Discovery museum

Destination Illinois: The Normal’s Children’s Discovery Museum offers something for all ages

NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — For a family on vacation, there is always the question: “And the children? What will they do?”

In Normal, just take the kids where they want to go. The sound of children playing, exploring and learning might sound like fun, but that’s the idea – one of them, behind the Children’s Discovery Museum.

The three-story facility in downtown Normal, adjacent to the Railroad Depot, is home to all manner of exploration.

Beth Whisman, executive director of the Children’s Discovery Museum, said the building was built with children in mind.

“We are a place designed for children. All our exhibitions are designed so that children can imagine, play, discover, [and] learn something along the way. I think kids instinctively know when they come to the Children’s Museum: ‘This is my special place,'” she said.

COVID has not been kind to the Normal Discovery Museum. It took a big financial hit and a lot of the part-time staff were made redundant.

Those still working have set up activity kits – 12,000 of them, for children stuck at home during the pandemic. Hours have been shortened and, as the majority of museum patrons are under 12, masks are mandatory.

There are some 600 children’s discovery museums across the country. Each has a regional specialty. In Normal, it’s farming.

Other regional discovery museums in Illinois are Peoria, Decatur, Galesburg, and Chicago, to name a few.

One of the important facts behind these kids museums is that they let kids be kids for a while, and sometimes they let adults be kids for a while as well.

“We want our adults to play with the kids while they’re here. All of our exhibits are designed to tolerate adults. And we actually encourage that, but we also want families to create lasting memories here,” Whisman said.