Imagine is a hands-on children’s museum in Everett, WA, best suited to kids age 3 – 8, though toddlers and older kids can also enjoy it. Activities include:
- Pretend Play: an Italian restaurant next to a wildlife clinic, a farm, a theater with props and a light board, and a paleontology camp for digging up dinosaur bones
- Activities for Transportation Fans: pretend to drive a bus, play with trains, or load cargo onto a plane
- Interactive Exhibits: in the Air-mazing Laboratory, scarves shoot through the air, the Ball Tower sends balls flying through tubes high over your head, the Egg Factory has a hand-cranked egg elevator, there’s a shadow wall to dance in front of, and the Water Works is one of the best water play areas I’ve ever seen.
- Building Opportunities: You can build with Zoob, glow in the dark items, and marble mazes, build with Kapla blocks, Thinker Linkers, or build a a roller coaster
- Plus, there’s a great rooftop playground and an art studio, which help add this all up to a fabulous fun activity for kids, parents, and grandparents.
There is a video tour powered by google maps available on the exhibits page of their website. I include several pictures in my full review below – just click on any of them to see a larger view.
When you arrive, the front area is decorated as a town with a “city hall, fire station, and private eye”, which are really the coat room and offices. If you brought a stroller, they’ll ask you to park it there. So plan to bring a baby front pack or a toddler back pack to make it easier to haul a younger child around. (They have a few loaners at the front desk, but it’s best to bring your own!) There’s also a fun stop light to play with.
Piccolo Cafe, Wildlife Clinic, and Bus
This pretend play zone features the cab of a bus that kids can board and “drive”, an Italian cafe with chef’s hats, menus, and fun themed play-food, and a wildlife clinic with x-rays, examining tables, and crates full of exotic (stuffed) animals in need of care.
This is a series of tubes attached to blowers, where you can open a door, insert a scarf and it will flow through the tubes and then shoot out and flutter down. (Learn how to make your own “scarf cannon”) These are common features at children’s museums, because kids LOVE them, and will play with them over and over. This was a good one, but they only had six scarves out, and one little girl kept gathering them all up and holding on tight to them. The older boys who were there were trying their best to be patient and polite, but it was hard. Having six more scarves would have been an easy fix.
Rise and Shine Farm
There’s a horse to ride, a cow to milk, piglets to bottle feed, and a tractor to drive. There’s a duck ring toss game, a beanbag toss where you toss “sacks of grain” into a silo, milk jug number sorting and sudoku game, plus an egg factory which has a hand-cranked elevator to lift golf balls up high, then they drop down through a ball maze you can construct and re-arrange. It’s a really nice combination of pretend play, big motor games, and learning activities.
Around the Tree House
There’s a tree house you can climb into, and stairs that go up next to it, that take you to an overlook, and take you to the cozy reading nook. If things downstairs are feeling loud and busy, it’s a lovely space to take a break to calm down.
Below the tree, you’ll find a barber’s chair, and a few rooms with building activities, plus the theater. The building rooms featured ZOOB, a Blocks & Marbles set, and a glow in the dark room (with a glowing giant Lite-Brite). These rooms are sometimes less busy than other more open spaces and can offer another calm down activity for kids who’d rather build than read.
Backstage, there’s a prop box with costumes and puppets. In the house, there’s a sound board and light board that really work, and there’s seating for an audience of parents and grandparents resting their feet.
Transportation – Trains and Planes
Right next to the bus, you’ll find the train and plane areas. They have a huge train table where kids can play with BRIO style trains on a track that weaves between two “rooms”. It is a big enough space that I imagine there are fewer battles than there can be when two toddlers are navigating sharing tight quarters around a smaller train track. They also have a model train display that lets you press buttons – maybe they control the trains, but we couldn’t immediately see how. There’s a fun boiler room zone where you can press buttons for announcements like “more coal” and “tickets please.” The airplane has a cool passenger zone where you can try out what it’s like to sit on an airplane, and a cockpit with buttons to press, levers to move, and lit up screens. The best part of the plane is the conveyor belt that lets kids load “luggage” onto the plane – inside the plane, they can retrieve it, then send it back down the cargo chute where other kids retrieve it and send it back in again. Lots of fun collaborative play.
Next to the plane, there’s an activity where you load balls into a launch tube, and a blower launches them through a series of clear pipes above your head and then they bounce down pachinko style and come down to be re-loaded to run again. My son loves things like this, so this is when I noticed there aren’t a lot of places for adults to sit while their kids play in this transportation zone – they could use another bench or two if they could figure out how to fit it in.
Behind the trains, there’s a small room with two activities – a glow wall where you use a flashlight pen to draw and your image glows for a few seconds then fades away, and a big screen to dance in front of that projects your colorful images up onto the wall.
Seashore for Toddlers
There are toddler-appropriate activities everywhere throughout the museum; however, on a busy day, it can feel like your toddler is being trampled on by excited big kids everywhere you go. It’s nice to retreat to this gated off area, reserved for children three and under. There’s a small version of the scarf wall, and things to climb into (boat), under, and slide down.
This is a stand-out exhibit here at Imagine – one of the best water play areas I’ve been to. There’s a PVC pipe zone where kids can build a series of tunnels for the water to flow through, there’s a water table with a flowing current you can send balls down where you can create barriers to impede the water flow – see video below (there’s also water guns at the top of the current to spray at the balls to get them moving), there’s a toddler table (it was dry when we were there), there’s conveyor belts to lift balls up into the air, pumps, and pneumatic tube that launches a ball up through a tube and into a water vortex (see second video below.)
