Grand Rapids Children’s Museum: Molly of Denali’s Alaskan Adventures are Here!

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Trip Planner

11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is one of the best things to do in Grand Rapids if you’ve got kids.

With its mosaic-mural facade and rainbow-colored street out front, the building beckons kids and adults inside with the promise of play.

Once inside, will you dress up as a favorite animal or pretend to run a restaurant? Maybe you’ll head straight for the mega-sized bubbles station.

There are two floors of awesome just waiting to be discovered at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Grand Rapids Children's Museum Mural Exterior

In this Article

Molly of Denali®  Exploration and Wild Adventures – special exhibit

This exhibit runs January 28- May 14, 2023

Drop right into the middle of an Alaskan adventure at GRCM’s newest exhibit Molly of Denali: An Alaskan Adventure

Based on the award-winning PBS Kids series, Molly and her friends bring the excitement of Alaska Native life right to Grand Rapids.

I am blown away at how expansive this exhibit is. There are new discoveries on both floors and around every corner. 

My four-year-old son and I went on so many adventures throughout the museum that I almost wished I’d packed hiking gear!

Each display encourages kids to ask questions, explore, try something new, and ultimately have an adventure. 

Young explorers will love hopping on a dog sled, driving a snowmobile, ice fishing, flying a bush plane, and strapping on snowshoes to navigate a snow maze.

The snowmobile was a huge hit with my vehicle-obsessed kid.

He was so excited to climb up on a real snowmobile, which resulted in some great “action shots” in front of the snowy mountain backdrop.

Pretend play is king at the Trading Post.

Here kids can choose typical Trading Post items like lanterns, first aid kits, and fishing gear from around the store, place them in a basket, and take them to the checkout counter with a real cash register. 

There are so many surprises packed in this little display. Open a window, look in a bin, squeeze a plushy bird – you might be surprised what you find!

Crafty kids won’t want to leave the mitten making station, necklace beading, or station to make an Alaskan flag out of construction paper and gold stars. 

My son is excited to send the flag he made to his relatives who live in Alaska.

Molly of Denali has a “choose your own adventure” feel that makes each visit seem like a brand new experience. 

Whatever adventure you choose, these larger-than-life activities are guaranteed fun for the littlest and biggest kids in your group – even if the biggest kid is you!

Wimee’s Dreams Invites Kids to Create Their Own Story – Special Exhibit

This exhibit runs Oct 7, 2022 – September 2024.

In Wimee’s Dreams, kids can see their imaginations come to life through make-believe broadcasts, fun puppets and a giant Everbright light wall that can transport you to another galaxy.

This exhibit, inspired by Wimee’s Words, as seen on PBS, encourages creativity and storytelling through puppetry and music.

Find it at the stage area on the first floor of GRCM.

Wimee’s Dreams helps kids to bring their ideas to life through lot of hands-on exploration.

Come play with the beloved puppet robot Wimee as you storyboard your dreams or record your own make-believe broadcast.

You can even create your own characters for the show at the puppet-making station.

Wimee’s Dreams Highlights

  • An interactive green screen that allows children to experience the magic of green screen technology.
  • Blast off in Wimee’s rocket boat and explore the giant Everbright light wall in an outer space galaxy world, complete with glowing planets and twinkling stars.
  • Dress up in costumes and play with props like zebras, giant crayons, and cupcakes inspired by Wimee’s Dreams.
  • A pretend camera to film a make-believe broadcast.
  • Put on your own show, just like Wimee the Robot!

You’ll find lockers with lots of dress up clothes and fun props for your broadcast.
There are plush animals and puppets, too!

Wimee’s Dreams is here for nearly two years (until Sept 2024) – so you’ll have opportunity to visit again and again.

It would be neat to see how your kid’s storytelling ideas change at the exhibit as they get older.

Museum Layout

GRCM’s two floors are loaded with every sensory, hands-on experience you could imagine.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum First Floor Exhibit Layout as of 11/1/2021
GRCM Exhibits Second Floor
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Second Floor Exhibit Layout as of 11/1/2021

NURSING NOOK
On the lower level, back by the lockers and bathrooms, is a Nursing Nook.

Mothers can sit on a comfortable chair in a secluded space and close a curtain for privacy. There’s a little table and lamp to make it extra cozy for Mom.

