Summertime means trips to the beach for many, but it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time.  Not so this year.  Thanks to the National Building Museum, there is good news for those who hate getting sand in their swimsuits, slathering on sunscreen, and watching their children like a hawk in the ocean.

The BEACH at the National Building MuseumWelcome to a new concept – The BEACH – a 10,000 square foot sand and water free beach where kids and adults are welcome to play, relax and, snack.  Created in partnership with Snarkitecture, the highlight of The BEACH is the ocean – an enormous pit filled with nearly a million clear ball pit balls along with some beach balls for good measure. 

It is by far the largest and deepest ball pit I’ve even seen.  The ocean is about three feet deep, which is the perfect depth for little “swimmers.”  Although no sharks were present during our visit, I heard some will be arriving soon.

Leading to the ocean of balls is a pier covered in white “sand” that felt like the real thing when we walked on it.  There is also a lounge area with plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas when you need to take a break from all of those balls.  Just like the real beach, there is plenty of room for snacking. 

Union Kitchen will be running a concession stand with plenty of treats for the little ones (my kids were crazy about the cake pops) and grown-ups (I liked the coffee and stuffed dates).

The BEACH is definitely kid-friendly. My kids, ages four and seven, had a blast and only left when it was closing time.  The BEACH is only around through Labor Day so don’t miss it!

Good To Know

  • The BEACH at the National Building MuseumThere is stroller parking in the exhibit and cubbies, but no secure places to leave bags so leave the valuables at home.
  • The BEACH is open through Labor Day, September 7, 2015.
  • Admission ranges from $5/child and $10/adult for members to $13/child and $16/adult for non-members.  Blue Star adult admission is $10.  Members can purchase a season pass for $75 good for up to six admittances.  You can purchase your tickets online.
  • Admission is first-come-first served.  Tickets are not timed. Once admitted you can stay as long as you like.
  • Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult in the “ocean.”
  • While at the National Building Museum consider visiting their other family-friendly interactive exhibits, Play Work Build and The Building Zone.
  • There are extended hours on Wednesday nights.  A trip to The BEACH would make a great date night or Moms’ Night Out.

Update on July 18, 2015

The word is out about The BEACH and it seems like everyone (and their kids) are going.   When there is a wait, which is most of the time, there are two lines you need to stand in – one to purchase tickets and one to enter the exhibit. Double-check that you are standing in the right line to purchase tickets.  There is one window for general admission and another window for members and pre-purchased tickets.

During our recent weekday visit, the line to purchase tickets was about fifteen minutes and the second line to enter the exhibit was about an hour.  Wait times on weekends may be longer.   To make the wait easier there are a few things you can try.  First, the building that houses the Building Museum opens at 8:30 a.m., much earlier than the museum’s 10:00 a.m. opening time.  There is an atrium with tables and a cafe.  Plan on arriving around 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. to be among the first in line when the museum opens at 10:00 a.m. (11:00 a.m. on Sundays).  Pack your breakfast to eat there while you wait or grab a snack at the cafe.

Second, go with a friend if you can.  This is the strategy we used.  One of us waited in line while the other played with the kids.  Although it’s an additional fee, other parts of the museum, including the popular Play, Work, Build exhibit, is usually available without a wait.  The also popular Building Zone can be accessed for an additional fee but it has timed entries and may be full.  Third, if you don’t want to pay the general museum admission, or are the only adult, kids can play with large blocks set up near the entrance of The BEACH. 

Alternatively, you can bring a few games or books of your own and set your kids up with an activity while you wait.  Of course, you can always bring books or some other simple activity to do while in line.  The key is to plan your strategy to keep the kids occupied if you do find yourself waiting a long time to enter.

Once in the exhibit, many Moms were standing in the circular platform in the middle in order to get a good view of nearly the entire “ocean area.”  I also noticed many Moms with backpacks, which are easier to carry through the balls.  Although there is an area to leave bags, this is a good solution if you don’t want to leave your bag unattended.   Very young children can enjoy the “shallow” end of the ocean and I saw plenty of new walkers there.

Even though there is a long wait, we still recommend a visit.  The BEACH is only around for a limited time and it’s a one-of-a-kind exhibit not to be missed!

The BEACH at the National Building Museum  The BEACH at the National Building Museum

Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.

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OK Editorial Team

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