Think, Play, Create: An Insider’s Guide to the New Children’s Museum

A scratch-and-sniff banana bridge, meet-ups with resident chickens, a giant sink, and rooms full of whimsy are waiting for little ones to explore. Sound a little intriguing? Join us for an insiders look at the downtown San Diego creative play space known as The New Children’s Museum (NCM) and their latest attraction, Feast: The Art of Playing With Your Food.


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The NCM is all about helping kids think, play and create through hands-on exhibitions, engaging art-making activities, artistic performances, and educational experiences. From sculpting clay figures during a daily visit to participating in a camp programs, mini-museum goers experience the joy of art in different ways.

Main Attraction Must-Sees
The museum features an interactive exhibition that influences all the art and activities. This year’s theme is food, and features 13 artists installations and eight projects centered around things we eat. Feast allows visitors to engage in a multi-sensory experience that examines the relationship to food and eating in inventive and unexpected ways.

Paint Farm
Tiny hands are equipped with paintbrushes and vibrant colors to give old farming equipment a splash of the rainbow. Don’t worry parents, NCM provides aprons to keep clothes clean. But just in case, have the kiddos wear something that can get dirty!


Made for kids aged 4 and under, Wobbleland is an adventure in itself. Modeled to look like the inside of a kitchen sink, toddlers can climb through a piece of cheese, sail off on a watermelon boat, and see-saw on an avocado! With so much to do in Wobbleland, it’ll be hard to tear your tiny tot away to explore other areas.

Green Bellies Cafe
What could be better than stopping for a snack in between activities? How about an organic, seasonal menu for a museum-inspired snack? Green Bellies, now a permanent resident of NCM, provides healthy choices for all ages including sandwiches, baked goods, and ice cold refreshments.

Hidden Gems: Don’t Miss These Spots
Don’t leave the museum without checking out these exhibitions and events taking place throughout the week.

Daily Sprout Garden
Across the street from the main entrance, Daily Sprout Garden awaits to teach green-thumbs all about planting produce. Take a walk by the fruit trees, gaze at the berry patches, and sniff the bunches of fresh herbs. The Garden is a full sensory experience where even the pickiest of eaters will get excited to learn from where their food sprouts.


Chicken Check-In
Do you hear a familiar “cluck, cluck” coming from downstairs? The chicken coop is located on the bottom floor of NCM, but “check-in” with the resident chickens once a day on the main floor. Animal lovers will have an opportunity to pet the feathered friends and learn about respecting and caring for food sources.

Woven Woods
This small area set back off to the side of the Paint Farm features local artists coupled with a take-home activity for young Van Goughs to enjoy. The really cool thing? This area is currently featuring local artists who also work part time at NCM. How cool would it be to introduce your budding artists to a real one? Check it out!

Paper-Making Studio
Held most afternoons, the paper-making studio gives pint-sized creators the chance to turn pulp into paper. Kids learn the art of paper creation and get to take home their own masterpiece. The sessions fill up fast, so make sure to check the NCM website to see the studio’s hours on the day you visit.

Toddler Times
NCM makes sure the tots will always have something special waiting. Toddler Time is an exclusive event just for toddlers that takes place Fridays at 10:30 a.m. on the main floor. Stop in for a Spanish lesson, music time, or story socials for the tiniest visitors.


Insider Tips

  • If you want a taste of the NCM before buying an admission ticket, check out the Target Free Second Sunday events. The museum opens from 12 – 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month for free!
  • The ideal age for kiddos visiting the museum is age 4 and under. Anything older and they may move through the museum at a racer’s pace.
  • Make sure to check out the Feast exhibit before it changes in spring 2015.
  • If the kiddos need a break from the indoor fun, head to the mini park and play space located just outside the museum.

The New Children’s Museum
200 West Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

Hours: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sunday, 12 – 4 p.m. (members only from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.); Closed Tuesday

Price: $10/person; kids under 1 are free. The museum offers great military rates and super-affordable membership passes.

What is your favorite attraction at The New Children’s Museum? Leave us a comment below and your idea could be featured in a future article!

All photos courtesy of The New Children’s Museum

— Lisa Van Curen


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