Voted “Best Family Entertainment”
Hands On is regularly selected Best Family Entertainment and Best Museum in the Best of South Sound contest by The Olympian newspaper and other media outlets. We are grateful to all of the organizations that have honored us with special awards.
We work hard to provide a 5-star experience for our visitors. We are a family favorite on Google and Yelp. We also received a Traveler’s Choice Award from TripAdvisor in 2020.
- To be “The Place to Go” for hands-on fun and learning for children, their parents and teachers.
- To be the premier provider of hands-on science and art education for young children in the community.
- To serve as a unique and essential community resource that is well-funded and well-supported, fosters a sense of inquiry, serves as an exciting and educational gathering place for families, provides a place where children and parents can learn together, provides cultural enrichment and is culturally diverse.
- To be accessible to all children and their families, regardless of their ethnicity, disability or income.
- To offer an active youth volunteer program for middle and high school students.
- To promote positive intergenerational relationships.
At Hands On, we believe that all children deserve respect and the opportunity to learn. Our extensive Free & Reduced Admissions Programs serve about one-third of our visitors a year.
We also believe that families are important as children’s first teachers and as their partners in learning. We provide free parenting programs and support groups for parents, extended families and caregivers. Our programs and participatory exhibits are designed specifically to encourage interaction and inquiry, as well as participation from the entire family.
We believe that learning occurs in a variety of ways and that experiential learning is essential for proper brain development. At Hands On, we know that communities are enriched when diverse groups work creatively together to educate our children. We actively partner with community organizations including social service agencies, public schools, service clubs, public libraries and other community organizations to bring interactive education to the community.
Since its founding in 1987, Hands On has evolved from a fledgling “museum without walls” to the premier provider of hands-on science and art education in Southwest Washington.
In 1998, the museum moved from the tiny storefront facility to the State’s Capitol Campus. After just three years in this location, Hands On hosted more visitors per square foot than any other children’s museum in the Northwest. Over the next 10 years, the museum outgrew its space three times. The museum received $9 million in Public Facility District funds, which was used to construct its new home, a permanent facility on Olympia’s downtown waterfront.
Voted The Best Fun Place for Kids for more than a decade, the museum provides exciting, hands-on exhibits in eight galleries for children aged birth through 10 years, and features a variety of exhibit topics including early learning, construction and design, healthy lifestyles, the environment and art.
Hands On wins high praise from regional educators, the youth museum industry, contributors, and most importantly from kids and their families. The Museum’s Early Learning Programs have twice won national recognition from the Metropolitan Life Foundation and the Association of Children’s Museums as a Promising Practice in the field.
Likewise, our Good For You exhibit received recognition as a promising exhibit model at the national conference.
Our field trip education program has been honored by the Olympia School District for our support of students and staff, and in recognition of our support for military families, the museum has been honored by the Fort Lewis Garrison Commander.
The museum’s many education programs include an early learning program, a preschool, a model field trip education program for elementary students and an extensive day camp program.