Giant numbers rolled in during 2016 for a local, downtown museum known largely for its giant toilet.
And kidscommons leaders are … well, flushed with excitement.
That’s because the museum’s 2016 attendance figure of 50,643 — not counting an additional 8,500 children connected with school-group visits paying partial admission price — is another record for the venue.
“We are very proud of that,” said Diane Robbins, community relations and marketing manager for the children’s museum. “We try to add something new to the exhibits every year. And our added programs keep it fresh, too.”
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Annual attendance has grown each of the 11 years that the three-level, 12,000-square-foot nonprofit facility has been at the current location at 309 Washington St.
Many parents say the spot allows them to conveniently hit The Commons playground with the Luckey Climber across the street and the nearby Zaharakos restaurant and ice cream parlor, all in the same morning or afternoon — and with easy parking.
“We keep the exhibits new and fresh and fun,” said Katie Schoeff, kidscommons’ operations manager.
Yet, many of them, such as the giant toilet that has received national publicity, remain the same, and still retain drawing power.
Exhibits and activities are aimed at youngsters primarily through age 12.
“I think a lot of parents like the fact that our museum is on a smaller scale (than a metro one),” Schoeff said. “And if they have one child in one area and another child in another area, they’re not too far from one another (to watch). We hear that a lot.
“And especially guests from out of town regularly tell us that they appreciate The Commons and Zaharakos so close so they easily can make a family day of things.”
Local residents seem to appreciate that and more.
Columbus resident Mayra Sandoval takes her 4-year-old Anna and 6-year-old Sophia to the museum at least three times per week. On Wednesdays, for example, they go mostly for the art activities. On Thursdays, the Wacky Science programs become the main draw.
“They really love doing all the experiments,” Sandoval said.
The family moved nearly five years ago from the Chicago area, where they grew accustomed to the large DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville. Yet, they have found that several elements of the local museum actually serve them better than the metro facility. One is that kidscommons offers more regularly scheduled, and often free, educational programs and activities beyond its normal exhibits.
Before, in Naperville, there were fewer such offerings for youngsters, and most carried an added cost beyond museum admission, Sandoval said.
Also, at kidscommons, the mom said she can relax easier and just let her children play or roam amid favorite areas such as the stuffed animals or the magnets during Saturday visits because the venue is more compact.
Robbins said she believes much of the museum’s continued popularity relates to its roots in 1998 in a small space at the former Commons building. It moved from there to its current location in 2005.
“I think that, way back in the day when kidscommons creators were launching the museum, they did a great job,” Robbins said. “Because it was designed so well from day one, we’ve been able to just continue to grow.”
Here are kidscommons annual attendance figures for the past five years:
- 2016: 50,643
- 2015: 47,217
- 2014: 44,100
- 2013: 41,999
- 2012: 37,721