Hard to believe but Kidzu has been around for nearly a decade! They have moved three times (and aren't done yet), but each time they've gotten bigger and better. Their newest site, Launch Pad in University Mall where a public library branch used to be, opened on Valentines Day.
The entranceway is fun, with a cow sculpture, a honeycomb wall, and ample stroller and diaper bag storage. Behind the front desk area is the birthday room called The Gathering Space, which is huge, complete with tables, fridge, and big chalkboard wall! Birthday parties include museum admission and a project/craft - more info can be found online. The Gravitron greets you as well, it's one of the first features from Kidzu back in the day, which is a ball conveyor system, where you can time how fast it takes you to load them and send them down chutes. Kids love it.
But the first thing you can't help but notice is the giant 9 foot high Clifford The Big Red Dog! He's about the size I imagined from the books, and is like a magnet, drawing kids to him. The entire current exhibit is Clifford themed, and is traveling from the Minnesota Children's Museum. There is a little house with a DVD playing of Clifford's origins and bean bags to rest in, a treasure hunting beach setup, a big Clifford food bowl with a conveyor belt for the "bone" pillows in his dish, a post office, a boat, a cafe, a stage, and more. There is also a small crawling area for younger children in the Clifford section.
Now what I've mentioned so far would have been enough for my 2 year old daughter, and certainly more than the old locations had space for. But behind the main exhibit space is "The Makery", a lovely area manned by helpful museum employees who can assist your child in crafting a science project or making art, but of course, kids are welcome to explore on their own. Kidzu refers to it as a "STEAM'D (science, technology, engineering, art, math, and design) laboratory where children and families can tinker, invent, and create to their hearts' content." When we were there, my daughter was drawn to a painting project they had set out, where yarn was wrapped around wood blocks and dipped in paint. They demonstrated after they set her up with an apron, and my daughter got to making colorful prints. Older kids would really feel at home here.
Across from The Makery is the large program room. It is sparse on purpose, as the space is for hosting events like block parties, game nights, and kids yoga or science classes.
If you continue down the hallway, you'll come across the Book Nook on your right. It is a separate room, with lots of cloth and pillows in a delicate nature scene. Since it is a small room, and behind a door, it is a lovely place to escape to for some quiet reading with your little one if they get over stimulated. They also host their storytimes here.
The far back of the museum has three family bathrooms with changing tables (of course) and the Caregivers Clubhouse, which is the area where you can break out your snacks.
The entire space was clearly carefully conceived, from top to bottom. It is beautifully accented with lots of local art, from a quilt crafted out of grocery bags to wall hangings from Paperhand Puppet Prevention.
We spent over an hour at Kidzu Launch Pad and I know my daughter could have stayed longer. It is by far my favorite Kidzu yet. I'm looking forward to seeing what their final site on top of the Wallace Deck in downtown Chapel Hill, slated to break ground in 2016, will do to top this. Having played at Kidzu in all their incarnations, I'm sure it'll be amazing!
What we liked:
The size! After years of being in small spaces this is refreshing. The high ceilings dampen the noise, and the way they've carved out each section is very thought out, from the snack area to the well organized Makery.
They also offer lots of things to do aside from just a visit (which is already great). This week alone they have story time in the book nook, a cape making activity, and a dance party.
What we'd change:
A larger area for the babies to play would be nice, where moms/caregivers can watch both their little crawler and their adventurous preschooler.
What to know before you go:
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm & Sunday 1-5pm (They are closed on Mondays to allow for school groups.)
Admission: $5.50 per person over 12 months old, free for 11 month olds and under. Sundays are free!
(large meeting room)
(the birthday party room)
(more Clifford exhibit)
(more Clifford exhibit)
(the snack area)
(the book nook)