Smart Play

Smart Play: Busy the kids with five museums dedicated to expanding imaginations
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(Clockwise from top left) Hand's On Children's Museum; Asheville Museum of Science; KidSenses Children's Museum; Children's Playhouse; Catawba Science Center.


Asheville Museum of Science » Asheville

Beginning with one man’s personal mineral collection, this kids’ science museum now offers opportunities to delve into astronomy, geology, climate, ecology, and other fields. Exhibits and activities include the original mineral collection, a paleontology display where kids can uncover fossils, and a new exhibit about the French Broad River that’s slated to open in July. Science-themed birthday parties and multiple summer camps help to add new experiences for budding explorers. 43 Patton Ave.; (828) 254-7162; www.ashevillescience.org

Hands On! Children’s Museum » Hendersonville

Providing families with “hands on” learning experiences through various educational programs and a dozen science exhibits, this museum has been sparking imaginations since 2007. The exhibits aim not only for fun but for education, teaching social and emotional development, and cognitive, fine, and gross motor skills. 318 N. Main St.; (828) 697-8333; www.handsonwnc.org

KidSenses Children’s Museum » Rutherfordton

Open since 2004, this museum in the heart of downtown Rutherfordton features 12 interactive exhibit areas, curriculum-based workshops for field trip groups, a Science on the Move outreach program, and a 7,500-square-foot Children’s Garden (open seasonally). Kids can learn how a garden grows by exploring the importance of plants and how they keep our environment alive and healthy, right in the museum’s backyard. 172 N. Main St.; (828) 286-2120; www.kidsenses.org

Catawba Science Center » Hickory

A budding scientist’s mecca with a planetarium, aquarium, naturalist center, and other attractions, children won’t want to leave this place in any hurry. While there are year-round chances to pet stingrays and baby sharks and view the world’s aquatic ecosystems, visitors can also catch a laser show inside the Milholland Planetarium, where rotating exhibits allow new opportunities every few months. Educational summer camps, with small classes taught by certified teachers and trained assistants, high-quality programming, and interaction with CSC exhibits, continue through August 24. 243 Third Ave. NE; (828) 322-8169; www.catawbascience.org

Children’s Playhouse » Boone

For kids up to age eight, this center based in a renovated house offers an educational play environment. Children’s Playhouse provides enriching arts- and science-based programs and stimulating play areas and exhibits, while parents will find a caring community filled with helpful resources with which to raise their children in their first few years. 400 Tracy Cir.; (828) 263-0011; www.goplayhouse.org

Photographs courtesy of Kidsenses Children’s Museum; Hands on! Children’s Museum; Catawba Science Center; by Laurel Littler, Courtesy of the Children’s Playhouse; (Asheville Museum of Science) by Joe Bolado