Visiting the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, we decided to take the boys to the Marbles Kids Museum for the morning.
Parking was found along the streets and in parking decks but street parking was hard to come by so the parking deck was used. Cost for parking (note: these prices are subject to change and availability) was $2/hour or $12/day. Walk from the closest parking deck was no issue and soon we walked through the doors of the Marbles Kids Museum.
We stepped up to the counter and I showed them my NC Zoo and Kaleideum annual passes and “poof!” we gained access to the museum for no cost (Marbles is one of the many museums providing free or discounted entry as part of the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Network Benefit). Soon we were off to the first area: “Around Town.”
As the kids played in the grocery store, fire engine, veterinarian’s office and more, the adults looked around and since there were two floors, we decided a map of the museum would let us know what was available. Near the entry area (across from the gift shop) there are free-for-use laminated maps providing the layout of both floors and the outside area. We used the map to give us a general idea on what to do next but for the most part, the grandkids led the way.
“Splash” was the next area where the kids played in a water activity for a few minutes then ran to the ship. The ship provided three levels of viewing for the boys and they both climbed the ladders all the way to the top. We skipped “Sun Sprouts” (outside) and “Seedlings” (inside) which are both adjacent to the “Splash” area, and headed back to the “Stepnotes” stairwell.
“Pa,” thought the boys would get a kick out of going up and down the stairs since each stair played a piano note but the boys zipped up the staircase producing a glissando-type sound. At the top, they tried out most of the areas: “Power 2 Play,” “Kid Grid,” and the “Ranger Station” making their way to what turned out to be their favorite area on the second floor: “Money Palooza.” “Money Palooza” had several activities involving shooting and transporting plastic balls to rails, bins, and targets. Each was focused on saving, investing or debt-creation however the fun part was just using the balls. Isaiah donned on a Security vest and became one of the Security Officers in the area. He and a few new friends transported fake dollar bills here and there running all over. After playing with the balls for quite some time, Jeremiah went to the Pizza Shop area and created some awesome pizzas for us.
We zipped through the “Idea Works” and “Art Loft” and headed back downstairs to go outside to the “Tree Tunes” area. A large sandbox was planted in the middle surrounded by bamboo trees and other greenery. Within the greenery areas, there were several interesting musical instruments allowing the boys to bang on this or that to see what sounds come out. Jeremiah’s favorite area was the sandbox where he allowed his imagination to create new worlds.
Well, that was our trip. If we are ever in the area again we will stop in again perhaps to start in the play areas we skipped or zipped through. The boys did not really want to leave but we spent a good bit of time there watching them and learning what held their interests (and having some fun ourselves 😉 ).
Comparison to other Children’s Museums:
Greensboro Children’s Museum (GSOCM)
Marbles Kids Museum (MKM) has very similar activities to GSOCM but there are differences: where the trucks and cars at MKM were hand-crafted, the GSOCM had real vehicles. Unlike MKM, the GSOCM vehicles did not have working bells, lights, or hose reels, and there were no “pretend” uniforms for the kids to try on. The “Money Palooza” activity is unique to the MKM. On the other hand, the best activity the kids enjoy at GSOCM that does not exist at MKM is a huge outdoor climbing rope area.
Kaleideum Downtown (aka Winston-Salem Children’s Museum)
Smaller than either GSOCM or MKM so no real comparison can be made, the stand-out attractions of the Kaleideum Downtown (KD) facility include the large, suspended climbing rope net and a room on the second floor where attractions change over time (the last time we went to KD, the room was full of wooden toys of old).
One of the kids favorite activities at all places (Children’s Museums and Science Centers) is the pneumatic tubes where you place a handkerchief (babushka) or a puffy ball in a hole and it whooshes through the tubes to exit from one of the many tubes. The boys always enjoy pushing in the object, watching and trying to figure out where it will exit and catch it. The MKM only had a small “sample” of this upstairs so it was not as engaging. Those pneumatic tube systems with “switch” sections where the kids can change the air flow path are even more engaging.
It is always fascinating to watch kids and see what sparks creativity and interest, and which boy gravitates to group activities including kids they’ve just met and which one prefers the one-on-one activity. In our world where at times it appears we all need to be a certain “type” and to behave in a prescribed manner (aka “the same”), it is uplifting to be reminded we are all different, and we see and experience the world from our own unique perspective. This makes sharing our stories so important and meaningful.
- Link: https://www.marbleskidsmuseum.org
- Location: 201 East Hargett Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
- Cost: $7 each ($6 for military); for current pricing and groups, go to https://www.marbleskidsmuseum.org/plan-your-visit
- What did the kids like/dislike: For our boys, building things out the large Legos and the rubber blocks
- Kids opinion of it: Some areas entranced each boy more than others: Isaiah liked the Money Palooza; Jeremiah liked digging in the sand.
- What to do: so many things for the kids to try and participate in, it is hard to write is all down at this point. We ended up skipping a few areas primarily because the boys gravitated to activities which sparked their imagination.
- New places to eat along the way: Marbles Cafe. Food was good and reasonably priced. Café is adjacent to the IMAX theater which we might have visited had there been more time.
- Discoveries: Isaiah participates in a computer-coding program and plays video games. Between these activities and his quick uptake of new things, he “programmed” a movable maze in the “Stemosphere” area such that a ball rolled exactly from one area to another. It was pretty amazing to watch.
- Difficulty of getting around: finding street parking was not successful but there is a parking deck close by.
- Return: If we are in the area, definitely
- Restrooms: Multiple restrooms all very clean. Hand-sanitizer stations all over the facility.
- Parking: street parking & nearby parking decks (est. $2/hour)