I’ll admit, I was a little too excited about my maiden voyage to the Bruce Museum. I reeeeally wanted it to be the smaller, sleeker, white-marbliezed version of a Smithsonian outfit. Instead, it’s more like the miniature, tired version. (In fairness, half of it was closed to install a new art exhibit). That being said, the Bruce Museum does fill a specific void for the Mommy Poppins audience — in cahoots with the Bruce Park Playground, it is an afternoon killer for parents with young children. It is also FREE on Tuesdays (and always so, to those under 5). [Note: through September 19, 2014 admission is FREE everyday while they install new exhibits].
Parents with older children can accomplish the same sort of afternoon decimation during summer at the Bruce Museum's Seaside Center — participating in activities I’d bet would give them a lot to talk about come dinner time. These are free, but a parking sticker ($25/day non-residents) and park pass ($6/person, 4 and up) are required from May 1 - October 31 … and you cannot obtain them at the beach.
A little more housekeeping before we proceed. When you pull into the Bruce Museum parking lot from Arch St. or Steamboat Rd., you are facing the BACK of the building. The further right and up the hill you get, the closer you’ll be to the front door. (I learned the hard way, with 65 lbs. of cherub in the double stroller. Grrr). Consider as you’re walking, this was once the private property of textile merchant Robert Moffat Bruce, who deeded his property to the town of Greenwich in 1908. His wish was that it be used as a natural history, historical and art museum for the public. In that, they have fully succeeded. According to the museum’s website, it draws 100,000 visitors every year. No doubt, it's a fantastic resource for area schools.
My three-year-old understands what Long Island Sound is, and certainly what dinosaurs are, so you can start the conversation about the biology and geology of what we now call Connecticut with the permanent exhibits. There's even a real dinosaur bone (emphasis by the lady at the front desk) they can touch! Look for a Gallery Guide in the Education Center if you want a little help hitting the highlights. If you’re there with older elementary or middle school-aged children, try the cell phone audio tour (very clever) if you think they’re ready — it seems to be the right way to do it, but I didn’t have that luxury. However, there are small fur pelts in a Native American display the little kids can touch, and a live tank they can peer into to observe local sea critters. In our ever-so-digital world, the woodland diorama provided us interesting conversation about real versus dead (I’ve always found taxidermy a strange concept, but even more so in 2014 — it seems other-worldly)! The preserved-in-jars ‘Extreme Habitat’ deep sea creatures, were fascinating and disturbing (so glad I live up here) … points for that (note: it’s only there through November 9, 2014).
The bulk of the effort at the Bruce Museum seems to be placed on the art side, where a steady stream of temporary exhibits are brought through each year. I strapped my duo back into the stroller and took a spin through the one gallery that was open, and enjoyed the five minutes they allowed me. I’m not shy about starting art appreciation at a young age, but my people were tapped out. We made a bathroom stop (where there IS a diaper-changing station) and called it a day. The gift shop was tempting, but I didn’t feel like navigating its narrow quarters with a double stroller. Next time.
If you come prepared and at opening time (10am), you can exit the Bruce, and head across the parking lot to picnic and play before nap time hits hard. There are two large jungle gyms for children of any age, and in summer, an ice cream truck, too. You’ll be a hero.
For those with older kids, and ideally Greenwich residents (so you don’t get slapped with beach fees), the Bruce Museum Seaside Center offers some very cool, drop-in summer programs. They actually cater to children of all ages, but anyone 5 and under must be accompanied by an adult. The thrust here is to teach local ecology and environmental lessons in a hands-on way. For little kids, that means fish prints, aquarium feeds, seaweed pressing and story time ... for older children, getting in the water with a seine net and helping collect data for the Long Island Sound biodiversity database. Or doing a squid dissection. Or participating in a low tide scavenger hunt. Awesome stuff.
Finally, both locations offer family events. The Seaside Center holds ‘First Sunday Science’ every first Sunday of the month, from 1:30-4pm. (This Sunday, September 7, 2014 is a Passenger Pigeon Commemoration, with origami lessons). Later this month (September 21, 2014 @ 1:15 and 2:15), the main museum will offer ‘Learning to Look’ Family Art Day, an art appreciation series geared toward families and children. This includes art-making activities in the Education Workshop.
One Museum Dr.
Greenwich, CT 06830
Greenwich Point Park
Old Greenwich, CT
Photo Courtesy of the Bruce Museum