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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Review of the Noah’s Ark Exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center
The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. If you are traveling north or south on the 405, take the "Skirball Center Drive" exit.
The hours are: Tuesday–Friday, 12:00–5:00 pm. There are extended hours for all exhibits except Noah's Ark on Thursdays until 9:00 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, the museum is open from 10:00 am–5:00 pm and it is closed on Mondays. The center is also closed on some Jewish holidays, so be sure to call before planning your visit.
The cost of admission is as follows: $10 General, $7 Seniors and Full-Time Students, $5 Children 2-12, and children under 2 are free. The entire museum is free to the public on Thursdays.
The Noah's Ark exhibit has a timed entry system so you will need to place a reservation and purchase tickets prior to going to the museum. You can either purchase tickets online on their website or call them on the phone. It may be possible to show up and get in, but you may have to wait until an available entry time. We went on a Sunday morning at 10 am at it did not feel crowded due to the limited tickets offered for each time slot. I should also note that our 10 am sticker that we placed on our shirts also said that our exit time out of Noah's Ark was 12 noon, again, to keep a maximum on the number of people in that exhibit at any given time. I would say that 2 hours is plenty of time so don't feel rushed. Thursdays are very popular because entrance is free.
Noah's Ark is a permanent, 8,000 square foot exhibit designed for generations to experience together. The animals are made of repurposed and recycled objects and some are larger than life puppets. The idea here was to use the story if Noah's Ark to inspire children and their parents to learn the importance of community, to feel responsibility for Earth and all of Earth's creatures, and to help to build a better world. There is no Noah here and we are to think of ourselves as Noah. The staff at the exhibit have been trained to walk around, interact with the children and help them get the most out of their experience.
When the staff let us enter at 10 am, we were shepherded over to the exhibit, which is just past a Noah's Ark themed gift shop with animal items and books. We were then led into a small room where the kids all sat on wooden boxes. A docent explained that there were three areas to explore. The first let the children participate in the creation of the storm and flood, the construction of the ark itself, the loading of the animals onto the ark, and a first look at all of the animals that the kids were encouraged to manipulate. In fact, everything in Noah's Ark is hands on and nothing is off limits. The next area is meant to show the ark after some time has past. It was huge and allowed the kids to do a lot of climbing on ropes and bridges. The last area was the rainbow room where, on the day we went, they had storytelling time and an area to color and create a cardboard ark to take home. This room is meant to show that we are all back on dry land, off the ark, and should focus on how to build a better world.
Here are some highlights of our trip:
First, I want to congratulate the Skirball for filling a void of a children's museum. We have the Zimmer which is closer to LACMA on Wilshire which is also a terrific venue for kids, and Kidspace in Pasadena, which focuses on nature and the environment, and now we have Noah's Ark. I only hope that more museums and centers will build children's museums. Next, the animals and the ark: they were magnificent and beautiful and larger than life. Also, this whole exhibit felt permanent and was well maintained and every child and family that I observed was having such a great time. There was so much to do and to occupy my kids that I didn't know what to do first, so I just let them lead me around. In the first area, I loved how the kids were pulling lever to simulate the storm, with leaves that shot up in the wind and rain that made a small boat float up high. My kids wanted to pull the levers over and over. They also really enjoyed trying their hand at loading the animals onto the ark, two by two and climbing up high to stack wooden blocks in an effort to construct the ark itself. Further past the first room, there was a whole wall filled with animal puppets and the selection was amazing. There was also a b medium sized wooden ark with tiny wooden animals that they could manipulate and move to different places in the ark.
In the second area, the ark itself, we were exposed to the climbing room, and we had to climb up a rope bridge single file and could then look down on the kids below. There was also a lever to pull in order to operate an elephant's trunk and when we did it the elephant let out a huge trumpet which delighted my kids. Parents are encouraged to follow their kids up but the space was really meant for toddlers and elementary aged kids because we had to bend over or crouch up there. Down below there were huge stationary animals to climb on, a hammock to swing in and an area with all kinds of fake fruits and vegetables to have a tea party or meal with the animals. I would say my kids liked this area the best. I was also laughing and so were Logan and Madison when we came upon fake animal feces and brooms. The kids are encouraged to learn to care for the animals, help them adjust to life on the ark and even clean up after their messes. Another highlight were these really cute moving, life like puppets that the staff carried with them and brought to my kids for them to pet and interact with. I had never seen puppets like them before.
About 45 min. into our session a woman came around and said that it was time for a story. I have read that there are also impromptu music sessions as well. We gathered on the floor in the rainbow room and she told us a story about the animals who had to get on the ark, making appropriate sounds for each of the animals. She did a great job of engaging the children and added to the experience of this exhibit.
As for the art project itself, my kids were getting cranky like hungry toddlers will get, so they didn't want to spend long coloring a take home cardboard ark, but the ones I saw were really well done. There are a multitude of craft projects offered at different times on different days, so it might not be the ark project when you go.
So overall, we enjoyed this exhibit and are very happy that it is here to stay. It's very toddler friendly since the kids are encouraged to touch everything and it gives parents a chance to go to a museum but not worry about the kids breaking something or touching something that isn't meant to be touched. The ark is huge and beautiful and all of the animals made out of recycled materials are just gorgeous. I wish there had been some signs to read aloud to the kids to help explain the story of Noah's Ark, but failing that I was very impressed and would recommend this exhibit to all families.