inside their own imaginations. The Children's Museum of South Carolina just helps them learn while they do it. Perhaps that's why the museum?like the scores of children who visit it?has continued to grow since first opening in 1994. In two decades, the museum as expanded from a small shopping-mall space to a 7,500-square-foot facility packed with interactive exhibits.
In the Sea Turtles Dig the Dark exhibit, kids crawl through a sandy tunnel to see a nest of loggerhead turtle eggs and learn about endangered-species conservation. Meanwhile, the Hurricane Simulator recreates a massive storm's 78-mile-per-hour winds, and the USS Kids-A-Float exhibit explores the parts of a boat and how South Carolina's pirates might have weighed their treasure. The museum also hosts events that range from storytelling to weekly hands-on workshops. Though most of this learning happens on-site, CMSC representatives travel to local schools to lead five-week science camps.
Oceanic experts at North Carolina Maritime Museum share exhibits, artifacts, and artwork documenting the history and ecology of the sea near Beaufort. Your Groupon helps support the Museum Friends Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit working to recover and display the infamous pirate Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. The group aims to bring the remaining half of the shipwreck into the sunlight, preserve all the historical booty they discover, and salute the accomplishment with proud hook hands. A membership treats fans of the briny to a one-year subscription to the museum's e-newsletter, as well as invitations to members-only previews, including the Blackbeard unveiling in June, a 10% discount at the museum store, advance notice of special events, and more. Other salty exhibits include The Coastal History and Heritage display, boasting artifacts on pirates, shipwrecks, boatbuilding, the seafood industry, marine science, and the tidal properties of large grilled-cheese sandwiches.
The faculty of local artists at Wine and Design helps students create works of art in a social, supportive setting with lessons designed for people with no artistic experience. After uncorking bottles of wine and kegs of paint, budding artists spend two hours imitating pros stroke for stroke as they transform canvases into paintings of colorful landscapes and vibrant still lifes. Guests of any experience level are welcome and Wine and Design provides all necessary materials, including paint, brushes, and corkscrews.
Fascinate-U Children's Museum touts pint-sized, play-based educational programs and exhibits that encourage imagination and hands-on learning for children of all ages. Kids can touch and explore the engaging exhibits and partake in imaginative scenarios, all within the museums' miniaturized town setting. Oversee children role-playing real-life situations, such as working at the local fire station, playing the lead role in a tiny version of Titus Andronicus at the theater, or selecting nutritious foodstuffs at the kid-size town grocer. Birthday parties allow unlimited access to the museum floor for up to 20 kids, allowing them to get something other than a cake stomachache out of a party ($70 for members). Peruse the gift shop to continue the cranium cultivating at home, and enjoy a members-only 10% discount.