Minnesota Children’s Museum Celebrates Expansion and Renovation with “Sneak Peek Days” and Grand Opening Events

by | May 16, 2017 | Press Release

St. Paul, Minn. (May 17, 2017) – An all-new Minnesota Children’s Museum will reopen with sneak-preview days, a grand opening celebration on June 7 and a free day with block party on June 17.

The festivities cap a $30 million expansion and renovation at the museum’s flagship location in downtown St. Paul, which closed in December for its first major makeover since opening in 1995.

The expanded museum features 10 new exhibits, including a climbing adventure that soars four stories high, plus a gallery for special exhibits. Each exhibit provides space for kids to explore, learn and, of course, have tons of fun along the way.

The museum also added a café with coffee bar, a skyway-level entrance and a host of other visitor amenities to make visits even more fun, comfortable and convenient.

Families who want to be first to play in the museum’s new exhibits should act fast to reserve their tickets for “Sneak Peek Days.” The museum is offering a limited number of advance  tickets for visits June 2 through June 6.

The museum celebrates its grand opening on Wednesday, June 7, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A Free Day and Block Party on Saturday, June 17, features free museum admission and a street festival with activities and entertainment. Target Free 3rd Sunday on June 18 concludes the opening celebrations.

“We’ve created a bigger, better and bolder children’s museum,” said Dianne Krizan, president of Minnesota Children’s Museum. “Families will find ways to play, explore and learn together like never before.”

The opening celebrations, including the adults-only Play for All Ball fundraising gala on May 20, are presented by Target. The media sponsor is Star Tribune.

The museum has been entirely reimagined. The new experiences include:

  • The Scramble: A four-story vertical adventure with climbing towers, a spiral slide and a netted catwalk suspended more than 40-feet high.
  • Super Awesome Adventures: Laser maze, carpet skates, balance boards and green-screen climbing wall
  • The Studio | Target Gallery: Tinker, make and create with real tools and authentic materials
  • Creativity Jam | Target Gallery: Lively and bright collaborative space with face-painting, loose parts and surprising materials
  • Forces at Play | 3M Gallery: Air-powered ball launchers and a wacky car wash
  • Sprouts: Joyful landscape of discovery for babies and toddlers
  • Our World | Best Buy Gallery: Vibrant Minnesota city with a fire station, hardware store, post office, food stand and more
  • Imaginopolis: Fantastical play space where children shape and share their own stories
  • Backyard: Quirky outdoor space for exploring the natural world
  • Tip Top Terrace | Ecolab Gallery: Outdoor space on the roof to see, hear and talk about the city

Each exhibit puts playful learning front and center. The experiences help children develop the skills they need to succeed throughout life – how to think creatively, make plans, analyze problems, tackle challenges, speak and listen, work as part of a team and more.

“We’ve created experiences that give children the time, space and freedom to explore, without feeling they need to do things a certain way or achieve a specific outcome,” Krizan said. “This is open-ended play – and it’s a very powerful way for children to grow and learn.”

The new exhibits also broaden the museum’s appeal to an older age range of children. The new exhibits also broaden the museum’s appeal to an older age range of children. Climbing in The Scramble, ducking through a laser maze, engineering ball launchers and getting their hands on real tools in The Studio are among the activities that will challenge kids up to age 12.

In addition to a new cafe and store, the museum added a new box office, another elevator, more bathrooms, more stroller parking and more seating. The museum also renovated its birthday party rooms and created space for group visit orientation.

The expansion is the first significant renovation since Minnesota Children’s Museum moved from Bandana Square to downtown St. Paul in 1995. Since that move, the museum’s attendance has grown from 300,000 visitors per year to more than 430,000.

Construction began in December 2015. The museum closed a year later to complete the project. In February, the museum moved its projected opening date from April to June due to a delay in the fabrication of parts for The Scramble.

The expansion included construction of a four-story glass addition along West Seventh Street to house The Scramble. In addition, the museum reconfigured the interior, moving a main stairwell, converting offices into exhibit space and relocating the box office to the skyway level.

In all, the project added 35% more visitor space and increased the number of galleries from seven to 11.

Funding from the State of Minnesota provided key support for the expansion and renovation project. The state Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton approved funding of $14 million.

The City of St. Paul is contributing $1 million. Other supporters include Target, 3M, Best Buy and more than 350 corporations, foundations and individuals.

Minnesota Children’s Museum Opening Schedule

June 2-6: Sneak Peek Days
Visitors with advance reservation tickets get a sneak preview | How to Get Tickets [link]

June 7: Grand Opening & Ribbon-Cutting
Ceremony to celebrate the opening of the all-new museum. All visitors welcome; no advance reservations needed. Museum open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

June 7-16: Open for Play Regular Hours
Sunday-Thursday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

June 17: Free Day & Block Party
Free museum admission (with advance reservation ticket). Free block party on West Seventh Street with activities, music and entertainment (no advance ticket needed for block party)

June 18: Target Free 3rd Sunday
Free museum admission (with advance reservation ticket)

Adults-Only Play For All Ball: May 20
The museum hosts its annual adults-only fundraising gala at the museum

Media Contact: Bob Ingrassia, 612-670-1328, bingrassia@mcm.org

Minnesota Children’s Museum Expansion and Renovation Facts

Design Considerations

The museum moved the fun to the front of the building, adding 35% more space for visitors and making it easier to get around. A glass addition along West Seventh Street houses The Scramble, a four-story vertical adventure, allowing passersby to see the energetic play happening inside.