KID-SIZED RESTROOMS
My kids love that there are “little potties” in the restroom.

Half the stalls in the ladies’ room have short toilets, perfect for potty-training littles.

They also have a sink that’s lower to the ground and a stool to reach it in case those legs are still too short.

Favorite Exhibits

While the open staircase can make the museum feel like one large space, GRCM actually features two floors of fun.

GR Children’s Museum houses several permanent exhibits like Bubbles, Little GR, and the Ranger Station, along with several rotating exhibits. Past favorites have been Just Fort Fun, Boxes, and Kidstruction Zone.

Within each of these areas the museum and their facilitators are ready to play, from dressing up to building, and from experimenting to sensory play, there is sure to be something your child will find themselves totally engrossed in.

Little GR

permanent exhibit

One of GRCM’s flagship exhibits, LIttle GR features mini versions of Grand Rapids businesses where kids can pretend in their own little city for hours.

You may have to pry your kids away from Little Grand Rapids. There is so much to do in this exhibit!

Favorites include a mini Meijer, complete with lots of play food, shopping carts and even a checkout.

Kids can also bank, get pizza, repair cars, hit up the post office and more.

Shopping for groceries in Little GR.

Wee Discover

permanent exhibit

Visiting the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum with a baby or toddler? If so, head straight for Wee Discover.
This is the hit destination for kids 3 and under.

This special toddler area is fantastic. It’s mostly closed off from the rest of the floor so the littles are safely contained from the bigger kids.

Kids love playing in the kitchen, perfectly sized for their shorter heights. When my little kids are in the obsessed-with-balls stage, they can’t get enough of the rainbow ball sorter.

They love putting the balls in and then giggling hysterically when they pull the stopper from the bottom and they all crash down.

It’s great because you don’t have to worry about big kids cruising through and there’s only one way in/out, making it easier to keep an eye on little escape artists.

Grand Rapids Children's Museum Wee Discover
The New Baby Barre was added to Wee Discover in Summer 2021

The Spin Zone

Pint-sized scientists will marvel at this three-tired, fully accessible exhibit.

And honestly, grown ups will, too, as you play around with centrifugal force.


Kristen’s Corner & The Stage

permanent exhibit

Imaginative kids are drawn to this area, where they can dress up, act, explore music and more.

Train Table

permanent exhibit

As of 2021, the GRCM has a BRAND NEW accessible train table with room for twice as much play!

Bubbles

permanent exhibit

Possibly the most well-known part of GRCM is the giant bubbles exhibit!

Kids can try making their own massive bubbles at the giant bubble table or even stand inSIDE a bubble at the bubble tower.

(Nothing is cooler than being enclosed by a giant bubble! It’s tricky for young kids to get the rope soaked in the soap and pull slowly enough for the bubble to form, but the giggles and grins as the bubble pops are contagious.)

Experiment with the different shaped bubble wands, too. 

Pro tip: Save this exhibit for last because kids often want to play here forever!


boy playing bubbles at Grand Rapids Children's Museum
The Bubbles Exhibit is a Perennial Hit with All Ages

To the Rescue and Ranger Station

permanent exhibit

Kids often dream of being a first responder of some sort when they grow up, and now they can practice some of the favorites at GRCM.

The kids love to put on the fire jackets, hats & boots and go down the slide.

Kids can also drive a fire truck, work in an ambulance or visit Smokey the Bear to learn how we can keep our world safe.


The Live Hive

permanent exhibit

Watch a real, live beehive hard at work at GRCM’s second floor.

But don’t worry, you can’t get stung! Watch bees build their honeycomb in a fully-enclosed case – and then fly outside via a tube in the wall.

Special Events, Museum Rentals & Birthday Parties

Throughout the year GRCM hosts two to three events geared specifically to adults.

These events have ranged from murder mysteries to 90’s dance parties, and even a Carnival.

GRCM gives you space to engage with the theme as well with some of the typical exhibits they have (not going to lie, I love being able to build something and not have it immediately knocked down by an exuberant 2-year-old).

One of the most exciting ways to engage at GRCM is through a museum rental.

You get the whole museum to yourself one one of the days they’re closed to the public.

