By Liesl A. Merkel
The excessive rain in Atlanta this summer makes for a challenge when you’re trying to explore the outdoors. Fortunately, there’s hope for all of you frustrated people looking for some active entertainment.
We walk into The Children’s Museum of Atlanta to see “WEEBLES Coast to Coast.” It’s a fun and informative exhibition that has less to do with Weebles, who wobble but don’t fall down, and a whole lot to do with exploring the 50 United States of America. Have you planned a cross-country family trip, but just haven’t had a chance to make it real? Consider this condensed version in the meantime.
At the exhibit, there are 50 kiosks, one for each state, with an interactive component at each that represents an aspect for which that state is known. Most stops celebrate outdoor exploration, so it’s like a vacation under one dry roof. At the very least, the exhibition shows kids and adults a large assortment of fun things to do in our country, and it might start the ideas flowing for a trip.
The state of Mississippi kiosk features a riverboat that kids can actually sit in and power the wheels. Then it is off to the Grand Canyon in Arizona to ride a mule. We count down to midnight in Times Square in New York City, then make some music in Tennessee, using homemade instruments that include a washboard. We hop into a rowboat for some fishing action in Minnesota and toss the wheels on an Indy car in Indiana at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rocky Mountain skiing is next, in Colorado, then we head north for whitewater kayaking in Idaho. We start a geyser in Wyoming while learning about the most famous one, Old Faithful. Each exhibit promotes learning, and many encourage dexterity, coordination, and predicting and comparing outcomes.
The state of Georgia kiosk features peach picking, but somehow we miss that. I guess we are more focused on traveling outside of our area. The exhibition information also mentions that it is best for ages 4 through 10, but our 3 1/2 year old performs all of the tasks without a problem.
Even if you don’t get there before Sept. 8, when “WEEBLES Coast to Coast” closes, The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is made up of permanent sections that are worth many return visits.
The section called Fundamentally Food was here long before the farm-to-table craze, but it definitely teaches kids how food gets from the field to their dinner plate. A tractor and cow begin the exhibit, then a large grocery truck and rolling belt allows children to work together to move boxes and load the truck for delivery. Kids can then putter with a grocery cart to create a healthy meal from foods stacked in bins and ring it up at the cashier station. Lastly, a home kitchen and table permits kids to cook the food they bought at the store. We take time to enjoy a nice, plastic meal at a tiny, squat table that is clearly not made for adults.
The Tools for Solutions section is a huge favorite. A large area is devoted to lifts and cranks that send colored balls rolling through a maze of paths. Turn a corkscrew to get the balls to travel upward, where they wobble through that maze before dumping out into various locations, including an area where kids can use a crane to deposit them into a receptacle. It’s a little impossible to explain without seeing it, but anything with gears, colored plastic balls and a corkscrew has to be a hit, right? In this area, there also is a train table and a garden to poke around.
Children can tramp into Leaping into Learning, designed as a magical forest with a centerpiece trickling river filled with fish. Kids use fishing poles to catch creatures and then splash all they want in the water. Cool, colorful rain jackets are provided to minimize any mess gasps from the parents.
The section Let Your Creativity Flow includes an area where kids can paint on the walls. They also can smoosh moon sand into molds and make castles at several specially designed tables. A pipe sculpture area is great fun as well.
We always park in the World of Coca-Cola parking deck and walk through the promenade between the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola to get to The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. After our visit, we walk across the street to Centennial Olympic Park and find two playgrounds, plus some tasty electric blue Italian Ice that needs our attention.
The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is located in the walkable ring of attractions downtown, near the centerpiece, Centennial Olympic Park. You might be familiar with the Georgia Aquarium or the World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tour or even the new SkyView Ferris Wheel, but this children’s museum is a great, indoor place to take kids 8 years old and younger.
Click here to find more summertime activities in Atlanta.
Liesl A. Merkel is editor of Atlanta Now magazine and is the cultural educator of a 3 year old who has lots of questions. Her family also has two furry dogs who do not ask many questions. She does not care for rain.