Kohl Children's Museum, Glenview, Illinois: Amy Czerniec with niece Nadine

We took our niece Nadine to the Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, Illinois last Saturday. She’s 20 months old, so she’s just entering the age when she can enjoy trips like this. Meanwhile, we’re just entering the season when we start looking for indoor activities to get out of the blustery gloom.

After browsing the kids’ museum’s Web site and reading the Yelp reviews of it, we decided to make the drive south. The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee (Yelp reviews) was another option, and I’m sure we’ll try that one also before long.

Kohl Children’s Museum is over 20 years old. It used to be located next to Walker Bros. Pancakes on Green Bay Road in Wilmette. It moved to this newer, bigger facility on Patriot Boulevard at “The Glen” in Glenview in 2005. The free parking lot holds 200 cars. Admission for the three of us was $22.50 — fair enough, I guess.

The building is clean, modern, carpeted, and spacious yet navigable. It is organized into colorful, themed exhibits, such as a Hands On House demonstrating construction methods and materials, and a Music Makers wing where kids can bang on drums and xylophones. Nadine’s favorite was the Water Works, a chlorine-disinfected blue room of rubber flooring with small waterfalls and water cannons, bubbles and plastic octopuses.

Many of the exhibits are operated using pushbuttons, which was great since our niece can be entertained for 10 minutes at a time by even a simple light switch. Almost all of the buttons worked, and most of the exhibits were enjoyable enough, except for perhaps the hand-cranked music box-type machine that kept spitting out the foam pegs we had so carefully positioned around its drum to make brilliant melodies.

A couple of the sponsored attractions — a kid-sized Dominick’s supermarket and a Potbelly Sandwich Works, of all things — seemed to be very popular with children a little older than the one we brought. The assorted kids, in fact, were at least as interesting to Nadine as the museum displays.

At the end of about two and a half hours of moving from item to item, we stopped for a snack at Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzel Bakery & Twisting Café, a food-court style restaurant that treats pretzels with the same type of elaborate embellishments that Starbucks lavishes on coffee. Three soft pretzelss — a salted Bavarian, a cheddar-stuffed, and a sourdough Asiago (!) — set us back just about ten bucks.

Overall, we had a enjoyable time and will probably go back once in a while. Kohl Children’s Museum is a fun, bustling place with plenty of colorful stimuli for young kids.

Update: This dad also spent a recent afternoon at the museum, and since he linked to me, I’m returning the favor.

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