We took our granddaughter to Peoria over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend mainly to see the top-notch East Peoria Festival of Lights. Looking for something to do during the day, we found the Peoria Riverfront Museum. The museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, proved to be a great choice for both our granddaughter and us. With plenty of hands-on activities, the Dome Planetarium, and the Giant Screen Theater, you could spend hours in the museum.
While some of the museum exhibits are permanent, many are constantly changing. The Street includes a timeline of Peoria’s history with a focus on transportation, manufacturing, breweries and distilleries. A private collection of bicycles was on display during our visit. The high-wheel bicycle from the late 1800s, called the Rambler, looks really hard to ride—and it apparently was. It was manufactured by the Gormully & Jeffrey Manufacturing Company of Chicago. The company sold the bicycle company and opened an auto manufacturing company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1900. They continued to use the Rambler name for its cars, eventually becoming the Nash Rambler.
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Just off of The Street, a hands-on area is fun for adults and children alike. We enjoyed fitting together brightly colored gears, trying to make them all spin at once with the turn of one knob. We built cars, too, snapping together our choices of chassis, bodies, and wheels. When we finished building our cars, we raced them down the double-lane test track.
Illinois River Encounter
The Illinois River Encounter includes exhibits on Illinois River natural history and how humans interact with the river. A 400-gallon aquarium is filled with native Illinois fish species.
Old Courthouse Clock
The halls between galleries are filled with interesting displays, too, like the clock from the clock tower of the old courthouse. The clock was installed when the courthouse was built in 1878 and saved when the building was demolished in 1964.
IHSA Peak Performance Interactive Gallery
Jumping to modern day in the IHSA Peak Performance interactive gallery, we tested our skills in basketball (we didn’t do so well) and other interactive stations. The activities change seasonally. Besides sports, the IHSA Peak Performance Gallery includes activities like the Illinois High School Association Scholastic Challenge, the Music Pitch Test, and the Chess Challenge, too.
Be sure to catch one of the three daily shows (five on weekends) in the Dome Planetarium,. One show is specifically geared to younger children. The occasional evening Laser Light shows are fun, too, where you watch the colorful lights dance to rock music. (They warn that some of the rock song lyrics may not be suitable for all ages.) Since we were there on the holiday weekend, we were treated to the laser light show choreographed to Christmas songs.
Giant Screen Theater
Another activity to schedule into your day at the museum is the Giant Screen Theater. The theater’s screen is five stories high and seven stories wide! The theater shows both educational and feature movies. Some are in 2D and some in 3D. Be sure to plan ahead and check the schedule when you get to the museum.
There are many more art and science exhibits in the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Exhibits are rotated or changed on a regular basis.
If you visit the Peoria Riverfront Museum
The Peoria Riverfront Museum is located in the downtown Peoria Riverfront area, at 222 SW Washington Street. Check the web site for hours, admission fees, and current exhibits and shows.
Accommodations: Check Peoria hotel rates here
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