If the thought of bringing your little ones to a museum elicits visions of a bull in a china shop, then you’ll want to check out The New Children’s Museum in San Diego, which has been educating and engaging creative little minds since 2008. Not once in this dynamic museum will you even utter the phrases, “don’t touch that,” “slow down,” or “indoor voices please” for the entire museum is geared towards kiddos who want to think, play, touch, and create. As your kids expand their imagination through engaging hands-on activities and captivating artistic performances, moms and dads can revel in the museum’s sleek and unique architecture, which is truly a work of art itself.

Whether you’re a Children’s Museum newbie or a regular, a toddler or an adult, we’ve dug up some important information and insider tips so you and your family can enjoy the museum to its fullest.

When to Go:
Anytime! The museum is an ideal spot to visit on a rainy day, or anytime you just want to get the kids out of the house to partake in some creativity. The museum is least crowded on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons. Check the website for their specific operating hours.

Insider Tip: Since the school year is soon starting and the museum hosts a variety of school tours, we suggest calling ahead of time to see if there are any scheduled for that day. While the museum is spacious, it’s always nice when the place is less crowded.

Admission & Getting There:
Admission to the museum is $10 for adults and children, $5 for seniors 65+, $5 for military personnel, and free for children under one year.

Parking can be tricky in the area. While there are a few free street spots in the surrounding neighborhood, your best bet is metered parking slots or the many parking garages in the area. Metered parking will run you about $1.25 per hour, though the spaces fill up fast. The museum has their own parking garage adjacent to the building, which can be accessed from Union Street. This will cost $10. Other garages in the downtown area can be viewed on this map.

If you choose to take public transportation with the fam then check out the San Diego Metro Transit page to plan your trip. The blue and orange trolley lines travel through downtown and the orange line stops two blocks away from the museum.

Insider Tip: If you want to save a few bucks then visit the museum on the Target Free Second Sundays. While these days will certainly be a bit more crowded, you sure can’t beat free admission!

Planning Your Visit:
The best part about this museum is that it takes very little planning — the museum has all of the activities and fun programs your little ones could ever want! The hardest part about planning your visit will be choosing what to do, see, and explore. Just make sure to set aside at least three hours (if not the whole day!) to take your time combing through everything this awesome place has to offer. You’ll also want to dress your little ones in comfy clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. They will be jumping, running, and participating in hands-on workshops and sure to dirty up those duds.

Prior to your arrival, we suggest checking out the website to see a full list of the interactive workshops and events the day of your visit. Some studio workshops such the printmaking and action painting studios are appropriate for all ages, while others like the Zebra Crossing interactive sound and video installation is designed for kids ages five and older, so be sure to plan accordingly! The museum’s blog also has some great tips and announcements about what’s happening at the museum.

Upon your arrival, check in at the information admissions desk to pick up a map of the three-floor museum.

Insider Tip: Forget something in the car or want to head out for some fresh air at the park across the street? The museum offers a re-entry stamp precisely for this purpose.

What to Do:
Where do we start?! This museum is chock full of engaging, educational, and fun hands-on activities. Your little ones will love roaming the museum checking out the current exhibitions and special projects. Each aspect of the museum is aimed to empower your little ones to think, play and create. An all-time kid favorite is the 30-foot rainbow “jumpy” that was designed by artist Felipe Dulzaides. The interactive piece called “Missing Links” lets kids play, jump, and roll around in what is an awesome (and insanely large!) colorful jumpy contraption.

What sets this museum apart from the rest is its interactive hands-on workshops, all designed to spark your child’s imagination. Classes range from printmaking to outdoor painting studios (one class even has your kiddos painting a huge whale named Penelope) to an improv performance studio. The possibilities are endless!

Insider Tip: With all of the hands-on activities, it would be a great idea to bring some hand sanitizer along for those grimy little fingers.

Where to Eat:
The museum has an on-site cafe that offers a variety of very healthy and organic dining options. This family-friendly spot serves up sandwiches, salads and snacks. Or, opt to pack a lunch and enjoy it in the cafe or the park across the street. Just be sure to keep the food, drinks and gum out of the galleries and workshops.

Insider Tip: Since the museum is in the heart of downtown, there are also a variety of restaurants in the area, including the widely-popular Dick Walker’s Pancake House that’s located right next door. The museum has a list of nearby eateries that offer discounts on your meal once you present your admission coupon.

Bonus:

If this spot is your little one’s favorite then why not celebrate your kiddos birthday here? The museum offers an awesome birthday package that includes a full day of museum fun, private birthday party room, special guided museum experience, special art projects, and much more!

Online: thinkplaycreate.org/index.html

If this insider’s guide hasn’t got you revved up for your next visit to the New Children’s Museum we don’t know what will. The museum’s interactive features combined with its amazing approach to art and education truly makes this San Diego spot one-of-a-kind!

Psst… Psst! We are giving away family 4-packs of tickets to The New Children’s Musuem and other family attractions in San Diego! Click here to learn more!

– Erin Lem