I think most locals with children have been waiting for this day for a while, and it's finally here: Discovery Center is reopening! On July 1 the doors to the children's museum and STEAM hub reopen to the public.
The kids and I had the chance to scoop it out in its new Covid-era settings, so browse through our pictures, take note of what's new, and get ready to get back to Discovery Center!
Here are 8 things to know before you go.
1. Plan ahead
Those of us who are used to popping in to Discovery Center on any given day will need to plan ahead just a little more for our return. Visitors must register for hour and a half slot times online and purchase/receive tickets before entering the doors (no tickets are sold on site). This helps keep numbers within CDC social distancing guidelines and the new times allow for cleaning between guest groups. The center's new hours are 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday for members only, and all other visitors may choose from two other slots until 3 p.m. Members who want to reserve a spot during a general admission session need to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Tie One On
Following best-practice models and the latest research, the Discovery Center requires that all visitors have their temperature checked at the entrance and everyone over 4 years old wear a mask (complementary adults masks are available from the Health Department, with children's masks sold for $1 on site). If your kiddos aren't already used to a mask, don't worry (they won't be the only ones). Just be patient and keep them busy with all the cool stuff they've missed at the center.
3. Go Wild
To celebrate its reopening, the center is proud to present its newest permanent exhibit "The Great Outdoors," an enchanting interactive space focusing on the Tennessee outdoors. Visitors can work on their knots at the tying station, learn about boating safety in a jon boat next to a very cool mural of Percy Priest Lake, and find out about firefly species at the interactive exhibit on the Great Smoky Mountain wall. More additions will come when health guidelines allow.
4. "Rox" On
The Math Rox exhibit, which was available prior to the center's closing, is still on site with its different components set up at safe social distances. Moms and dads can appreciate that the different manipulatives and apparatus are routinely cleaned during the day, with clean sets put out before each new group of visitors.
5. Create Away
Little artists will love the fresh look of "The Studio"--the center's art studio--with wall murals ready to color and better spacing for creating. "Clean" and "used" utensil boxes help prevent cross-contamination between visitors.
6. Take it Outside
If you haven't taken advantage of the wetland walkways in a while, make a note that it's the perfect Covid-era outing. Bring bikes and a picnic to enjoy the 20 acres of wildlife and wetlands surrounding the center, get inspired by the pretty raised bed gardens in the outside picnic area, and cool off with a misty walk through the fountains over the wetlands. Neither masks nor admission fees are required to enjoy the outdoor components, but it's also a great break for any littles struggling with their masks indoors.
7. Wait a Little Longer Now
It's no secret that Covid changes things, and some exhibits are still not available to patrons due simply to the fact that there is no way to regulate cleanliness or social distancing in their use. For instance, my daughter was dismayed to see the big indoor slide closed. But no fear-- while we may have to wait a little longer for some favorites, they'll be added as soon as recommendations allow.
8. Exercise (Patience)
I'll admit, I get unsure about where and how to take my kids around town during this season. On one hand I'm conservative, not going many indoor places and trying to social distance, while on the other I'm just ready to be back to normal and not having to worry about things like face masks and 6 feet while my kids are playing. But here's the thing: I don't know of a single parent who doesn't feel exactly the same way. So while we wade through health and safety concerns surrounding Covid, patience and grace are definitely in order --with ourselves, our kids, each other--as we continue to adapt to a new normal, masks and all.
I'll say that, for my part, it just felt really good to be back here again.
Discovery Center is located at 502 SE Broad St. Murfreesboro. Modified hours for the reopening are Tuesdays-Saurday 9:30-3pm, with visitors slots from 9:30-11am (members only), 11:30-1pm, and 1:30-3pm. Tickets MUST be reserved or purchased online prior to the visit and face masks worn by all visitors 4 and older. For more information on the DC's reopening procedures, visit explorethedc.org/reopening.
Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama living in the Blackman Community of Murfreesboro with her husband Nathan and their two children. Follow @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram for more family fun in and around the city.