Hands On Children's Museum, Olympia

#1 of 6 in Museums in Olympia
Must see · Children’s Museum · Museum
Hands On Children's Museum is a children's museum in Olympia, Washington, USA. It was founded in 1987 and received over 150,000 visitors a year at its old location near the Washington State Capitol. After moving to its new, permanent home on Olympia's East Bay, at 414 Jefferson Street on Olympia's East Bay, visitorship grew to over 300,000 in its first year (Nov 2012-Nov 2013).

The New Hands On Children's Museum, geared for children ages 0–11, features 8 themed galleries focusing on science and nature, plus an enhanced Arts & Parts Studio. The galleries include: "Good For You!" (healthy eating and living); "Our Puget Sound;" "Emergency!;" "Our Fabulous Forest;" "Move It!;" "Build It!;" "Snug Harbor" (for ages 0–4); and the two-story "Tides-to-Trees Climber and Stream Slide." The half-acre Outdoor Discovery Center was chosen by the Association of Children's Museums as one of only three "Going Wild!" pilot sites to demonstrate innovative ways to connect kids with nature; it is the only one of its kind in Washington. Opened in late Summer 2013, the Outdoor Discovery Center includes a Beach, Driftwood Forts, Mud Pie Pit, an interactive Stickworks sculpture "Raccoon Run," and a Fire Pit/Storytelling Ring. Once complete, the Outdoor Discovery Center will also feature a Hike-and-Trike Loop (summer of 2014), Children's Garden with edibles and flowers (summer of 2014), Compost and Worm bins (summer of 2014), an educational Rain Garden (summer of 2014), a Naturalist Cabin for holding nature workshops (summer of 2014), a ride-up Ferry (TBD), a Lighthouse (TBD), and much more. Check their website for the most updated exhibit plans: www.hocm.org.

Founded on the belief that all children deserve respect and the opportunity to learn, regardless of their ability to pay, the Museum offers a robust and award-winning Access Program for underserved and at-risk families. Access Programs served 86,000 children, families and educators in 2013, which represented a 37% increase since 2012. Programs include free monthly parenting classes, a free weekly preschool enrichment program, Free Friday Nights every month, and a library partnership to "check out" family admission passes. The Museum also offers discounted military admission and memberships, free field trips for rural, Title I and underserved elementary schools, and several family support programs. Its signature event Sand in the City is the second largest event in the region, offering free art and science activities for 35,000 children and families every year since 2000.

In 2013, Hands On was received the #4 spot in King5's Best "Fun Place to Take Kids" in Western Washington, and the Museum received the Best of South Sound's "Best Museum" and "Best Family Entertainment" Awards. The Museum is the first children's museum to receive a three Green Globes certification for green building and LEED certification.
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Hands On Children's Museum reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
483 reviews
  • We have visited many children museums while raising our son and now with our grandsons. The HOCM is by far the best Children's Museum we have ever visited. Even during COVID they are able to offer a....  more »
  • My family visited the museum on 8/10 and 8/11 and my kids loved the place. Police car, fire truck, helicopter, ambulance were my son’s favorite. I highly recommend this museum to families with...  more »
  • The museum itself is spectacular, but I wanted to take a moment to honor two parts of the organization that don't often get mentioned. First, the preschool is one of the best I've ever seen -- teachers Kitty and Natasha in particular are kind, warm, attentive, and in touch with the little ones. Every day is a fresh challenge in a crowded and crazy museum, but they make it feel like home to the kids -- the most stimulating and exciting but safe and secure home a little kid could ever dream of. They are both wonderful at their jobs and deserve all the recognition they could ever get. Secondly, the staff at the cafe are uniformly friendly, competent, and sweet and approachable to the kids. They bring legitimate cheer and excellent energy to their interactions with the kids, and the meals are healthy, tasty, and well prepared and thoughtfully balanced. This organization is such a gift to the Olympia area on so many levels.
  • This is one of our favorite places and my children want to live here when they're adults (since we currently drive 2 hours to meet Nana here). The staff is helpful, the opportunities for play are amazing, and things like food and potties are convenient. Parking on the street is cheaper than their lot, and it can be irritating to move your car if you stay that long, but I do it anyway.

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