Scott Family Amazeum competes with Crystal Bridges for children’s interests

BENTONVILLE – Boys and girls taken to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art may be less than thrilled with the collection of paintings and other world-class artifacts. But adults can offer youngsters a tempting compromise right next door.

The nearby attraction is Scott Family Amazeum, which motorists pass just before reaching Crystal Bridges. Under the separate Crystal Bridges ownership of Alice Walton, the Amazeum is a cornucopia of hands-on fun for youngsters. Entrance fees for visitors aged 2 and over are also different from Crystal Bridges free entry policy.

The 50,000-square-foot Amazeum, which opened in 2015 in a boldly colored building on Museum Way, bills itself as “a hands-on interactive museum for kids of all ages and their families. We want you in here and make a mess, get a little wet (you might want to bring some extra clothes), climb and sing!”

The museum’s brochure hardly exaggerates its promise: “We have so much for you to do. Bring a 10-foot-tall SpongeBob SquarePants to life in the Nickelodeon PlayLab. Send foam boxes flying on conveyor belts and have fun with air tubes in General Mills Lifting, Loading and Hauling »

And there’s more: “Learn how creative you are! Create a masterpiece in the art studio or take something apart in the 3M craft center. Kids of all ages can play a role in the market sponsored by Walmart. Build a stick fort in our outdoor space or watch the changing scenes in the Cloud Theater. Have fun with chocolate delights and sweet stuff at Hershey’s Lab.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Amazeum was bustling with mostly masked families trying out the dozens of interactive exhibits on two levels. Some of the activities have commercial ties, like this children’s mockup of Walmart grocery aisles sponsored by the Bentonville-based retail giant.

Gross observers might complain that corporate sponsorships, similar to those of Disney theme parks, seductively serve as a training ground for would-be consumers of their products. But who wants to be a spoilsport when you’re having so much fun?

A new hands-on project pops up a few days in the Tinkering Hub. Cardboard Creations this recent Saturday offered young people the chance to “let this simple yet versatile material guide your creativity”. A few examples, including a bird’s nest, were on display to hint at the possibilities.

The Amazeum is named after the family of Lee Scott, former CEO of Walmart Stores Inc. Its interior covers approximately 50,000 square feet, with more activities available in good weather on an acre of outdoor play space.

One of the most creative (and messy) spaces is the art studio, with a paint room where kids in plastic aprons use brushes or their fingers to paint on the glass walls. The resulting drawings are visible from outside the studio. The energy of the young artists erases any doubt that making a mess is great fun.

Scott Family Amazeum

  • Address: 1009 Museum Way, Bentonville
  • Hours: 10am-5pm Monday and Wednesday-Saturday, 1pm-5pm Sunday
  • Admission: $10 per person 2 years and over; free for children under 2 years old. Most Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. are priceless nights, when visitors can pay what they can, thanks to sponsorship from the Willard and Pat Walker Family Foundation.
  • Information: Amazeum.org or call (479) 696-9280

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