The Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Voted “Best Family-Friendly Destination”
Hands On was thrilled to win King5 TV’s Best Family-Friendly Destination in Evening Magazine’s Best of Western Washington contest. The Museum is regularly selected Best Family Entertainment, Best Museum, and Best Kid’s Birthday Party Venue in the Best of South Sound awards 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.
Hands On inspires all children to love to learn regardless of ethnicity, ability, gender, or income. We aspire to be the premier provider of interactive art and science education, fostering early foundational skills for success in school and in life.
Exciting, Engaging Experiences – We delight our visitors with a treasured facility, exceptional service, and engaging early learning experiences.
Experiential Learning – We believe in the intrinsic value of play and that whole child learning encourages curiosity and academic success. We support parents in their role as their child’s first teacher & partner in learning.
Access for All – All children deserve respect and the opportunity to learn, regardless of their ethnicity, ability, gender, or income.
Community Partnerships – We believe that communities are enriched when diverse groups work creatively together to educate our children.
Young Makers – We encourage tinkering, making and investigation to build meaningful math and science learning. In the early years, math literacy is the greatest predictor of school success.
Good for You! Healthy Lifestyles Initiative – Healthy children learn best. We provide abundant play experiences, a deep connection to nature, and healthy food choices to improve a child’s wellbeing. We are committed to green practices in our facility, exhibits and education programs.
Founded in 1987, Hands On has a long history of growth, navigating three expansions in two decades before constructing its permanent home on Olympia’s East Bay waterfront in late 2012. Since then, Hands On has been the most visited children’s museum in the Pacific Northwest, serving more than 300,000 visitors annually.
A true destination museum, Hands On is consistently a top tier attraction in regional “Best of” competitions. Its unique, high-quality exhibits and programming for children ages birth to 10 regularly elicits praise from visitors such as this social media post, “What a magnificent place to bring the family! Science, imagination, nature, gardening, art—this place has it all!”
Providing children and families with engaging nature-based experiences is central to the museum’s design, which includes nature-themed exhibits both indoors and outdoors. The half-acre Outdoor Discovery Center was one of only three national “Going Wild!” pilot sites designed to connect young children with nature in the museum setting.
Early STEAM learning and healthy lifestyles are two of the museum’s most important overarching initiatives. Both are woven throughout the museum’s exhibits, as well as formal and informal education programs. Hands On is known as a national leader and innovator in using the Maker Movement to engage children in early STEAM learning—including gardening and cooking—thanks to several Museums for America grants.
The museum partners with dozens of organizations and individuals including schools, social service agencies, Tribes, medical professionals, nonprofits, and regional artists and educators to enrich its programming. Hands On was honored as a Bright Light Museum by the Noyce Foundation, because of its ability to engage underserved populations, often with community partners.