In historic downtown Everett, WA, an hour and a half south of the Peace Arch on US I-5, and only five minutes from Seattle Premium Outlets and Tulalip Casino, Imagine Children’s Museum offers fun, educational hands-on exhibits perfect for the growing minds of 1- to12-year-olds.
Imagine’s web site provides a virtual tour of their 3700+ m2 (40,000+ ft2) of displays on three levels. The toughest decision for my twin ten-year-olds was where to go first. “The Wildlife Clinic and Piccolo Italian Café are among our most popular exhibits,” says Business Manager LynnDee Blair. The Clinic teaches about injured, orphaned, and contaminated animals through wildlife puppets, x-rays, lab coats, and a working microscope. In Piccolo’s, adults become the customers while kids cook, concierge, and serve pretend cuisine.
“The Lodge Exhibit is a parent favorite,” says Marketing Manager Kimberlee Valvick. “Its interactive exhibits connect play to real life situations. Kids learn creatively while taking away new skills that parents appreciate.” On the day of our visit The Lodge was staged for camping with blanket teepees, a boat launch, and a building area with meter-length Lincoln Logs. “Dad’s love this area and the Construction Zone,” says Valvick.
My super-hubby, Mike Duryee, played with our boys for over an hour in the Construction Zone and Art Studio on the Lower Level, which also includes an eating area. “I like that you bring your own food and drink instead of paying movie-theatre prices for junk food,” says Duryee.
Creative Outlets:“The Lower Level is ever changing,” says Valvick. “We bring in guest artists, speakers, and storytellers for interactive learning and fun in our classrooms and Art Studio.” The Studio features a craft activity that changes daily, often using recycled/repurposed materials. “We like to tie our activity to special days on the calendar,” says Valvick. We went on Canada Day and made Thread Spool Beavers from paper, spools, pom poms, and markers. Tuesday Tales events also showcase a guest children’s author and related craft project.
My boys also enjoyed the interactive Music Exhibit, composing their own electronic percussion pieces by passing their hands through light beams. The large Rooftop Rhythms xylophone collection will also satisfy your young musician.
The Theatre Exhibit, with a stage and capes, was a hit with my little performer. He ate up the instant feedback from the closed-circuit TV. Even my guy with stage fright experimented behind the scenes with the kid-friendly lighting and sound.
Wee Ones: Imagine is prepared for tiny ones too. A separate seashore-themed toddler area provides safe play for the three and under set. Multiple large family restrooms are spread throughout the museum, and they’ve considered cleanliness as well. “All toys and surfaces are sanitized daily,” says Blair.
There are also several exhibits just right for younger visitors. Rise and Shine Farm includes a real tractor, ready-to-ride saddle, and a life-size milkable cow. The Airline Exhibit allows your little one to become pilot, passenger, or flight attendant.
The train lover in your family (young or old) will enjoy the Everett & Monte Cristo Railroad Exhibit with information about Everett railroad investors and founders Charles Colby and Colgate Hoyt alongside an enclosed electric train set and hands-on wooden railway.
The Air Maze, an intricate system of tubes, blows colorful scarves high into the air at toddler speed, while PJ’s Place provides a quieter escape for a quick read of a children’s book.
Rambunctious?: There is nothing sedate about this museum. The rooftop Tall Timbers Lookout is a safe but expansive play structure to wear out your wild child before that car ride home. The Dino Dig exhibit was newly refurbished this summer and allows young archaeologists to excavate fossils and play among dinosaur skeletons.
Getting There: Imagine is easily reached via US I-5 from the Peace Arch just 140 km (87 miles) south, only a couple of turns off Exit 194 Everett Avenue. There is free on-street 90-minute parking or $3 for three hours or after 6 PM ($8 all day) at the adjacent parking garage on Colby Avenue. An elevator is available upon request for disabled access and stroller parking is just inside the entrance.
Special Events: There are a host of regular and onetime special events coming up. The museum’s new Water Exhibit opens October 4th and will coincide with their annual Harvest Festival. Popular Free Friday Night Live events fall on the third Friday of each month, with three and a half hours of fun at no cost.
Imagine has two birthday rooms for your special day, plus on-site Discovery Camps, Summer Camps, and school outreach programs that keep 639 volunteers, several interns, and a highly trained staff of educators busy throughout the year.
The exit through the gift shop wasn’t painful either, providing the usual alongside wildlife puppets and a solid collection of science educational kits. I appreciated that we went on a weekday, with lighter crowds. After running full steam for two and a half hours, my boys still didn’t want to leave. Imagine Children’s Museum is sure to nourish creativity in kids and parents alike.