New home paying off for Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia

ahobbs@theolympian.comJanuary 17, 2014 

The Hands On Children’s Museum is launching an adults-only evening series Jan. 24. The first evening focuses on craft brewing and beer-themed experiments.

COURTESY OF ABNER GUZMAN

The Hands On Children’s Museum has doubled attendance — and just about everything else — in the first year at its new home on Jefferson Street in Olympia.

The nonprofit museum also reports an $8 million tourism impact since opening the expanded facility in November 2012.

“The first year was a great success in all the ways that we hoped it would be,” said Patty Belmonte, executive director, at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Belmonte praised the city and the business community for their support.

In 2013, the museum served 307,750 visitors compared with 162,000 in 2012, when the museum was near the Capitol Campus.

Most statistics have doubled — in some cases tripled — since the move . The number of spring break visitors more than tripled to 9,856 in 2013, while the total number of field trip visitors almost doubled to 12,463. The top five states for out-of-state visitors were listed in order as California, Oregon, Idaho, Arizona and Alaska.

The museum reports its web presence has more than doubled to 207,560 visitors in 2013. The top 10 cities for web visitors were listed in order as Olympia, Seattle, Lacey, Tacoma, Puyallup, DuPont, Gig Harbor, Kent, Bellevue and Kirkland.

In another sign of healthy growth, family memberships increased from 2,618 in 2012 to 6,213 in 2013. Volunteers grew from 591 in 2012 to 952 in 2013.

Apparently, adults want to play at the museum, too. In 2014, the museum will host the evening series Adult Swim for ages 21 and up. The first event, “BeerCraft: The Art and Science Behind Craft Brews,” will offer beer samples and barbecue from 6-9 p.m. Jan. 24. So far, 170 people have registered and another 400 said via social media they were coming, Belmonte said.

Built for $18.5 million through a financial partnership with the city, the museum measures 28,000 square feet and attracts visitors from all 50 states. The museum ranks second among local tourist attractions after the state Capitol, according to the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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