The museum listened to its visitors and added a variety of amenities to make visits more convenient and comfortable for adults and kids alike. Additions include a new cafe with coffee bar, an entrance on the skyway level, a new box office, another elevator, more seating, twice as many bathrooms and renovated birthday party spaces.

The museum’s administrative offices were moved from the first floor to newly created floor space on the third floor, toward the back of the building.

10 New Exhibits Focus on Open-Ended Play

The 10 new exhibits focus on open-ended activities that put children and their imaginations in the driver’s seat. Families will step over the threshold and watch kids take charge of their environment, build their own stories and unleash their minds and bodies.

Research shows that through play children develop lifelong skills such as creative thinking, confidence, communication, collaboration and more. Children learn naturally through play. And the learning that happens through play sticks with a person throughout their life – at home, in school, at work and everywhere else.

Families won’t see many directions in the  new museum. The museum avoided telling children exactly what to do or how to do it. Instead, the exhibits put kids in charge of their own experience. The new exhibits put the focus more on the doing and less on the outcome – a great way to spark learning through play.

The Scramble

The four-story vertical adventure, The Scramble occupies a new glass addition along West Seventh Street. It is a custom-built, one-of-a-kind structure. Visitors climb up and down two four-story towers, whirl and whoosh down a spiral slide and test their courage on a netted catwalk suspended more than 40 feet high. Kids activate their brains and brawn as they go up, down and through The Scramble. In The Scramble, children learn to take responsible risks while they build confidence and develop endurance, balance and motor skills.

Funding & Donors

The State of Minnesota provided $14 million in funding. The City of St. Paul is contributing $1 million. Other supporters include Target, 3M, Best Buy and more than 350 corporations, foundations and individuals.

Museum Pricing

General admission tickets will cost $12.95 for ages 1 to 101. The previous price was $9.95. The museum has not increased its price since 2014. Membership prices are $129 for Passport, $159 for Deluxe and $189 for Premier. Member families get unlimited free admission for a year. Previous membership pricing began at $99. For many families, the price of a membership pays for itself in two or three visits.  The museum also provides 3,500 free memberships for low-income families annually.

Museum History

1981: The original Children’s Museum opened on Dec. 12, 1981, in a renovated warehouse on 1st Street North. This innovative space for hands-on playful learning quickly outgrew its first home.

1985: The museum renovated an old blacksmith shop in Bandana Square in St. Paul and opened its bigger space on Feb. 17, 1985.

1995: A new era began Sept. 16, 1995, when Minnesota Children’s Museum opened a newly constructed building on West Seventh Street to house new exhibits, including a pioneering gallery designed for toddlers.

Architect, Builder and Exhibit Design/Production

The museum worked with MSR (Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle) to create a bold update of the building, inside and out. The general contractor is JE Dunn Construction. Exhibits not designed and produced by the museum were supported by Gyroscope (design) and KidZibits and VStar Entertainment Group (productions).

Touches of the “Old Museum”

While all-new, the museum both repurposed materials from the old museum. The conveyor belt from the factory in the retired World Works gallery is now part of the post office in the updated Our World. The popular Paint Your Own Face activity is now part of the Creativity Jam exhibit. The Queen Ant from the anthill in the retired Earth World gallery found a new home in the Backyard. The tree in the reading nook in the new Sprouts exhibit came from the paper factory in the retired World Works gallery. Our World is the only exhibit name to carry through into the all-new museum. The exhibit has been entirely updated and moved from the 2nd Floor to the 4th Floor.


The Play for All Ball, Grand Opening Celebration and Free Day & Block Party are presented by Target. The media sponsor is Star Tribune.


About Minnesota Children’s Museum

Minnesota Children’s Museum is dedicated to sparking children’s learning through play. Our vision: “Kids play more. Adults do, too.  We thrive as a happier, healthier and more innovative community through the radiant power of play.” The museum, which first opened in 1981 and moved to downtown St. Paul in 1995, serves more than 460,000 visitors each year at its locations in St. Paul and Rochester. As the nation’s leading developer of traveling children’s museum exhibits, the museum is a trailblazer in creating immersive learning environments, reaching more than 10 million children and adults in the United States, Canada and Mexico through the nation’s largest collection of children’s traveling exhibits. The museum is consistently rated as one of the top children’s museums in the country by national media outlets such as Forbes and Parents and was named as a finalist for an Institute of Museum and Library Services Medal of Service, the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries. Follow Minnesota Children’s Museum on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and visit our Power of Play blog.

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