Family Fun at The Children's Museum of the Upstate

Looking for a fun place to take the kids over the holiday break?  The Children's Museum of the Upstate is a great hands-on, learn-about-how-things-work kind of place.  Children can grocery shop and make healthy food choices, complete with grocery store shelves and a checkout counter or learn how to make a movie using a green screen in the animation studio.

"As the 7th largest Children's museum in the country TCMU is delighted to engage over 150,000 children and their families each year.  Our exciting hands-on exhibits and outstanding programming make the museum a perfect destination for local residents and visitors to the Upstate," says Nancy Halverson, President/CEO of the Museum.

While the museum caters to the younger set (ages 0-12), even older kids will have fun. Adults are also encouraged to interact with the children and the exhibits and can even climb, slide and crawl on the Kaleidoscope Climber, a three-story climbing structure. There are eighteen interactive exhibits that take up 3 stories and 80,000 square feet.

Main Level:

Visitors begin with the Start Your Engines exhibit that teaches about speed, power and the science behind Formula I racing. You can build your own race car and get behind the wheel of a driving simulator. Other exhibits include an eight-foot wind tunnel and a giant space ship with a command center.

The Children's Hospital exhibit lets visitors get digested in a giant stomach and go through a simulate MRI. There's also a teddy bear clinic that teaches kids about hospital care with crutches available to use and casts that visitors can try on.

Upper Level:

This level is mostly dedicated to environmental conservation and recycling.  Learn how leaving the water running, while brushing your teeth can affect fish in the ocean. There's a giant trash monster called Greenzilla, a recycle truck and a composting station.

Grandma Betty's Farm is an infant and toddler-friendly area where they learn everything about what happens on a real farm. The realistic farmhouse contains a kitchen where visitors, after picking items out of the adjacent simulated vegetable garden, can cook them up. There's a horse, some pigs and chickens, and a dairy cow that is ready to be milked. A large tree provides a special climbing structure with a slide and the Grassy Knoll is a specially-designed area for infants and crawlers that provides a soft, safe, developmentally-appropriate exploration and play space.

Lower Level:

Garage Rock is a sound room where you can express yourself with music and drum with the beat. The instruments in the exhibit are made of tools, plastic pipes, a pinball machine and other unexpected materials and are designed to be whimsical, eye-catching and intriguing. While visitors strum, slap and spin, they can play with timbre, melody, pitch and the other basic elements of music.

The Reedy River Bend and Toddler Lily Pond are interactive water exhibits (Yes, you may get wet) where you can learn about the waterfalls and mountains of Upstate South Carolina. Pulleys, pumps and wheels demonstrate just how powerful water can be.

Even the requisite gift shop, The More to Explore Store, is well-planned with learning toys available that complement the exhibits. And, if you get hungry while at the museum, Saffron's Cafe' has kid-friendly, healthy fare available for lunch.  There is a large seating area with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Special programs, camps, and events are held throughout the year with something special happening almost every month, so be sure to check the museum's event calendar.  On New Year's Day, the Museum is hosting a "Noon" Year's Eve from 9am until 3pm.  "Celebrating New Year's Eve is a family affair at TCMU," remarks Halverson.  "Children will love to party the day away at our NOON Year's Eve celebration complete with a beach ball drop, crafts, Zumba dance party and Sprite toast." 

On March 22nd there will be a Pirate Party to welcome the new traveling exhibit, The Hunt for Treasure, to the museum. Adults and kids are encouraged to come dressed in their best pirate gear while learning how archeologists find buried treasures.

Good to know before you go:

  • The museum is closed on Mondays.
  • Security is tight.  All children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. No adults are allowed that are not with children and each adult has a card that must be scanned upon entering and exiting the building. One adult is required for every five children.
  • Parking is available behind the museum and there is a fee during the week.  On Saturday and Sunday this parking lot is free.
  • Mornings are busier (lots of school groups) than afternoons so plan your visit accordingly.
  • Admission is $10.00 for adults, $9.00 kids 2-12.  Discounts are available for military personnel and groups. Annual memberships are also available.
  • The museum hosts special nights for adults only throughout the year.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of The Children's Museum of the Upstate and Sherry Jackson

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com.