After an impossibly long wait, the newly rebuilt and redesigned Junior Museum and Zoo is finally open! Funded entirely by local, private donations, this project is truly one that is community-based and for everyone-special care was taken to be inclusive of all-abilities and needs. At close to double the footprint of the original museum and zoo, the addition of three classrooms (two indoor, one outdoor), program space for birthday parties and a large courtyard and garden translates into a much needed expansion for the popular spot. Read on to find out why inquisitive little minds and hands will want to visit this astounding museum and zoo today!
Everything about this museum encourages kids to be interactive and hands-on and this starts at the entrance. An outdoor play area with a Boulder Hop will greet kids along with “Sway”, a public art piece which encourages kids to climb on and...well, sway. Propelled by hydraulics, the artwork mimics the action of scissors and will undoubtedly be a highlight before you even step into the museum!
If you can manage to pry the kids off and head inside, they will be met by the Ball Exhibits which encourage the exploration of gravity. A roller coaster for balls (complete with loops of course) sends balls rolling and twisting down its tracks before ending at a ball funnel. Kids can also build their own ball machine or work on moving balls through a giant machine in collaboration with others.
The Dome features opportunities to investigate properties of energy and force through building circuits while the mesmerizing Magnetic Sand station allows kids to manipulate and move sand. A Baby’s Meadow just for crawlers and tots at the corner of the museum allows for the youngest visitors to play safely without the prospect of getting bowled over by overzealous preschoolers. A climb up platform will give minis a much needed height boost and provide an eagle’s view to the museum.
Because kids love crawling and hiding in small spaces, they will LOVE the Log! This enclosed crawl space juts out into the meerkat exhibit, providing an immersive experience. Here, kids can come face-to-face with these adorable creatures and feel like they are part of the exhibit—truly, who is checking out whom?!
“Loose in the Zoo” was the vision when recreating this space and protected by a large net overhead, this large aviary is just that! Birds are allowed to roam freely as are turtles, peacocks and flamingos. At the center of the zoo is a treehouse with platforms, rope bridges, net tubes and ladders for the adventurous to navigate. A built-in elevator aids anyone who needs a lift getting to the top.
Be sure to have kids crawl and make their way into the underwater tunnel to enjoy a different view of the freshwater tank and its inhabitants. Water Bird pond is where you will find most of the flamingos hanging out and a stop by Wildlife Circle will give kids the opportunity to meet animals and their zookeepers such as Sequoia, the zoo’s 33 year old resident bald eagle.
Recognizing that children have different abilities and strengths, the museum/zoo has implemented numerous inclusive features including:
- Wheelchair transfer stations
-Accessible bathrooms with adult-sized changing tables
-Bronze, life-like animal statues that are touchable can be found next to animal exhibits with braille labels and QR codes for audio recordings coming in January 2022
-Portable hearing loops to assist with T-coil hearing aids
-An American Sign Language interpreter (free of charge, must be requested two weeks in advance)
-Visitors with sensory sensitivities can borrow a weighted blanket, noise-canceling headphones or seek out quiet time in one of two Calming Nooks
Super Family Sundays is a free event on the following days set aside by the Junior Museum & Zoo especially for families with children who have disabilities. RSVP required.
November 21, 2021 – 8:30 to 10 am
December 12, 2021 – 8:30 to 10 am
January 9, 2022 – 8:30 to 10 am
February 13, 2022 – 8:30 to 10 am
March 13, 2022 – 5:30 to 7:00 pm
1451 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA
Hours: Fri.-Sun, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (closed 1-1:30p.m. for sanitizing
To open Tue.-Sun. beginning Dec. 21
—story and photos by Christine Lai (unless otherwise noted)
featured photo by Artem Nazarov