Looking at the Kids Bucket List, Go Blue Ridge Travel checks off children’s museums. How many exist in the northern Blue Ridge Shenandoah Valley? Are they the same or different?
Perhaps the first question to address is ‘what is the difference between a museum with children’s activities and magnifying a children’s discovery museum?’ The difference is huge. We have found two children’s museums to spotlight as Shenandoah Valley Must Experience!
When the word museum comes to mind, one knows it will be educational but will it a fun learning experience for the child! The biggest difference in a museum offering children’s activities and a children’s museum is to watch children in these two environments. Picking one over the other is like looking thru a magnifying glass. Without the magnifying glass, the youth are only observing; with the magnifying glass, the youth are involved in the experience. Their faces tell it all.
Mary Braun of Shenandoah Valley’s Discovery Museum said, “Our mission is to provide a stimulating learning environment which is self paced – hands on. It is our goal to promote families learning together – ‘share the joy of learning’. It is fascinating watching the kids. They automatically know what to do. We give them control of their own discovery and their own learning. As the discovery process unfolds, the children progress where their interest take them.”
You know you are in a fun exploratory place when you walk thru a doorway to be greeted by a father and son having fun! Dad is 6′ tall and his son is not quite 4′. Having visited the Apple Packing Shed here at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, the young son has put a plastic apple on his head. ‘Hey Dad, knock it off, here is an apple you can throw.’ I am not sure if he is thinking of George Washington or Johnny Appleseed but his mind is involved.
Looking around at the museum, I see tables with fun shapes, or tables with dowels different lengths and different size pieces of woods. I watch as a child builds a structure. In the Ranger Station Discovery Room, reflect on the physics of mirrors. Further back in the museum is the hospital station with an ambulance needing a driver. Then we go back in time to the Native American long house or we explore the climbing wall, and much more.
What is surprising is the visitor demographics of the museum? 17% of their visitors are from Loudoun County and over 26% outside of Virginia. The future sees Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum moving to a new 14,500 three-story facility.
Our second museum we will spotlight is the American Celebration on Parade just off Interstate 81 near Mt Jackson, Virginia.
American Celebration on Parade is part of Shenandoah Caverns Family of Attractions. What is unreal about this museum is where these floats have been or where this backdrop has stood? Stand where presidents and other famous Ameircans have stood and relive excitement of events and celebrations that have touched our lives.
Imagine a child’s reaction walking thru a double door entrance to a collection of over 28 huge magnificent parade floats spanning generations of one of America’s favorite past times, the Parade! A child can pretend they are a princess and climb aboard a float featured in the Miss America Pageant from Atlantic City!
Nancy Craun said, “I was stunned by my granddaughters reaction to American Celebration on Parade. They are 6 and 4 and have been in the past year to Disney and to Beaches in Jamaica. They stopped and started walking slowly around saying ‘Amazing….amazing…this is so cool’. Obviously being the grandmother, I had the camera ready and took tons of photos.”
“The exhibit hall and museum is over 40,000 square feet! There are buttons to push to make the floats come to life and video monitors allow you to view these historic parades. People have no idea what to expect when they enter American Celebration on Parade, but when they see 20 and 30 feet high floats their mouths fall open and the reaction is always ‘Wow'”, said Joe Proctor, manager of Shenandoah Caverns Family Attractions.
“Most floats move quickly by you, but here at American Celebration on Parade you can move at your own pace standing in front of the 100 foot long train locomotive, frolicking polar bears, a 35 foot genie, and even a pirate ship. Definitely it was the polar bears that took first place with my granddaughter, Katherine. She also loved the kiosk that showed these floats in actual parades marching to the music that was playing.” said Nancy Craun, founder of Go Blue Ridge Travel.
The caverns are owned by Earl C. Hargrove since 1966. The owner of Hargrove’s Inc., Mr. Hargrove has building floats for over fifty years. His spectacular floats have been in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade and the Tournament of Roses. He is known as the “Prop Man for the President” designing floats and stage settings since Harry Truman. Hired to design a float for Shenandoah Caverns to display in the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Grand Feature Parade in the mid 1060’s, Mr. Hargrove was invited to purchase Shenandoah Caverns, and he did! Part of his vision was to display the floats he’s designed or re-created so he eventually built American Celebration on Parade to share the heritage of America’s most prominent parades.
If your child has not experienced a children’s discovery museum, get in your car and take them to one near you today. Plus remember August is county fair month, Go Blue Ridge Travel is featuring the Shenandoah County Fair. Visit your local fairs and enjoy seeing all aspects of the communities. Don’t forget if you want overnight lodging, go to Go Blue Ridge Travel from cabins, country inns, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, and hotels. The leaves will turn shortly so plan a weekend to visit our fall festivals in the Blue Ridge Shenandoah Valley.