In February 2020, my daughter was turning 2, and family members were starting to ask for gift ideas. Feeling like I was STILL trying to find places for Christmas presents two months later, I thought that an experience gift would be a great idea! And so, my in-laws generously gifted us a Membership to the Bucks County Children’s Museum. We’d been there a few other times and loved it, and now that Charlotte was getting old enough to REALLY get into everything with Henry, it should have been perfect. And then the world shut down.
Well, 15 months later, the Bucks County Children’s Museum is now open again!!! If you’ve been to Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum, this New Hope favorite is very similar but on a smaller scale, making it perfect for an outing with your littlest kids. And if you’ve never been there, picture somewhere that Blippi would go! (If that doesn’t help, do you even HAVE kids under 5?!) It’s big enough to entertain them for around 2 hours, but it’s not overwhelming. And the ticket prices reflect that. Children under 1 are free. Kids (1 and up) and adults are $8. (Or if you think you’ll go more than a few times a year, you should take a look at their Membership options.) Parking is also totally reasonable in New Hope. I’m not sure if it varies on the weekend, but I paid $4 on a Tuesday, and I believe it would have been a little less if I paid with cash instead of credit card.
7/15 UPDATE: This post was originally written in May. I am currently updating in July, our 3rd visit after the museum reopened. I will be tweaking the copy below to reflect the latest status of exhibits!
COVID Precautions as of 7/15: I remember there always being hand sanitizer on tables as soon as you entered the museum as well as a hand-washing station. They’ve since added even more hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the museum. As of now, reservations are required for Saturdays and Sundays, but you don’t need reservations Tuesday through Friday. (The museum is closed on Mondays.) Masks are no longer required; instead, there’s a sign at the door saying that per CDC, masks are recommended. I’d say mask usage was about 50% in the museum. If you are uncomfortable being around unmasked people, I feel that the museum is large enough to distance yourself. If you’re concerned about crowds, I’d recommend arriving at 12:30 when a lot of people leave for lunch/naps.
As for changes with the actual exhibits, there are some, but not enough to negatively impact your visit overall. Obviously being a very hands-on facility, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had seen on Facebook that they changed the “Big Dig” area that used to have sand along with paleontologist vests and tools for uncovering dinosaur bones and fossils.
Now, that area has several fossil rubbing stations with rolls of paper and crayons. (As of 7/15, this has changed again! They now have large 3D pin art. You know, where you push from one side and then see the indentation on the other?) And the sand has been replaced with hidden bones/fossils that are revealed using little flashlights that are tethered to the area. To be honest, my kids definitely enjoyed the old sand area more. BUT, if you’ve never been there before, you’d still think this was cool. I imagine the sand is just too hard to sanitize?
After hearing about the dino changes, I was worried what that mean for the water area. BUT, I didn’t need to! If there were any changes at all to this section, I didn’t notice them. In this section, there’s a giant water table stocked full of little boats and plastic animals. There are waterproof smocks that can be borrowed to protect clothes, so you don’t need to worry about that. Kids can experiment with movable dams, control the flow of water, and even stand under a dome while another person makes it “rain” over them … increasing the water flow in the water table. This is always a highlight of our visit.
I remember that they used to have some small puzzles and other hands-on toys in this back area by the water table, but those weren’t there during our visit. Instead, there was a staff member sitting at a table with a craft for the kids. In my opinion, this was a more fun use of this space anyway. On the day of our visit, the kids were able to use tissue paper to make a suncatcher, which made for a nice little souvenir of our day.
7/15 UPDATE: The past 2 times we’ve been there, they have had Magnatiles on a light-up board instead of a craft. The kids liked making a craft, but they LOVE playing with the Magnatiles. Which is funny to me since we have them at home!
7/15 Update: I previously wrote in May that the Wind Area was drastically different, but when we visited today … it was all back! Hurray! Here, kids can put colorful lightweight scarves into tubes and see how they shoot through before blowing out into the room. There’s also an area with PVC piping that can be constructed in different way to blow the scarves and balls. There are also a few other attractions including an area where kids can build things with blocks and then push a button to make the base vibrate, simulating an earthquake. They can learn about wattages and how it takes different amounts of energy to power different things. The back room where you can make shadows on the wall and the hot air balloon simulator are still there and running.
My son Henry, 4-1/2, LOVES cars, so he always has fun in the section where you can build race tracks. There are two large ramps along with different sections of tracks (straight, curvy, hills) that you can combine in different ways to see how it affects how the cars go. This section also has a spot on the wall with different movable tubes/ramps for balls, and an area where you can move around magnetic gears, then turn them to make things move. Note: If your child likes those gears, THIS is a great toy! (Affiliate link.) Some of the photos below are from past visits (Henry’s baby face!) because I realized I took a lot of videos of this section this time!
There’s also an exhibit called “A Recycled Adventure,” which has a tree house with slide, kind of a giant Lite Brite underneath, magnetic fishing, and a few other attractions.
The final room has the Town Square and Hospital. Previously, there was a big ice cream stand stocked with cones and magnetic scoops of ice cream. In fact, it was that area that inspired THIS Melissa & Doug set (Affiliate link) to be the “wrappable” gift that my mother-in-law paired with our museum membership. The ice cream section has been replaced with horses that children can “feed” carrots and a little chicken egg peg drop. There are also magnetic animal puzzles on the wall where kids can rummage through a box of animal parts to put together the animals outlined on the wall. (The flower area has been removed for now.) The food market, post office and train area are still open though. It did seem to me like there were fewer food items (which I’m sure is to cut down on the time it takes to sanitize), but there was enough there that my kids had a great time asking me to pretend to be eating lunch in the dining car while they prepared my food. And lastly, there’s the hospital area. For now, they don’t have the lab coats and other costumes for kids to try on. But there’s still the pretend ambulance (along with a few pretend doctor tools), and the giant Operation game.
Previously, I stated that if you HAVEN’T been to the Bucks County Children’s Museum before or unless your child’s favorite is something I mentioned as being unavailable right now, you’d barely notice a difference. Well now that’s even MORE the case! As of July 15, the museum is just about back to where it was before the closure. There are a few differences, but they are relatively minor at this point. For the admission fee, it’s a great way to get the kids out of the house (but in air conditioning!) and engaged this summer. And as I always say, it’s they’re not at home … they’re not making a mess!
A Few Tips:
- As of July 15, the room with tables and chairs to take a snack/lunch break is open again. You can bring your own food/drinks. And there’s also a vending machine if needed. Note: It’s a peanut free room.
- In addition, there are tables, chairs and umbrellas set up for use in the courtyard that’s down the stairs to the right of the entrance.
- Alternatively, there are lots of fun restaurants in New Hope! One of our favorites, Triumph Brewing Co., JUST reopened this spring. It’s a great kid-friendly spot with really good food and drinks. PLUS, their outdoor seating overlooks the New Hope train station and tracks. My son LOVES this. Note: The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- The museum has cubbies at the entrance that you can use for diaper bags, etc.
- Bucks County Children’s Museum has really nice bathrooms! Not all public places can say this, so I think it’s worth noting. Foot stools for the kids to use when washing their hands. Traditional flush toilets. (My kids HATE the automatic.) And a baby changing table (a REAL one, not those fold-down ones) that always has a variety of diapers underneath in case of emergency.
- When you’re exiting the museum, take a look at the brochures and maps on display. You can take these for free, and my kids LOVE looking at maps while we’re in the car. As a bonus, it was a great distraction to get them away from the gift shop area!