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Sugar House Journal

Come play at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum as they celebrate 40 years

Oct 18, 2018 14h19 ● By Jana Klopsch

The original Children’s Museum of Utah on Beck Street. (Photo/Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum)

By Christy Jepson | [email protected]

This year marks the big 4-0 birthday for Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, one of the most popular museums in the state.

The museum has come a long way since 1978 when founder Paulette Stevens and her husband saw a need in the Salt Lake area for a place where children could play, imagine and discover. Thanks to the vision of Stevens and her husband, in the last 40 years more than 6.3 million children and families have visited the museum and have also participated in their community outreach programs, after-school enrichment programs, field trips, free days, and many other programs the museum offers to the community. 

In 1980, the Salt Lake City Council decided to let the museum use the empty Wasatch Warm Springs building at 840 N. 300 West on Beck Street for $1 a year. Getting the actual building was just the first step in making Stevens’ vision a reality. 

From 1980 to 1983, volunteers, parents, educators, community leaders, and the board of directors were dedicated to raising funds for the museum, which was originally called The Children’s Museum of Utah. After intense fundraising, the grand opening for The Children’s Museum of Utah happened in 1983 with only 12,000 square feet of exhibits. The original exhibits included: a sabertooth tiger skeleton, a medical discovery exhibit, a Delta 727 cockpit, computers, a sight and sound exhibit, and a traveling exhibit from the Holography Museum of New York.    

Years later, the museum started to add new exhibits and programs and soon the small space was not enough to house their growing needs. But thanks to the voter approval of Proposition 2 in 2002, voters approved a $15 million county bond on a $30 million project for Proposition 2 that included the building of a new children’s museum. Three years later, construction began on the new museum which was moved into the heart of Salt Lake City at The Gateway.   

Along with a new location, now at 444 W. 100 South, also came six times the amount of space and the name of the museum was officially changed to Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. The grand opening celebration was on Sept. 16, 2006. Since that time, the museum has hosted many events and programs. It has brought in traveling exhibits like Sid the Science Kid and Children of Hangzhou. Discovery Gateway was the first children’s museum to be certified sensory inclusive by KultureCity, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to effecting change for those with sensory needs.  

“Discovery Gateway will continue the important work of providing educational experiences for everyone in our community, expanding our reach through new programs, and continuing to update and add new interactive exhibits,” said Laurie Hopkins, executive director. 

Just two months ago, the museum’s newest exhibit, the Mark Miller Subaru Express Service exhibit, made its home at Discovery Gateway. This hands-on exhibit allows children the chance to pretend to be a mechanic while discovering a child-sized 2019 Subaru Ascent. Children can pretend to change the oil, tighten lug nuts on the tires, work under the hood, and fill the car with gas. 

Another exhibit, Water Play, recently opened in late June. This huge 38-foot water table has nine interactive components which include: racing rivers, a water wall, ramps, wheels, tipping buckets and a water vortex. Children won’t get in trouble for playing in water in this exhibit.

Other interactive exhibit galleries at Discovery Gateway are: SkyCycle (seasonal), Reading Nook, The Garden, Kids Eye View, Story Factory and Sensory Room, Block Party, DG Derby, STEAM Studio and Lab, Move it!, and the Intermountain Healthcare Saving Lives exhibit.

Before Thanksgiving a new exhibit will open called the Honey Climber. Children will be able to climb from the lower level of the museum to the upper level inside a beehive-type structure while climbing across bridges, a flower tower, hex steps and through a hex maze.

According to Senior Marketing Manager Shanna Sheline, the museum will continue to upgrade and add permanent exhibits over the next year including an exhibit that explores the science of light and color. 

Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum is opened Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.  General admission prices are $12.50 for everyone ages 1 to 64; Sunday admission is $10 for everyone, and senior citizens ages 65 and older $10.  Discovery Gateway is located at 444 W. 100 South at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City.