THE WORKS MUSEUM
I don’t go on a whole lot of kiddie adventures that leave me feeling…well…empty-headed. It’s rare that I walk out of a place geared towards children and think to myself, “I wonder if I’m too old to go back to college.” To say this museum gave my art-centric confidence a blow is an understatement. But all self-ridiculing aside, the Works Museum is perfect for kids who are wired to be innovative engineers, scientists or straight-up problem solvers. Upon walking in to the museum, I was awe-struck by the little brainiacs working their tails off – stacking blocks, building airplanes out of wood slats, figuring out K’Nex and pulleys and sound refraction – simply amazing! Every kid should come here at least once. Just be sure to bring a cell phone so you can easily Google the answers to all their complicated questions.
What is it?
The Works is a non-profit children’s museum that offers a hands-on and fun introduction to the world of science, technology and engineering via exhibits, programs and camps. Kids (and adults) can use their imagination and creativity to create innovative products, build ramps and towers, conquer the sensor maze, play music, make shadows and time the speed of a self-constructed K’Nex car.
While the museum is fairly small in size, they really cram a lot into a tiny space. Don’t go in expecting a large, elaborate “museum,” but rather individual tables set up for various projects and experiments. There is also a big corner with foam blocks for building and a sensor maze that my kids enjoyed very much (pretend you’re robbers trying to stealthily sneak through the bank vault). One could consider this whole educational museum a wonderful opportunity to TEACH your kids how and why stuff works the way it does.
Fit for what ages?
Unless you have a baby prodigy, I’d say four is the youngest I’d take to this museum with the expectation of actually comprehending the concepts. However there is plenty for kids under four to do, including blocks, MagnaTiles, the sensor maze, and a magnet wall. Just keep in mind, you will pay for everyone over the age of two.
Every Monday, the Works hosts a PreK Day from 9am to noon, where they encourage youngsters to participate in a special customized project fit for their ages – and admission is half price!
How much are we talkin?
General admission is $8 per person for adults and children over the age of two. There are ways to save money though:
- Come on a PreK Monday. Between 9am and noon, kids ages 3-5 get in for half-price (so $4 instead of $8) and it includes a special activity for their age group.
- Become a member. If you think this could be a regular visit for your family, a membership will save you lots! Members enjoy unlimited visits and a family pass (for 2 adults and 2 kids) is only $75 for the year. Other membership options are available for grandparents, homeschooling, and more, ranging from $55 to $125.
- Check out your local library. Some libraries offer museum adventure passes that you can check out with your library card, making museum admission 100% free! The Works is on the list of participants so it’s at least worth looking into.
Birthday party packages at the museum are available for ages 5-12 and range in price from $175 to $225. Parking is free and there are vending machines should you need a snack break. Also (warning), there is a tiny gift shop that sells K’Nex and other science and building toys near the front desk. The Works accepts cash and credit card.
Want some tips?
When you first walk in to the museum, you’ll see a giant K’Nex ball machine. This thing is epic! My children spent our first 20 minutes running up and down the stairs trying to figure out how it worked and predicting where the balls would go. You’ll pay at the entry desk, hang up your coats on the rack in the lobby area, get your wristbands (which allow you to come and go as you please) and then you’re free to play. There isn’t much upstairs – one room with a couple activities, including the DoodleBots (automated pens that run on their own – these were so my favorite part). Other than that, the entirety of the museum is downstairs in one large room. A couple side rooms exist too for classes and birthday parties.
Some of our favorite exhibits were: the race track, where kids can build cars using K’Nex and shoot them down a ramp which measures their speed; the blocks and magnet wall in the corner; and the sensor maze. Some of the exhibits were broken and a few were slightly run-down, but they definitely did the trick.
Come early and stay until lunch. The museum gets packed on weekends by around 1:00pm, but before that it’s relatively slow unless there is a field trip. In that case, yikes! And I didn’t see anyone on staff in the museum until it got busier, so be sure to keep an eye on your kids…although it’s nearly impossible to lose them here since it’s just one big room with one exit.
Pack a lunch and fill up the kids in their lunch room before heading out. Restrooms are located near the elevators and family restrooms (with changing tables) are at the end of the exhibit gallery in the light room.
If your kids are really into this place, a membership is cheap and worth picking up. Will save you lots of money if you go enough. Also consider hosting a birthday party here, which includes free admission for all adults, a discount on membership, pizza and play time.
The Works hosts some pretty cool events throughout the year, including Tech Fest, Girl Time and Robot Day where you can see demonstrations, do hands-on projects and simply rip apart old VCRs and TVs to try and create something new with some leaders and experts in technology. School break and summer camps are also a great option for interested kiddos. Friday Fun Days are also offered in the summer for a full day and include lunch and outdoor and indoor activities. I kind of want to go to the Extreme Cardboard Castles class in July. How awesome does that sound?
And definitely worth mentioning is the Design Lab, where kids can work on unique challenges at their own level and pace. A current list of projects in the lab can be found online. The lab is included in your admission.
Hours and Location
9740 Grand Avenue South | Bloomington, MN 55420
School Year Hours: October 5 to Memorial Day
Monday, Thursday, Friday 9 am – 3 pm
Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm
Parking is free and the lot is large.
Follow The Works Museum on Facebook to be in the know with upcoming camps and special events, extended hours, cool photos, discounted registrations, some smart-pants articles and more!
The Works is a non-profit entity and happily accepts donations. If you’re a fan, consider donating here.