It’s not officially winter yet, but it feels like it. For the most part, it’s cold, wet, and miserable outside which means outdoor activities with the kids are probably pretty low on your list. So, where can you take your kids to burn off all their surplus energy?
Well, if you used to frequent the former KidsQuest Children’s Museum in the Factoria Mall, you may be excited to hear that the new KidsQuest in downtown Bellevue is nearing completion and is slated to open Jan. 31.
We recently got a peek inside the soon-to-be-completed educational play center and we’re here to share the details with you.
Families journeying to the new KidsQuest, located on 108th Avenue Northeast, will have their choice the 25 parking spots in front of the building for members and donors, and more than 300 nearby parking spaces at the 929 building down the street. However, patrons should note that parking at the Bellevue library right next door will not be permitted.
While KidsQuest President and CEO, Putter Bert said families are encouraged to bring as few personal effects into the museum as possible, the front entrance will include a drop-off area for families with strollers and diaper bags.
From there, patrons will enter the brightly colored front desk area where they will be greeted by the museum’s highly-trained and friendly staff and the first exhibit, a climbing structure. It is by far the biggest exhibit in the museum measuring in at approximately two and a half stories tall.
“It really represents the museum’s mission to take on safe risks,” Bert said of the structure. “We think it will take some kids a year to get to the top, it’s that scary and we are that excited.”
After climbing (or not climbing if it’s too intimidating) the structure, energetic kiddos can head in a myriad of different directions, some may opt to head up to the second story of the museum while others may check out one of the many rooms on the first level.
“The big difference between this (new) museum and our (Factoria) museum is that this going to be more in gallery form, so more rooms,” Bert said. “That way we can change the exhibits a little easier than with the big open plan that we had (in Factoria).”
There’s the Water Gallery where big kids can pump, dump, splash, pool, dam, and just let water flow with a small room off to one side just for toddlers to splash around in. But the best part of the Water Gallery is the large sliding windows that open flat to reveal the Sticks and Stones Gallery.
“In Factoria there’s no windows, there is no outdoor space, so we know a lot of families make the decision not to come on a beautiful sunny day,” Bert said. “Here these doors will be open a lot of the time and there will be wonderful programming about gardening and garden art with things going on outside and inside.”
Kids also can head to the On The Go Gallery where they’ll encounter a real Peterbilt truck donated by Paccar.
“This version has never been driven, it was only used for emissions tests and we are very excited because not only do we have the truck but we are now going to teach a lot more about shipping,” Bert said.
Kids can weigh, X-ray, stock, transport, and load packages onto the truck before driving it down I-90 (thanks to a strategically placed mural) and on to the packages’ final destination. There also is a make-your-own paper airplane station where kids can launch their creations.
Next families can enjoy one of more than 700 fun, informative classes that are offered annually in one of the facility’s three classrooms, two more rooms than the previous location. Bert will be the first to enthusiastically point out that their main class space has a bathroom, which also is a new (and much needed) feature.
Upstairs, little ones will enjoy the birth- to three-friendly Tot Orchard Early Learning Gallery where they can pick apples, cherries, and peaches from fruit trees and then bake a pie in the kitchen. The room also includes a nearby nursing and reading area which provides privacy and much needed downtime for children on sensory overload.
The Story Tree Gallery is chock-full of stories, both on the shelves and carved on the tree itself. Climb the tree to the top and read the stories it has to tell, or settle in to one of the reading nooks around the base of the tree. For the kids that would rather tell their story, a nearby stage gives them the opportunity to act it out in front of their peers.
Next door, the Cityscape Gallery is basically a small scale replica of Seattle and Bellevue with recognizable landmarks as well as an intricate system of kid-powered trains, cars, and boats. Extra points if you locate the KidsQuest building on the table. Hint, it’s on the Bellevue side of the lake.
As kids move from present day Bellevue with its skyscrapers and industrial cranes, they can venture into the old Bellevue Mercantile store set in the year 1915 based on the real store. Kids can shop and check out at the register.
Likewise, they can visit the adjoining barn and yard where there are animals to tend to and products like eggs and milk to bring to the store and sell. Kids will delight in meeting (maybe even shearing) the sheep named Lady Ba-Ba and even adults will enjoy taking a quick selfie with the life-sized cow just outside the barn.
With these engaging galleries and the museum’s bright, open layout and expanded square-footage, it’s no wonder the staff is projecting an attendance boost of approximately 60,000 additional guests in their first year over their previous location.
Keep an eye on their website for more information as the grand unveiling and opening day get closer.