Art and Technology Rule at the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco
Kids can get hands-on with 21st-century technology and the arts at San Francisco's Children's Creativity Museum in the city's Yerba Buena neighborhood. Formerly known as Zeum, this fun and educational resource on the roof of Moscone Center is the perfect place for families with kids of all ages. You can literally spend all day here working on projects and having a blast.
The Children's Creativity Museum offers numerous opportunities for imaginative play and learning, and features a stop-motion animation studio, a music studio, a design studio, an innovation lab, art galleries, and more. The museum also boasts a fantastic 1906 Looff carousel, which is currently undergoing an extensive renovation. It and its hand-carved menagrie of 65 animals is due to re-open on Saturday, April 26, 2014, so you won't have long to wait to ride it again!
By far our favorite part of the museum was the Animation Studio. This room contains all the tools and supplies kids ages 5 and up need to create their own claymation movies, from clay and wire to cameras and computers. The helpful and friendly young staff will supply you with wire armatures and clay. Sculpt your creation by twisting and wrapping clay around the wire. Different colors are available, as well as rolling and modeling tools to help refine your creation.
When you're ready, take your clay people and critters to one of the animation stations, where you can direct your own stop-motion short subject. The staff will give helpful pointers in using the camera and computer, and a wide variety of backdrops are available, too. When you're done, you can send your movie home via email! You can also keep your clay creations if you like (a $1 donation for each is suggested).
Next, we ventured upstairs to check out the Music Studio, where kids can dress up and make a karaoke video against a giant green screen ("Let it Go" from Frozen seemed to be the song of choice for most), and experiment with Garage Band on a Mac. You can make a DVD of your perfomance to take home (there's a $5 suggested donation per DVD).
Next door you'll find the innovation lab, where children can create their own inventions with the museum's Mystery Box Challenge. Solve a need or a problem with only the materials inside your mystery box, and build critical thinking and communication skills. You can bring home your creation, or leave it on display in the lab to inspire other young inventors.
Around the corner, you'll find the Design Studio, where you can create spirograph-like patterns with SILK and manipulate digital photos in Photoshop on one of several iMacs in the room. Make a sign for your bedroom door or a poster for the claymation movie that you made downstairs, and museum staff will print it out for you. You can also send it to your home email address.
For younger kids (ages 3 to 6), the Imagination Lab offers an interactive, hands-on play space. Slide, crawl, play, put on a puppet show, and take part in numerous other games and activities here. The museum also has a Creativity Theater, which hosts a variety of performances and screenings for audiences of all ages. On our last visit, the Bay Area Children's Theatre production of Mercy Watson to the Rescue was on the bill.
The atmosphere here is fun and relaxed. We never felt rushed or hurried, and were encouraged to explore and enjoy ourselves. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful from the moment you enter the building, and really go out of their way to get you started on your projects and offer advice and encouragement.
Even the grownups were getting into the action in the Animation Studio—I think my husband was having as good a time as my kids were. The Children's Creatiivity Museum is a worthy destination for a family outing, a field trip, or even a birthday party. To learn more, visit www.creativity.org.
If You Go
The Children's Creativity Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. It's open every day this week (through April 6, 2014) for spring break. The carousel is currently closed for renovation, but will re-open on April 26, 2014.
Admission is is $11 per person; free for members and children under 2. Carousel rides are $4 per person for two rides, or $3 with museum admission.
A Classic Family membership costs $99, and includes free admission year-round for 2 adults and up to 4 children, as well as admission to over 300 science and technology centers throughout the country, two free guest passes, discounts on birthday parties and at the museum's shop and café, and more. It's a good deal!
The museum is located at 221 Fourth Street, at Howard Street, in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens area south of Market. The easiest parking is probably at the nearby Fifth and Mission Garage, but the Moscone Center and Museum Parc garages are both nearby, too, at 255 and 300 Third Street, respectively.
Healthy snacks and drinks can be purchased from a vending machine near the lobby, and the Carousel Cafe outside near the carousel offers sandwiches, crepes, hot beverages, and more. With its location in the bustling Yerba Buena area across from the Metreon, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat nearby, from sushi to Starbucks. We like to grab burgers at Mel's Drive in, which is conveniently located at the Fifth and Mission Garage around the corner from the museum.
To get there, take 101 south over the Golden Gate Bridge, and follow Doyle Drive onto Lombard Street. Turn right onto Van Ness Avenue, then left on Grove Street, which you'll follow across Market and onto Eight Street. Turn left on Folsom, then left on Third, then left on Howard Street. The Children's Creativity Museum is on the corner of Fourth and Howard.
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