Tucked away in a beautiful patch of woods off a busy main road in Morristown, N.J., the Morris Museum has a little bit of everything. Housed in a lovely old mansion, it’s an eclectic, charming place to visit that includes a ton of disparate things under one roof. Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip there with the kids.
Cost to enter: $10 for adults, $7 for children and seniors, free for kids under 3, pay as you wish the second and third Thursdays of the month from 4-8 p.m. Bank of America card members can get one free admission on the first Saturday of the month.
What it will really cost you: Parking is free if you plan to see a show, the ticket for the children’s theater are $10 for members and $12 for general admission, and for the regular theater range from $15-20 for students to $40-45 for general admission.
How much time you will need: Allow 1-3 hours. You’ll be able to see a lot of the museum in an hour, but there’s enough to do to fill up an afternoon, and if you’re seeing a show or going to another special event, make sure to allow yourself enough time and arrive at the theater a few minutes early in order to get great seats.
Food options: Pack a lunch if you’re going to be there in the middle of the day or for a long stretch of time. There’s Keurig coffee machine in the lobby and basic snacks (chips, popcorn, cookies, candy, soda and water) available in the gift shop, but no café offering actual meals.
When to go: Weekdays when school is in session, save for Mondays when the museum is closed, are less crowded than weekends.
What to bring: Though the museum is relatively compact, there’s still a lot of floor space to cover, so if you have a baby or toddler, bring a stroller so you don’t have to carry your child everywhere. The museum has two large elevators so it’s easy to navigate.
Best for ages: Though kids of all ages will find something they like here, the museum is probably most appropriate for kids 5-11 years old.
What you should see and do:
Instruments and Automata
The museum has a massive collection of rare and different instruments that your kids (and maybe even you) have probably never seen. Kids can program songs and play tunes. There are daily demos at 2 PM and they frequently offer Touch the Music sessions, which allow really little ones a chance to strum a violin or bang on an actual drum, instead of the Fisher-Price variety.
There are plenty of examples of taxidermy on display, including a massive grizzly bear (it's huge!) and some other wild animals. You may need to read some of the descriptions, but the kids can learn a great deal about birds of prey.
Here they can place a piece of paper over etchings of dino footprints and fossils and color over it with a pencil for their own sketch of a dinosaur print or fossil to take home. They can also touch a real dino egg, see some fossils and hear dino sounds. The exhibit aims to give kids a look at what their home state would have looked like 65 million years ago.
Model Trains and Railroads
It may not be as enormous as the Mega Model Train exhibit that recently passed through, but there is still a nice permanent collection of trains to amuse your kids. They can pull a whistle and play with the wooden trains.
Rocks and Minerals
The kids can touch some really neat looking geodes and crystals, and see a huge collection of rocks from around the world. But the highlight of this area is a small room where they can see fluorescent rocks glow-in-the-dark under UV lights.
In this well curated collection of artifacts from American Indian tribes the kids can get a close look at pottery, carving and textiles, which are color-coded so you know what part of the country they are from.
The Dodge Room
Modeled to look like an actual Victorian-era home, there is a large collection of antique furniture and many paintings and sculptures, all dedicated to Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge (daughter to Standard Oil tycoon William Avery Rockefeller Jr. ). The kids may not be as impressed as the grown-ups, but it is a lovely display.
Family Discovery Center
Underneath the theater lobby is something called the Family Discovery Center for hands-on creativity, where children can play with LEGOs, KEVA planks and other blocks in a variety of shapes and colors.There are also Imagination Playground foam blocks for kids to build with.
The Main Stage offers adult shows, like the upcoming Pulitzer Prize winning play Talley's Folley, and other concerts throughout the year. There is also the Children's Theatre, which just did the highly interactive Seussology, and has upcoming shows featuring Dinosaurs and another about Indian Magic Art ( part of a Bollywood festival).
Dollhouses From the Morris Museum Collection runs through March 22 and is an incredible display of the museum’s own breathtaking dollhouses. There’s even one the kids can play with themselves. And be sure to take a look at the stunning permanent dollhouse on display at the end of the court on the main floor.
Masquerade: Masks From the Morris Museum Collection goes through April 19 and is an array of more than 50 amazing masks from Africa, Asia and the Americas used in all sorts of ways by different cultures.
The History of Picatinny Arsenal from February 3-May 31 that explores the story of the U.S. Army Picatinny Arsenal and how it made an impact on New Jersey since the late 1800s.
Accessorize — The Person & The Place from February 12-April 19 that covers crafts and accessory trends and features New Jersey craft artisans.
Now You See It: The Art of Magic and Illusion runs through August 15 and focuses on optical illusions and how magician's do sleight of hand. There are interactive stations where kids can try out some magic for themselves. The exhibit also has some famed optical illusions in famous pieces of art.
For more information, visit morrismuseum.org.