Play Tip: In the water zone, there’s one place where you can pump water into a tube, then when you pull the chain down, it will “flush” the water out and launch a bunch of balls. It’s super cool. But, it’s hard to figure out!! If the chain is hanging down, the tube does not seal tightly, and all the water you pump in just flows out, no matter how hard or fast you pump. But, if you take the weight on the chain and rest it on the round bolt shown in the picture above, then it will work! (I wish the museum would put a sign here with this tip. I normally like puzzling things out and can, but this one stumped most people.)
Practical Tips: There are smocks to help keep your kid dry, but it may be a good idea to have spare clothes in the car. Plus, the floor can be quite slippery, so make sure you and the children are walking cautiously! There’s a hand blow-dryer that looks like a blast furnace.
There’s a big room that was once Imagine Camp, so you’ll still see signs of that in the woodsy decor. There’s now a “try this” zone, which has lots of board games and party games out on the tables to play. (This is a very clever, and I think appropriate, marketing ploy. It’s a fun activity to have in this room and lots of kids were engaged there… and it lets parents know that everything they play there is available for purchase in the gift shop – proceeds from the shop benefit the museum and it’s nice to have the opportunity to try before you buy – and you don’t need to tell your kids that buying is an option!)
There’s also a building zone with KAPLA wooden blocks (like KEVA blocks), and an area with roller coaster ramps you could build and test. (I really liked these – I haven’t seen them elsewhere and can’t find them to purchase – but if anyone has a tip, let me know!) There was a lot of challenge in getting the balls up and over a series of ramps. Younger kids just rolled balls, but kids age 7 and up could get really engaged in the building process.
We skimmed through quickly, but it appears that there is a project of the day – that day, it was magic wands where you wrap sticks in yarn. That may have been free. Then there were carts with kits that you could purchase for a few dollars with all the supplies you needed for that craft.
This area had a large supply of building blocks called Thinker Linkers, which have fun angled connectors so you can build arches and circular structures. There were also construction vests and helmets for dress-up.
There’s lots more fun up on the rooftop deck.
There’s a sculpture of a life-size Stegosaurus skeleton, and black rubber “dirt” to dig in to unearth fossils that are sculpted into the ground. Lots of the fun of a sandbox, but with the paleontologist twist. There’s also a jeep to “drive”.
Tall Trees Climber
There’s a BIG climber. Kids age 5 – 9 LOVE it. It can be too challenging for little ones.
Note, this rooftop area may be closed on rainy days according to some reviews. (Although usually Seattle area sites are pretty mellow about rainy days.) It can be hot too. I’ve been there on 75 degree days, and it’s pretty toasty. If I was visiting on a hot day, I might start on the roof in the morning, and retreat indoors as the weather heats up.
Planning Your Visit
Time / Timing
My 8 year old and I spent almost 3.5 hours there last week. He was engaged and enjoying it the whole time. We tested out every activity, but he could have played longer at some of them and still had fun. When he was younger, he couldn’t take more than two hours at a place like this before he would get over-stimulated. I might have been able to take him for a few hours, go to a neighborhood restaurant for some quiet time over lunch, and then return for a little more.
All children’s museums are busiest on weekends and school vacations, and busier on weekday mornings than they are on weekday afternoons.
Hours and Admission
Info current as of July 2019. Check their website to get the most current information.
Hours vary a bit, but basically 10 – 5 each day, closed on Mondays. Cost: Babies under 1 year are free, children and adults $12, so the cost for a family is similar to seeing a movie in Everett.
They do offer admission for $3 to EBT card holders (low-income families who receive governmental assistance), they offer half-price admission on Thursday 3 – 5 pm, free access the third Friday evening each month, and memberships where if you attend the museum more than 3 or 4 times a year, you’ll save money on the membership. I do think there are several areas at the museum with high re-play value, so it’s well worth investing in a membership.
There’s street parking in the neighborhood, or pay lots for $3 – 6. There’s not a cafe at the museum, but several restaurants a block away.
There are elevators, but they are locked. I was told that if someone needs access, they just need to ask any staff person, or they can ask at the front desk for a walkie talkie, and any time they need the elevator, they call for a staff person to come open it.
For children with autism and sensory issues, there was a sign up front saying “there are headphones, sunglasses, and sensory balls available for those who need to use them.” They have a free sensory time on the third Sunday of every month from 9 – 11 am. My son is autistic, and at age 8, he was able to handle the museum just fine. (Although I did need to be close by a couple times to ward off conflicts over materials – like in the Water Zone, another child was having a hard time sharing the PVC pipes, and I needed to help work out solutions that seemed fair for my son and the other kids there.) When he was younger, the noise and crowds would have overwhelmed it at times, and we would have needed to retreat to quieter areas (like the book nook, the dining room downstairs, or one of the building rooms) to re-group.
My son loved it when he was three or four. He loved it when he was 8. All the exhibits suit this age range.
I think there’s plenty there that could engage a 10 – 12 year old, but they may think they’re too cool to go to a children’s museum and would not engage at all in many of the “kiddie” exhibits.
If you’re considering coming with a toddler, I think it’s worth knowing that there will be plenty of fun things to do, but there will also be several activities that will be over their head. I would also choose a time when older kids are least likely to be there. (e.g. 10 am to noon on a school day.)
When I have visited, we’ve had either one adult and one child, or two adults and one child, so it’s always been easy for us to keep an eye on him and keep him happy. If you’re attending with multiple children, especially of different developmental levels or different interests, it can be challenging to keep everyone together in one place in this large museum. So, before you arrive, have a talk with your kids about the importance of staying together and what to do if you’re separated.
More Fun Activities
Also check out my review of KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue, WA. I also have reviews of museums in Arizona and Washington, and this summer will be adding museums all over the Pacific Northwest.
Or, this blog is full of hands-on science activities for kids. Check them out!