Your handy list of museums that offer tactile and creative outlets for kids to explore likely include the Exploratorium and Academy of Sciences. Add the Children’s Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum) to your Bay Area museum bucket list. We recently re-visited this downtown gem and found everything from puppet shows to interactive light exhibits to a Claymation studio. Read on to find out what else we love and why it’s totally worth the trip downtown.
The Lay of the Land
The museum is two stories, tucked away in the southwest side of the Yerba Buena Gardens complex (near the ice rink and bowling alley). Though there’s plenty of space and places to explore, the museum doesn’t feel overwhelming. The under 5 set will be extra enchanted with the Imagination Lab. They can star in their own movie, stack and build (and knock over) blocks and shapes; dance, wiggle and hop to control the lights at the touch-sensitive electronic exhibit; dress up in a costume, play with puppets and much more. The DIY studio offers different themed craft projects each month (think coffee filter butterflies and no-mess finger paint).
Clay All Day
The highlight for many families is the Claymation studio where kids can learn the basics of stop motion animation by creating their own characters and then bringing them to life on-screen.
Photo credit: Children’s Creativity Museum
Up, Up, and Away
On your way upstairs stop and check out the Community Lab where special events and early childhood education classes are held. This circular room is actually the center of the museum, and you can even find a cute observation deck that overlooks it if you want to snap a candid photo of your Little One hard at play! ECE classes include DIY instruments, dance and movement, and much more.
The upstairs features a music studio where kids can use an innovative program to record their own sounds and create a symphony from it. They can also grab a mike and star in their own music video. The Innovation Lab is where kids can meet local innovators and inventors, gain confidence in their own ideas, and learn new skills, like robot building, paper arts, and more.
Photo credit: Children’s Creativity Museum
This museum is loaded with mini-stations of activity that kids will love “discovering” as they make their way around the museum. The colorful creativity critters offer inspiration right from the walls. A giant skyscraper robot made of cardboard, a quiet corner to “dream” and so much more. There is a hand-carved 1906 carousel adjacent to the museum. At the time of this article, the carousel was closed for repairs until late April 2014. Kids will appreciate the performances at the Creativity Theater, where lively plays throughout the year. Tickets to plays are not included in general admission. Check here to see what’s on at the theater! There is also a playground across the courtyard from the museum, if you need to burn off more energy before heading home.
Good to Know
Restrooms are located on the first floor, just past the ticket counter. Both men’s and women’s rooms have changing tables. There is a healthy vending machine for snacks next to the restrooms on the bottom floor, just past the ticket counter. There’s plenty of stroller parking right near the entrance.
Insider tip: Nursing moms will be beside themselves with joy to discover that this museum has a nursing lounge in the southwest corner of the Imagination Lab.
Where to Eat
There is no restaurant directly attached to the museum. There is a small café located across the courtyard from the carousel, with a variety of sandwiches, chips, and snacks. There is also a restaurant upstairs from the bowling alley, with burgers, fries, and pizza. For something a little more upscale, try the beautiful Samovar Tea Lounge perched on the level above the waterfall, in the main part of Yerba Buena Gardens. Try sitting outside to take in the skyscrapers while you sip your choice of hundreds of teas. La Boulange, which boasts an extensive and yummy kids menu (Nutella on brioche anyone?) is right on the corner of the Yerba Buena Gardens and Mission. For the ultimate indulgence, cross the street to Beard Papa, a cream puffery on Yerba Buena Lane, and then grab a hot chocolate from Schoggi next door.
Beyond the Waterfall
The museum is located in the Yerba Buena Gardens complex, on the south side of Mission (you must cross a land bridge to get there from the gardens). If you’re coming from Market St. on your way to or from the museum don’t miss the waterfall where kids can observe the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial by walking behind the waterfall.
It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Powell St. BART station, which also hosts MUNI lines J, K, L, M, N, &T. Quick walk from MUNI lines 30,45,14, and 12. Caltrain is several blocks away but there are connecting MUNI bus lines (30, 45). If you drive, there are three main parking options: Fifth and Mission Parking, 833 Mission St.; Museum Park, 300 Third St.; and Moscone Center, 255 Third St. Prices vary.
Hours and Cost
The museum is open Wed. – Sun., 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The gift shop is open from 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Admission is $11/person; children 2 and under are free. There are a variety of great membership options.
221 Fourth St.,
San Francisco, Ca
What’s your family’s favorite thing about the Children’s Creativity Museum? Tell us below!
— Amber Guetebier