Mom Reviewed: The New Hands-on Children’s Museum in Olympia

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Today I’m thrilled to have a, “Mom Reviewed,” post from one of our regular readers with all the scoop on the new Hands-on Children’s Museum in Olympia. Read on for the highlights and all the tips you need to know before you go!

The  Hands on Children’s Museum in Olympia is truly a great space for children to play in a learning and creative environment. The new two story play space has features and play space for a variety of ages of children.

Taking Kids to the Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia


The tot spot on the second floor has the lentil boat, a play dough station, a play structure, and many fun features for the little tykes to play. The space is open so you could watch your child in the tot space and then watch an older child in the climbing tree structure, or parents could talk to each other while watching kids in both areas. The tides to trees climber has a multi story climbing structure up to an eagle’s nest, and then goes down a twisty slide to the first floor sea floor. The 14-carrot café seems to use some of the materials from the old museum but has a produce market, kitchen, old time truck with hydraulic lifts and a play café area. Below the cargo ship is a crawl through undersea world replica complete with blown glass jellyfish, a seal and an enormous octopus. The cargo ship is several levels and includes a new crane.

The water feature has air tubes that pull balls through, shoot them out over the top into a swirling water cyclone, as well as what seems to be dry ice pouring out of a PVC pipe building contraption. My son spent at least an hour playing at this table.

The emergency area has a replica fire truck, medic uni,t and a scream room where kids can scream to their heart’s content and measure the sound and compare. My son spent a lot of time in this area and enjoyed the new fire dog stuffed animals, too. There is also a crafting station to make boats (it wasn’t open when I was in a week after opening day) and an awesome digital microscope.

Up the stairs to the tides to trees climber is the second level (there is also an elevator) with the tot area, an amazing arts studio, and an animal rescue hospital with new stuffed animals. You walk through a tree to get into the section that has live turtles in a tank, the animal rescue center, a craft area where you make parachutes to fly through the wind tunnel, a tree house, a tent with sleeping bags, a craft area to create arts at a longhouse from the Squaxin tribe. The Move It gallery shoots balls and scarves into the air with a great view of downtown. The build it zone seems to be a holdover from the former museum location.

We visited the Thursday and Friday, the week after it was opened. There was a second grade field trip at the museum at the time and it was pretty crazy and overwhelming, but they left at noon. There were many parents and kids there, but things may slow down after some time. Note from SFM: This continues to be a popular field trip destination. If you’re coming from a distance, I would call before you go to see if any are scheduled.

Parking is OK in the area. There are many meters and there is a parking area behind the museum, where you can pay $1 an hour or get a $50 parking pass for the year. We caught the bus down because the first day I was feeling a little stressed about getting the time wrong and getting a ticket. The museum is about 3 blocks from the transit center. There are also adequate bike racks.

There are many bathrooms and water fountains including a family bathroom right near the entrance. Also at the entrance is a café that has prepared foods and coffee and tables for eating all around. On our second visit we brought our own soup and snacks and ate in the eating area.

The first day we went I moved my son through the entire museum to check it out and to take pictures of everything. The second day I let him explore and spend time wherever he wanted, and we didn’t even get through the entire museum in the 3 hours we spent there.

The outdoor discovery area will be built in the spring and the beginnings of it look really exciting. I think there is supposed to be an outside restaurant as well. Outside the museum is a great water feature stream the kids can play in and a little wetland area. Across the street is the LOTT WET learning center teaching about water conservation and how the water gets cleaned in the community. This is a place kids of all ages will enjoy, and I learn a little every time I visit as well.

Thanks to one of our great reader moms for sending in this review!

If you’ve been to the new HOCM, I’d love to read your comments, too! If you’ve been to a fun, South Sound destination you’d like to submit for a, “Mom Reviewed,” post, just let me know!


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