Madison Children’s Museum: Reopens to members

Madison, Wis.— Madison Children’s Museum reopens today. reuniting children with Seymore, the giant bluegill; the Wildernest bone bridge, rooftop chickens; and each other—in open-ended, creative play.

“Kids don’t just want to play like they used to; they need to,” says Deb Gilpin, museum president and CEO. “The pandemic has been particularly hard on kids, and play is how they process emotions and heal. We’re thrilled to welcome them back!”

The museum opens exclusively to its members during the soft opening, from June 3 until the public opening on June 24. To help limit capacity and allow for safe interactions, all visitors must make an online reservation in advance for a specific time. For members, these are free. The same system will remain in place when the museum opens to the public, with non-member visitors purchasing tickets online for reserved times.

Non-members who would like to visit as soon as possible can buy a membership and then reserve a time slot for a visit.

Open days and hours have changed since the last time the museum was open: Hours will be Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily capacity will start lower than typical summer visitation and is planned to increase slowly over the summer. More open days will likely be added in future.

There are many new safety features and policies. The HVAC system has been updated to the recommended MERV-13 filtration level and now includes needlepoint bipolar ionization technology that not only kills pathogens, but also helps control allergens. Many other now common safety protocols have been put in place, such as hand sanitizing stations.

The Sparkler Cafe will remain closed indefinitely. The dining area has moved from the concourse on the first floor to the more controlled Celebrations room on the second floor. Visitors may bring their own food.

As the museum mainly serves children under 12, who can’t be vaccinated, masks must be worn at all times by all those age three and up. The only exception to the rule is the Celebrations dining area.

The exhibits kids loved before the museum closed its doors on March 13, 2019 will be waiting. In addition, there have been some changes and additions: an enhanced Lego play area, a Squirrel Bakery installation (the squirrels are the chefs, not baked into the pastries), and two new, live bunnies who live in a hutch on the green rooftop. The “Scratch That” automata display near the entrance will be new to most, as it opened shortly before the museum closed.

But the most exciting new attraction for some kids is not a formal exhibit—yet. The museum’s many large windows offer dramatic views of the construction zone behind the museum, where the J.H. Findorff & Son crew is currently working on what will become the Wonderground, a 10,000-square-foot space for outdoor, active play. That exhibit will open in September. 

The ongoing progress of the museum’s Our Future in Play campaign helped carry the organization through the financial hardships of the long closure, the challenges of reopening, and now the construction of the Wonderground. Generous donors have so far contributed $3.45 million toward a $4.5 million goal.