My family became members at the KidsQuest Museum in Factoria more than a year ago because it was close to our house, my in-laws, and I could hit Target on the way to our car. When I heard they were moving to Downtown Bellevue, I was disappointed because that meant I couldn’t just stop in while running errands. I was completely bummed. However, when I heard about all the cool new features, I figured we’d need to check it out.
Our favorite area of the old museum was the train table. I liked how the tracks were screwed to the table and the wall and there were plenty of trains for all the kids to play together. Our next favorite areas included the semi-truck and the water tables. We spent the majority of our time in those 3 areas.
Since we are members, we were invited to their members-only preview celebration. I brought my 3-year-old son and wore my 4-month-old baby in my Tula carrier. We arrived 20 minutes after they opened and the place was packed!
When we entered, it was a bit confusing as to what was happening. No one gave me any directions as to where I could stash my diaper bag or where anything was located. It was a mad house. I ended up lugging my huge diaper bag around for about 15 minutes before I asked a staff member and she told me I could get a locker for $1. I was initially outraged that I’d have to pay to store something I could have easily put on my stroller (but didn’t bring as a common courtesy) but I wasn’t about to haul the bag everywhere we went. Later, I realized that there were a handful of cubbies underneath some bench seating but they were stuffed to the guilds by the time we arrived. They also had some coat hooks that were layered with coats.
The first area that we tried to explore was the On the Go Gallery. It was crammed with overflowing with kids and cardboard boxes and mail room carts, so we decided we might want to start upstairs and then head back down. This was a good move.
We ended up going straight to the train table and that’s where we stayed for the first hour. I was itching to explore the other areas, but my son was more than content to stay put. Not only is is much larger than at the old space, but it has a gorgeous mural of Bellevue and Seattle in the background. And, the table features a Space Needle and Pike Place Market as part of the set. He would have stayed there the rest of the day if I hadn’t encouraged him to check out the Bellevue Mercantile Co.
As soon as we left the Bellevue Mercantile, we headed straight back to the epic train table where he played for another 20 minutes or so. I finally pulled my son away from the train table and we headed back downstairs to find the Water Gallery area.
The Water Gallery is on the other side of the front desk and has tons of smocks for children. The area felt smaller to me, but I think it’s because it was divided into separate areas. There was a quieter area tucked away that had a mirror, a squeegee and a spray bottle. Yes, it’s an activity that teaches your kids how fun it is to clean windows. My son LOVED this area and did this for about 20 minutes.
When we finally made our way back down to the On The Go Gallery, things had calmed down a bit. There was an area for throwing paper airplanes (mainly used by adults who wanted something to do or a place to sit.) There was also a place set aside for matchbox cars. But, the main attractions were the new Semi Truck Cab (which has a CB radio, a horn and many fun buttons and knobs) and the package loading area. They have about 50 medium sized cardboard boxes for kids to cart around in mail carts, put through an x-ray scanner that shows the content, and then send up on a conveyor belt that drops the packages in 2 different locations. This area had the most energy as children quickly stacked packages on the conveyor belt and raced to pick up dropped packages. I felt like I was either in Santa’s workshop or a secret kids division of the Amazon Distribution Center.
After the kids got tired of moving the boxes in this cycle, the kids decided that the boxes should be loaded in the Semi Truck. My son was on board with that and dutifully helped load nearly all the boxes into the truck, which made it crowded for the kids in the truck cab. I wasn’t sure if that was something staff members had expected was going to happen, as I overheard someone commenting that of course kids would then load the packages on a truck for delivery. I then saw staff members unloading the boxes back to the mail room area, so I instructed my son that the truck was at it’s destination and it was time to unload the boxes. He was only partly on board with that.
I ended up having to cart him away from the exhibit to grab my diaper bag and head out. We’d been there 4.5 hours and he still wasn’t ready to go. We hadn’t even seen the outdoor space, explored the Climber longer than 5 minutes, or the Art Gallery area, but we had to leave something for our next visit.
What’s New at Kidsquest Museum
- Sticks + Stones Outdoor Gallery
- A newly reimagined Water Gallery, with a toddler specific Tot Splash zone
- On the Go Gallery, with a brand new Big Rig semi-truck cab
- Tot Orchard for children birth to age 3 to explore, complete with a quiet nursing area
- Story Tree Gallery with stage and reading nooks
- Bellevue Mercantile with opportunities for dramatic play including an ice cream parlor and cow wash that reflect historic Bellevue
- Cityscape Gallery with an oversize train table
- Two story Climber for gross motor exploration
- Three classrooms including an Art Studio with a kiln
- Snack Spots are located in the stairwells and in the cubby area
My Thoughts on the New KidsQuest Museum
- There were too many cool features to list in this blog post (can you believe this is my condensed version?)
- This museum is definitely on par with some of our favorite children’s museums on the West Coast and we will be renewing our membership.
- Almost every parent I talked to said that parking was an issue.
- There is a great mix of technology and wood-based sets in the exhibit areas.
- There is nowhere for adults in the Bellevue Mercantile to either stand or sit without feeling like they are in the way of the bustling children.
- I heard a parent ask a staff member if kids could sit on the cow and she said technically kids aren’t supposed to because they want to keep the fur nice. I didn’t notice any signage about that and saw plenty of parents propping their kiddos up on that cow for photos. I made a mental note so I wouldn’t do that in the future.
- The staff members are truly hands-on and interacted well with the children in various exhibit spaces.
- Because of the layout of the museum (with 2 floors and compartmentalized exhibit spaces) it’s difficult to supervise more than one child if they are in different areas. I met a lot of parents who were nervous about letting their oldest kid play unsupervised while they tended to their youngest and I saw a few kids looking for their Moms and several Moms looking for their kids.
- The layout is also tricky for those who want to do a play date because of the limited visibility, parents either have to follow their kid or risk them getting lost.
- Water Gallery
- The window to the water area is small enough that kids can be distracted away from it if parents aren’t wanting to explore that area. I really liked that because sometimes my son would get wet and I wouldn’t have dry clothes for him. It’s great to have the option of just doing the dry stuff.
- The water area is much more interactive and there is no need for stools because everything is low enough for toddlers.
- There were plenty of small and medium smocks in the water area and they were hanging on hooks that were miniature faucets!