The Children's Playhouse: Boone, N.C.
If you need a break from the cold while you're hitting the slopes in Boone this winter and want to keep the kids happily occupied for a few hours, make sure The Children's Playhouse is on your to-do list while you're in town. Geared toward kids 8 and under, this children's museum was founded in 2002, but its existence might come as a surprise to regular Boone daytrippers.
"We're Boone's best-kept secret for families," says Kathy Parham, the executive director of the playhouse.
The playhouse's mission is to "serve as an informal 'town square' for the High Country - a place where natives and newcomers, out-of-towners and locals, experienced parents and eager first-timers, and people of all classes are brought together to share the joy of playful learning with their children."
Located inside a renovated house, the museum has an artsy, intimate feel. It's beautifully decorated, and young kids will want to stay and play for hours.
I recently visited the playhouse one morning with my youngest son, Jackson. Typical of most 2-year-old boys, Jackson loves Thomas the Tank Engine, so he was thrilled with the large train table, which was interactive with train whistles and other sound effects as he drove the train cars over bridges and through tunnels. The train table was the perfect height for Jackson, and it allowed him to play without kneeling. The table also featured two circular cut-outs in the center, allowing small children to stand in the middle of the table and reach all the toys easily.
Encouraging Jackson to visit other areas of the playhouse was a challenge, but he did have fun taking care of animals in the vet clinic. Here, he tended to an injured turtle, viewed X-rays of puppies and weighed a dog.
Our next stop was the room with a costume dress-up area, doll-house neighborhood and play kitchen. Here, he pretended to cook a meal for one of the dolls before we made our way downstairs to the romp and stomp room.
The romp and stomp area includes a ball pit, climbing wall, small trampoline for jumping, several mats, noodles and other toys for general toddler silliness and fun. Jackson's favorite activity in this area was the ball pit, and he giggled incessantly while rolling around in the colorful balls.
Other highlights of the playhouse include an arts and crafts studio, music and drama corner, construction zone, book nook, and a loft play space. There's also an area for science experiments and developmental toys for infants.
Before leaving, Jackson once again had to make a stop at the train table for few more minutes of playing. He cried when it was time to leave and yelled "choo choo!" on the way out the door. Although he was in desperate need of a nap, Jackson could have happily spent several more hours at that train table. It was certainly a fun-filled morning.
IF YOU GO
The Children's Playhouse
400 Tracy Circle, Boone
$5 for nonmembers; free 12 months and younger.
Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday