I have recently discovered ImaginOn, and, let me tell you, ImaginOn is amazing.
How did I not already know about it?
I thought I knew all the best places to take a bored toddler in Charlotte. (And this place is free!)
I mean, fine, I had heard of it, but I was like “It’s just a library? I have a library within walking distance! I’m going to go to that library?”
Oh, how ignorant I once was.
What I have learned is that ImaginOn includes a library, but it’s so much more and totally worth a visit (or 12) with your kids.
Why? Let me spell it out for you.
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte
First of all, ImaginOn houses Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, which has shows for all ages. And “all ages” includes your not-walking-yet baby! I love theater, and it looks like my kid feels the same!
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte also has classes for multiple ages. I took my 2-year-old to a five-week-long class called “Side-by-Side,” which was for toddlers and their caregivers. It was super fun.
We made elephant masks, sang songs, played games and read books. My son started out shy, but ended the class running around like crazy making mischief with his new friends.
ImaginOn regularly hosts special events, which my son and I would wander into accidentally when we arrived early on Saturday for class.
He played in a musical petting zoo, rode dinosaurs and had a confrontation with a T-Rex (“Not nice!” my kiddo yelled.) Coming up is a soap bubble show!
Trucks and a trolley
On both its first floor and on its second floor, ImaginOn has tons of toys to play with.
Older kids will love the electronics, but my son is all about the giant carpet of trucks and the big, green Charlotte trolley he can climb inside.
As you first enter, there is a puppet theater to your right, and everyone is totally cool with your child playing with these puppets. (Right? Hope so.)
They also host a monthly puppet show performance.
Art is everywhere in ImaginOn. There is a giant dragon staring down at you at the entrance, special exhibits (currently costumes from “Coraline”) and some gorgeous stained-glass windows.
Right outside there is writing-themed public art that’s basically used as a playground.
The light rail and 7th Street Market
Trains are my kiddo’s favorite thing about life right now, and so the light rail across the street is his favorite thing about going to ImaginOn.
Also across the street is 7th Street Market, and crepes are sold there. You can buy these crepes, eat outside and watch the light rail. This is a delightful Saturday morning routine.
First Ward Park
Do your children wake up freakishly early? Does ImaginOn’s 9 a.m. opening still leave you with time to kill? Let them frolic and run free at First Ward Park, conveniently located across the street! (But bring a ball or something. I’ve found there’s not a ton for a 2-year-old to do there.)
And, yes, the library
ImaginOn also includes a library! And Spangler Library is pretty special for a library. It has toys and computer games for children, a fun-filled story hour (that can include bubbles), and a floor just for teens.
So, yeah. Maybe you weren’t hip to ImaginOn yet. Maybe you were like “I’ve already got this library thing covered, thank you very much.”
But you were wrong. And by you, I clearly mean me. Air-conditioned, free, educational and within walking distance of crepes? Yes, please!