Bellevue’s favorite interactive children’s museum is getting ready to open its brand spankin’ new doors on January 31, and it’s something to celebrate. Along with a new location that offers nearly twice the space, the new digs come with new cutting edge galleries and multi-sensory exhibits, a newly re-imagined water gallery, additional classrooms for parties and camps and a new outdoor feature. If you’re ready to discover, learn and play at the new KidsQuest Children’s Museum, read on for the inside scoop.

kidsquest_cityscape

A New Location
Originally located in Factoria Mall, the new KidsQuest Children’s Museum now resides in the old Rosalie Whyel Doll Museum located on 108th Ave. next to the Bellevue Library. Aimed at little museumgoers ages birth to 10—and their caregivers—the multi-story museum offers nearly twice the area of its previous space which is a welcome sight to parents and kids alike. Each nook and cranny of the newly designed museum also offers an unexpected delight, yet still creatively integrates learning through play with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) in each exhibit and educational program.

New Galleries to Explore
Along with plenty of new space to explore, comes several new hands-on exhibits that your kids are going to love. The On the Go Gallery, with its ever-popular (shiny and new!) big rig semi-truck cab, includes a hands-on working conveyor belt. Curious kids who have always wondered how your Amazon packages get to the big rigs for shipping, will enjoy spending time in this exhibit.

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If you’ve got wee ones or younger sibs in your crew, the Tot Orchard is probably going to be your new hangout. This special area, designed for children ages birth to 3, is perfect for exploring, playing and even taking a much-needed break. The Tot Orchard also boasts a quiet nursing area which is a welcome feature for mamas.

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Got a book lover in your crew? Little bookworms will love spending time in the new Story Tree Gallery which includes a stage and reading nooks. However, if history is more your tot’s beat, head over to the new Bellevue Mercantile exhibit. This awesome new space is modeled after Bellevue (100 years ago!) and includes an ice cream parlor, cow wash (yep, we said wash) and Lady Baba, the sheep. Here, kids will find plenty of opportunities for dramatic play and parents will find fascinating tidbits about Bellevue’s history.

kidsquest_cow
The new Cityscape Gallery is the perfect spot for kids who love trains. This whimsical space includes an over-sized train table representative of the greater Seattle and Eastside area, complete with its own mini KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Space Needle and floating bridge. Can you spot the Pike Place Market?

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For kids who need to work their bodies, the Museum’s new two-story climber is the perfect place to work on gross motor exploration. Designed with the Museum’s “safe risk” mantra, this climber will keep kids entertained, yet safe from injuries. For kids who want get the stir-crazies out or who need a little fresh air, the new Sticks + Stones Outdoor Gallery is a great step up from its previous indoor mall location. The fully enclosed space provides access to the outside world and plenty of hands-on activities to keep active tykes busy.

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Little water bugs will be happy to know that the new location also includes a newly re-imagined water gallery, with a toddler specific Tot Splash Zone. Three cheers for indoor water play on a cold, rainy day!

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Additional Features Parents Will Love
The folks who designed the new KidsQuest Children’s Museum took into consideration many adult-loving details. At the new space, you will find a dedicated snack area (the prior location did not allow food – which didn’t fly well with little tummies), a more open floor plan which allows parents to keep an eye on curious munchkins and the incorporation of the historic dolls from the original doll museum. Add in the dedicated nursing/quiet station that is nicely tucked inside the Tot Orchard and three classrooms for additional programs including an art studio with a kiln, and this museum hits a home run.

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Admission, Extended Hours & Parking
If you’re wondering how much the new museum is going to set you back, you’ll be happy to know that the daily pricing only increased slightly. Admission for adults and kids over age one is now $12 and like the previous museum, tots under one are always free. $1 discounts are still available for seniors over 60 and military and the annual membership for one adult and one child is $95/year, with $30 for each additional child or adult.

Museum hours have also increased at the new location. KidsQuest will open an hour early – at 9 a.m. most days. Note: $1 off Thursdays are no longer being offered, but KidsQuest is providing scholarships for families in need. Check their website for more information.

Parking is available directly south of the museum and is free, but space is very limited. Additional parking can be found at Ashwood Park directly east of the Museum. Two-hour street parking is also available.

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Camps and Classes and Programs. Oh My!
Additional camps and programs will be available in this larger space, including a Teddy Bear Clinic, egg hunts and popular spring events as well as Super Science Night. Parent-And-Me music and movement classes along with summer camps are also on the docket. Keep an eye on the Museum’s website for updated information.

The new KidsQuest building is LEED certified, with salvaged wood in the classrooms, solar panels and donated countertops made from recycled paper. KidsQuest is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that relies on the care and support of the community, and over $10 million has been raised to fund this project. KidsQuest originally opened in Factoria in 2005, and saw over 180,000 visitors annually. With the new building and new exhibits, the Museum predicts more than 240,000 will visit within the next year. And you and the Littles should definitely be one of them!

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KidsQuest Children’s Museum
1116 108th Ave. N.E.
Bellevue, Wa 98004
425-637-8100
Online: kidsquestmuseum.org

Grand Opening: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 9 a.m.

Hours: Tues., Wed., Thurs. & Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 5 p.m.-8 p.m. (members only); Fri. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.

Cost: $12/Adults & Kids (1 & older); $11/Seniors (60 & older) & Military; under 1 Free. $95/Annual Membership of one adult & one child; $30/additional adult or child.

Are you planning to visit the new KidsQuest Children’s Museum? What are you and your kids most excited about? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Jennifer B. Davis (all photos courtesy of the writer)