Two Atlanta Children's Museums are Better Than Ever

See what's new and improved at two fun kid's museums.
  • See the world's largest collection of Jim Henson's work at Center for Puppetry Arts.
    See the world's largest collection of Jim Henson's work at Center for Puppetry Arts.
  • The Global Collection at Center for Puppetry Arts displays puppets from around the world.
    The Global Collection at Center for Puppetry Arts displays puppets from around the world.
  • Delicate paper shadow puppets reside in light boxes covering an entire wall of the Global Collection.
    Delicate paper shadow puppets reside in light boxes covering an entire wall of the Global Collection.
  • Kids practice complex problem solving in the newly revitalized learning zone at the Children's Museum.
    Kids practice complex problem solving in the newly revitalized learning zone at the Children's Museum.
  • Fundamentally Food is a new learning zone at the Children's Museum.
    Fundamentally Food is a new learning zone at the Children's Museum.

If you have children and live in or are planning to visit Atlanta this year, there are two exciting recent re-openings that you should know about. Both the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and Center for Puppetry Arts, which are located fewer than 3 miles from one another in Downtown Atlanta, underwent major renovations in 2015 to upgrade existing facilities. These beloved institutions have since reopened their doors, much to the delight of children and their caregivers. Here’s what you can expect:

Children’s Museum of Atlanta
In the first major renovation since opening its doors across the street from Centennial Olympic Park 13 years ago, Children's Museum added two permanent exhibits and reinvigorated four existing learning zones. In addition to each of these areas is a new permanent performance space for "Imaginators." The renovated space and programming puts a new focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) to encourage critical thinking and help foster innovation. The learning zones at the museum also provide children with age-appropriate activities that allow for hands-on learning and engagement in literacy, health and nutrition, social studies and the arts.

So, What’s New?

  • Gateway to the World: A two-story climbing structure at the center of the museum invites children to climb through the layers of the earth and enter a one-of-a-kind, child-powered, rotating globe.
  • Step Up to Science: Located on the new 3,000-square-foot mezzanine level, this exhibit is designed to bring science, technology, engineering and math to life.

Newly Revitalized Learning Zones

  • Tools for Solutions: Children will love exploring the science of building through four learning environments at the entrance of the museum. A new lab [classroom] offers regular building workshops as part of the museum's programming. This learning zone provides opportunities for designing and building, including a new construction house that teaches kids what's "behind the walls."

  • Fundamentally Food: Children can experience how food functions as an integral part of daily life through educational programming and role-play opportunities on the farm, in the grocery store and in the new “Diner” area (a miniature version of the Southern icon, Waffle House). Fundamentally Food promotes an understanding about the path of food from farm-to-table and introduces food as a significant aspect of all cultures.

  • Let Your Creativity Flow: This learning zone features an arts studio that will "encourage children to experiment with music and explore the visual arts in a flexible, small group setting. A paint wall, enhanced sand area and stage empower young children to harness their own ideas to build artistic creations."

  • Leaping Into Learning: The Toddler Zone provides the museum’s youngest visitors with "many opportunities for self-discovery and development of self-confidence." Here, tots can climb, slide, crawl and more.

Admission for children younger than 1 is free. General admission $14.95. Military discount $11.95. Closed Wednesdays. Check the online calendar for an up-to-date listing of programs and classes, which are all included with price of admission.

Insider’s Guide:

  • During the week, field trip groups typically head back to school by 1 p.m., so weekday afternoons tend to be the best time to visit the museum.

  • You can bring your own food and dine upstairs in the mezzanine section. Vending machines with healthy snack options are available. Re-entry to the museum is allowed if you want to leave to eat downtown and return afterward.

  • From 3 to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 4 to 4:30 p.m. on weekends, enjoy a "nap-time savings" of $5 off general admission.

  • Every second Tuesday of the month visitors can experience the museum for free from 1 to 6 p.m. as part of the Target Free Second Tuesday initiative.

  • Visiting from out of town? Members of other children’s museums with an Associate of Children’s Museum Reciprocal Membership may receive 50-percent off general admission for up to six people. Card holder must be present.

Center for Puppetry Arts
Fun facts: The Center for Puppetry Arts (CPA) opened to the public in the fall of 1978 with Kermit the Frog and his creator, Jim Henson, cutting the ceremonial ribbon. In 2007, Henson’s family donated an unprecedented gift of more than 500 puppets and props to the center ― now the most comprehensive Jim Henson collection in the world. In early 2014, CPA announced plans for an expansion and renovation that would include a renovated entryway, a new library and archival space, various upgrades to existing spaces and most notably, a new museum. The Worlds of Puppetry Museum opened in late 2015. The museum is divided into two collections:

  • The Global Collection: Organized by continent to celebrate puppetry traditions in major cultures from around the world, this collection highlights the history of puppetry in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It is also meant to demonstrate the use of the art form as a teaching, healing and communications tool. Artifacts are displayed within rich, contextual backdrops in addition to supplemental learning materials to encourage visitors to immerse themselves in puppetry traditions from around the world.

  • The Jim Henson Collection: If you were born in the last half century, it's likely that The Jim Henson Collection will take you back to your childhood and give you feelings of nostalgia. This interactive exhibition follows Henson's fascinating life and innovative career chronologically, starting with his first two puppets  Omar from "Sam and Friends" (1955) and Rowlf the Dog, a character Henson originally created for "The Jimmy Dean Show" in 1963. The exhibit showcases some very familiar faces, including those from "Sesame Street" (1969), "The Muppet Show" (1976) and "Fraggle Rock" (1983). It also includes some of his adult fantasy work from "The Dark Crystal" (1982) and" Labyrinth" (1986) and more. You'll have an opportunity to see all of your favorite characters like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Elmo, Bert and Ernie. You might be surprised by just how big Big Bird is!

    Get a good look at Jim Henson's office and have a hands-on muppet experience in the creature shop. Other kid-friendly activities include a Sesame Street reading nook and a TV studio where children can be muppeteers.

Admission for children younger than 2 is free. General admission for All-Inclusive Family Series tickets, which include Create-A-Puppet Workshop and museum entry are $20.50 for non-members and $10.25 for members. Exceptions apply so check the website for exact show pricing. Advance purchase of tickets is highly recommended since many performances sell out.

Insider's Guide:

  • Center for Puppetry Arts can issue a rain check for unused tickets but does not issue refunds.

  • Create-A-Puppet Workshop To-Go Kits are available.

  • Because of CPA's extensive collection (more than 3,000 pieces in The Global Collection and 500 in The Jim Henson Collection), the puppets will be rotated each year. The museum will display only around 200 and 75 puppets at a time, respectively. 

  • Guided tours of the center and museum are available for an up-close-and-personal, behind-the-scenes experience.

  • Birthday parties are an exclusive privilege of center members at the Family level and above, and include tickets to a live puppet show, priority seating, a birthday announcement and party room. Detailed pricing and information can be found on the website.

Joleen Pete is a Southern California transplant, living and loving it in the ‘burbs outside Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their toddler son. On the weekends, they enjoy going into the city for family fun and exploration. Joleen is the professional photographer behind Joleen Pete Photography, and lifestyle/family blogger behind Love, Joleen.

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