Imagine Nation Children’s Museum, Bristol, CT
This past weekend we took a quick day trip to the Imagine Nation Children’s Museum in Bristol, CT. I had been wanting to check out this place for a while so when a Groupon deal became available at half the price of regular admission I snatched it up. Unfortunately due to the bad weather in Connecticut I literally waited until the last week to redeem my Groupon to go there. I’m a procrastinator at heart.
Bristol is in central Connecticut, southwest of the capital of Hartford. The museum is located on the corner of a main road and a quiet residential street. We had a hard time finding parking with all the snow buildup, ultimately parking on the residential street. Apparently there was a parking lot available but there was no sign to indicate it and it was down another street before we reached the museum so we missed the turn.
The entrance to the museum includes a lobby area with seating, a coat rack, gift shop and old fashioned soda fountain bar that serves ice cream as well as kid-friendly lunches like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Our Groupon was for 4 admissions for $14, reasonably priced, but there were only 3 of us and since the Groupon only allows for one visit we didn’t get the use of the 4th admission. Still, we saved $16 considering regular priced admission is $10 per person (children under 1 get in free).
Floor 1 of the museum has a large food-themed play area in the center. There’s a kitchen, dining area, market stand, and fake cow that you can milk (or ride, as in Stink’s case). There’s also a Science and Energy area which was a little too advanced for Stink, although she really enjoyed playing with the “dragonsaurs” in a giant box filled with wood chips. There was a pen with 2 friendly bunnies under the staircase but a sign said they were available for adoption so I don’t think they are a permanent exhibit.
Floor 2 has a lot more exhibits. There is a very nice water play area with a coat rack full of raincoats for the kids to wear. Children can stand inside a hoop and surround themselves in a large bubble or play a fishing game in the water table. There is also a chalkboard wall and cups filled with water for water painting. There’s a medical-themed play area with a dentist’s chair, a huge kaleidoscope and a Pinterest-worthy Light Bright on the wall that both Brandon and Stink enjoyed.
Some of the room exhibits on Floor 2 include the greenhouse, a warm sunny room filled with tanks of reptiles and insects and western-themed play clothes. There is also a multicultural room filled with books, toys and dress-up clothes from various parts of the world. There’s also a lot of musical instruments in this room and I think Stink tried every one of them out. Floor 2 also has a stage for performances, large foam blocks and a very nice arts and crafts center. Stink created a lovely masterpiece with feathers, plastic flowers and leaves which we left on a drying rack until we were ready to pick it up.
The Imagine Nation’s website boasts 3 floors of interactive play but really it’s just 2. The top floor is nothing more than a catwalk that leads to a little broadcasting station (the same thing you can visit on Floor 2) and a large tire. Pretty disappointing but they said they were raising money to add new exhibits.
Now for the complaints. Imagine Nation only has one unisex bathroom per floor and every time I walked by there was a line. I eventually discovered a men’s restroom on the first floor near the preschool classrooms but couldn’t find the women’s restroom. Eventually I just gave up and waited my turn in line at the unisex. Also, one of the things I always bemoaned about KidCity Children’s Museum were the cramped tiny rooms for playing but after having been to Imagine Nation I can say that I prefer the smaller rooms. At Imagine Nation almost all the play areas are open spaces and the echoes from children running and screaming can get pretty loud. Frankly I felt quite a bit of pity for the animals that were part of the exhibits at the museum.
Parking was another issue for me. There were no clear signs for museum parking so we ended up on a residential side street where we were promptly asked to move our car because one of the homeowners was moving. Even they couldn’t give suggestions on where else to park.
The Verdict: With Imagine Nation being $2 more per person than KidCity plus 15 minutes further from our house I doubt we will visit again. The Groupon was a good deal but without it I wouldn’t pay $10 a person to visit.
How To Get There: Imagine Nation is on the corner of Pleasant Street (residential) and Church Street (main) in Bristol, CT. Their parking lot is accessible on the next residential street over, Upson Street.
What To Bring: You can bring a bag lunch and eat in the lobby if you choose but no food or drink is allowed in the museum. There wasn’t enough space to hang our coats so we had to carry them around in our backpack which I’m glad we brought!
Child Friendly? Imagine Nation is good for kids who enjoy science, animals, imaginative play and arts and crafts. There are more exhibits here for older kids than at KidCity but is still good for toddler-age children.
Pet Friendly? No