Friday, February 4, 2011

Roadtrip: Charleston's Children's Museum of the Lowcountry

Who isn't looking for a good excuse to go to Charleston? Several months ago Groupon had a special deal on tickets to the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry. (If you haven't checked out Groupon yet, what are you waiting on?!) I had no idea what the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry was, but since it was (a) for children and (b) in Charleston, I jumped on the deal.

We drove to Charleston one dreary cold day this past December to check it out, and we were pleasantly surprised. (For starters, it is across the street from my favorite Charleston restaurant, 39 Rue de John, but I digress...). I have visited several children's museums in various cities over the past five years, and this might be my favorite one.

Why? Lots of free play--and parents can actually relax while the kids are exploring!

I confess I was a little underwhelmed when we first walked in. It's a small, narrow unassuming building. But it is very long.

There are seven exhibit rooms: The Art Room, Medieval Creativity Castle, Raceways, Waterwise, Pirates, Charleston Market, and an Infant / Toddler Playspace. There is also a Children's Garden outside.

The Castle is located to the right of the foyer, and it was our first stop. When we first entered the castle room, I nervously followed our two-year old around, up and down the steps and through low-ceilinged corridors, afraid she would escape the castle unnoticed and wander off never to be seen again. But I soon discovered that all the nooks and crannies and stairs of the castle eventually dump into the same central room--a room that is pleasantly stocked with seating for parents. Once I realized she could not leave the castle without passing through that room, I was able to sit down and chat with my husband while the kids explored and played. How's that for a museum outing?!

The kids loved the Creativity Castle. They could have spent an hour or more there alone. There was dress-up, a shadow cave, and a medieval kitchen area, where children could pretend to be medieval cooks. The neatest part of the castle was that it was truly kid-sized. Did I mention the low ceilings?!

The entire museum is designed for kids (and parents) in mind. I noticed that in every exhibit room, parents could either position themselves to see the entire room from one position, or they could position themselves in one place and know that the children would have to pass that point before leaving the room (for example, all the openings in the castle dump into one room, and the pirate ship is accessible by one entrance). This allows kids to explore and play without their parents tagging along behind every step (although you should spend some time playing with your children--after all, that's why you're here, right?!).

Our other favorite room was the Raceways Room, which has several Newtonian exhibits involving golf balls. Both of my children loved this room!

I would recommend this room for toddlers, preschoolers, and young elementary-aged children. I think it's worth a trip to Charleston if you're dying to get out and need something new to do. Or, keep it in mind the next time you travel to Charleston!

They are open Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m. -- 5:00 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m. Admission is $7 per person; children under 12 months are free.

Interested in going? Click here for more information, including directions.

Discount at Barnes & Noble

Today's Groupon is a $20 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble for just $10! This is a great place to take the children to hang out, play with the toy train, and buy books. Interested? There's a limited quantity available, so go to Groupon now!

Free this Weekend 2/4--2/7

Friday, February 4:

Free Admission to Riverbanks Zoo for residents of Richland and Lexington Counties. I know it's cold and rainy, but you can still enjoy the aquarium and the bird house.

Saturday, February 5:

Free Admission to EdVenture for Bank of America Cardholders

Family Storytimes:
10:30 a.m., Richland County Public Library (Main)
10:30 a.m., Sandhills Branch (RCPL)
11:00 a.m., St. Andrews Regional Branch (RCPL)
11:00 a.m., Northeast Regional Branch (RCPL)
11:00 a.m., Southeast Regional Branch (RCPL)
11:00 a.m., Cooper Branch (RCPL)
11:00 a.m., Sandhills Branch (RCPL)
11:00 a.m., Lexington County Public Library (Main)

Twix-n-Between: 12:30 p.m., North Main Branch (RCPL). Stories for ages 9-12. Call 754-7734 to register.

3d Annual Anti-Valentine's Day Festival: 3:30 p.m., Irmo Branch (LCPL). Join us for chocolate and fun, but no cupids and hearts! Grades 6-12. Call Youth Services at 798-7880 ext. 3 for more information.

Sunday, February 6:

Free Admission to EdVenture for Bank of America Cardholders

Free Admission to Columbia Museum of Art

Guided Canoe Tour: 2:00 p.m., Congaree National Park. Ages 5 and up. Registration required: 776-4396. Do NOT leave a voicemail for reservations.

Monday, February 7:

Black History Month Trivia: All day, Northeast Regional Branch, RCPL. Stop by and answer new trivia questions each week for a chance to win cool prizes! Ages 6-12.

Pajamarama Storytime: 6:30 p.m., Southeast Regional Branch (RCPL). Wear your pjs!

Free Museums this Weekend!

It's the first weekend of the month, and if you are a Bank of America cardholder, you receive free admission to participating museums! You will need your BOA card as well as a picture id; each cardholder gets free general admission. Participating museums include:

Columbia: EdVenture Children's Museum

Charlotte: Mint Museum Uptown
                Mint Museum Randolph
                Levine Museum of the New South
                Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
                NASCAR Hall of Fame
                Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Durham:   Nasher Museum of Art at Duke Univeristy

Raleigh:     Marbles Kids Museum

Atlanta:      Atlanta History Center
                  High Museum of Art

Cartersville: Booth Western Art Museum
                   Tellus Science Museum

Savannah:   Telfair Museums

There are additional museums located nationwide. I've highlighted the ones that are within a day's driving distance.

If you decide to venture to the Raleigh / Durham area, don't forget about these other free museums in Raleigh:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
North Carolina Museum of History