At least three staff are present to help, and you also have access to their two large conference rooms upstairs with tables and sinks.

If you’ve never experienced a Children’s Museum party, you’re missing out. It’s so fun to watch kids AND grownups exploring every exhibit with huge smiles on their faces.

Why Does the GRCM Focus on Play?

Play springs up naturally in children and grows organically out of their imaginations.

How many times has your toddler shown more interest in the box a shiny new toy came in than in the toy itself?

Play cannot be forced or coerced. The best way to let kids enter into the “work of play” is to give them a few options and let them figure out what to do from there.

A place like Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is a wonderland of play.

The best part is that all this play is so much more than entertainment.

Play is learning.

As our kids pursue these delights, they are establishing strong foundations for the motor skills- balancing and climbing build gross motor skills, while deftly building with legos, and painting help to refine fine motor skills.

Play enriches a child’s imagination. It develops language skills, fosters empathy, and helps kids become ace problem-solvers.

GRCM promotes play-based learning because it’s great for our kids.

boy playing with wheels at GRCM

Sensory Support

For children with sensory sensitivities, entering the Grand Rapid Children’s Museum may be a very overwhelming experience.

With all of the lights, noises, colors, and busyness of the other children–they may feel overstimulated and unable to focus.

For this reason, some parents of special needs kids would simply avoid a visit.

But Grand Rapids Children’s Museum wants ALL children to be able to enjoy their wonderland of learning fun, so they set out to create a safe experience for all kids.

Most recently, GRCM added Sensory Resource Toolkits which are available for checkout at the front desk.

A LOOK INSIDE THE SENSORY RESOURCE TOOLKITS

kid-size weighted compression vests
noise-reducing headphones
fidget tools
weighted suspenders
emotion recognition flash cards
GRCM’s Social Story. (A social story is a first person account of a visit to the museum to help visitors feel prepared for the different exhibits.)

These toolkits help children with sensory sensitivities to feel more at home in the museum and allow parents the peace of mind that their children will have fun without the risk of sensory overload.

They were created specifically for these children in mind and the items were chosen with advice from therapists, Fun and Function, and the Autism Alliance of Michigan.

Tips for Visiting the Children’s Museum with Your Child That Needs Sensory Support

Before you go, visit the museum’s website to check the schedule verify hours and special programming.

(Field trips and museum rentals are now scheduled on days when the museum is closed.)

Review the Social Story at home.  This explains all of the different exhibits to prepare your child and to know if there are some to avoid.

Call ahead at 616-235-4726 to reserve a Sensory Resource Toolkit.
Enjoy your time at the museum!

Even if you can’t make it to the Children’s Museum downtown, you can browse their site for ideas for games and simple crafts and projects.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for their new museum-on-wheels that will start touring soon, bringing play to communities all over Michigan.

Hours & Admission

No matter your age, play should be a part of your life. Grand Rapids Children’s Museum offers hours of it almost every day of the week!

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is located at 11 Sheldon Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

There is limited metered parking in front of the building, but you can find metered street parking on neighboring streets.

There is also a paid lot at GRPL’s main branch on Library St, just northeast of the museum.

They are open Tuesday 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM for members only, Thursday from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM, and Friday & Saturday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Memberships are also available, and would delight the children in your family! (And probably you, too!)

Getting to the Museum & Parking
The children’s museum is so easy to get to, even for people like me who hate driving downtown.

There is street parking available in front of the museum or around the square. I can even park my Mom Mobile there without any trouble.

Parking on Sheldon Street in front of the museum has a three-hour limit and the other streets are two hours. Two hours is the perfect amount of time for my kids to play. They get to see everything but don’t have enough time to get bored.

Now that the meters run on the MOTU app, it’s so easy to keep track of your remaining time.

Getting to the Museum & Parking


The children’s museum is so easy to get to, even for people like me who hate driving downtown.

There is street parking available in front of the museum or around the square. I can even park my Mom Mobile there without any trouble.

Parking on Sheldon Street in front of the museum has a three-hour limit and the other streets are two hours. Two hours is the perfect amount of time for my kids to play. They get to see everything but don’t have enough time to get bored.

Now that the meters run on the MOTU app, it’s so easy to keep track of your remaining time.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

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11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
616-235-4726

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