By Juliet Grossman
Recently, my stir-crazy three year old and I grabbed headed out with her co-op preschool class for a field trip to Old Town Temecula’s award-winning children’s museum, Pennypickle’s.
Walking up the creaky wooden steps through the heavy metal doors into the historic old structure that houses the museum is like entering a cockeyed world of crazy clocks, mixed up gears, and funny gadgets. The museum doubles as the “home” of the fictional Professor Phineas T. Pennypickle, PhD, a mad scientist who loves to share his inventions with his young visitors.
Every room in Pennypickle’s is packed with interesting and quirky items which enchant and amuse kids (and parents too.) I had not been to the museum in awhile and as I trailed behind our group of preschoolers, I remembered what I love about it: this museum is actually fun for the grown-ups, too!
Kids of all ages enjoy exploring the eccentricities of the professor’s house. Every room abounds with things to touch, turn, push, pull, climb, or twist. The museum has done a fantastic job of creating a kid-safe space that still gives even the youngest visitors freedom for hands-on exploration.
A secret compartment inside a cupboard offers a view through a two-way mirror into an adjacent room. A room with mazes has mysterious black lights. A kitchen has an old-fashioned basin sink with science experiments in magnetism (hands-on, of course.) A walk-in pantry has been outfitted as an earthquake room, complete with the professor’s “supplies” and a temblor simulator that invites kids to try to construct a shake-proof building out of blocks.
Every room is lavishly decorated with interesting and amusing articles from the kitschy to the fascinating to the bizarre. There are framed documents certifying Prof. Phineas Pennypickle as a ham radio operator, a member of the National Geographic Society, and a mechanical engineer. There are signed photos of “Mother” in her music room surrounded by piano music.
Displays of antique rotary-dial phones and radio broadcasting equipment with LP record albums will especially amuse parents and grandparents while baffling the kids. Though everything is discreetly secured, knobs and gears still twist and turn in a way that will satisfy even the most curious of little fingers.
In a nod to Temecula’s unofficial mascot, the hot air balloon, kids can clamber into an old-fashioned heavy leather basket and take turns pulling on heavy, authentic-feeling cords to turn up the “flame” on the top.
Visitors enter and exit through a gift shop, which is stocked with a fun array of science-themed kits, books, experiments, and other goodies.
Pennypickle’s offers many programs throughout the year, including several evening events a month suitable for slightly older children. They also accommodate birthday parties, either indoors in a room with wooden tables and chairs, or outdoors in a shaded patio area.
Admission is $4.50 per person and is done in two-hour sessions between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday.) Frequent visitors will want to buy a membership or even join Friends of the Temecula Children’s Museum. Full information, including a complete schedule of monthly events (“Playing With Your Food” and “Mystery Spy Disguises” are upcoming) is available at http://www.pennypickles.org.
Pennypickle’s at the Imagination Workshop – Temecula Children’s Museum
42081 Main Street
Old Town Temecula