Acton Discovery Museum: A Reliable Way to Entertain the Kids

A picture of the Acton Discovery Musuem (exterior).
Acton Discovery Museum exterior. Image By: The Invisible Trendsetter

The Acton Discovery Museum

I still remember our first trip to the Acton Discovery Museum. I was expecting my youngest any day, and my two older children were 4 and 21 months. I had heard great things about it, but I had also heard complaints of kids coming home with miscellaneous transmissible diseases. If you’ve read my about page, you may know that I’m a complete germophobe and have been my entire life. What you may not know is that before my daughter was born, I was running a microbiology lab in a biotech company and working on my Master’s in Public Health. My degree was about 80% complete when I became pregnant with my daughter and decided to become a stay-home parent. Needless to say, I have a pretty good sense of disease transmission, and this objection gave me pause. When COVID-paranoia began to wind down, but mask mandates were still in place, I figured it was a great opportunity to check it out. I’m so glad we did because we’ve since been back multiple times. We still haven’t experienced everything they have available and we haven’t brought any germs home, either (knock on wood).

Since our initial visit, we’ve become members and we have made an attempt to get there once a month. Especially during the brutal New England winters. Some people love it (the weather). In the words of my three-year-old, “I like it when my body’s hot.” While the mask mandates have lifted (except on weekdays between 9 and 10 AM), our fascination has not. Every time we go, the littles find something new to love and are always sad to leave. This is easily a place you could spend an entire day, or a few.


Address 177 Main Street; Acton, MA 01720
Admission: Kids & Adults / Seniors$17 / $16
Membership (4 people)$181
Membership, additional person$25 each
ParkingFree / Lot
Stroller FriendlyNo
Clean BathroomsYes
Trendsetter Recommended?Yes
An overview of important considerations for a visit to the Acton Discovery Museum.

The Acton Discovery Museum Layout

The Acton Discovery Museum is on two and a half floors. There is an elevator that takes visitors from the first floor to the third(ish). Strollers and food/drinks are not permitted throughout the museum; however, there are designated spots to eat a quick snack and get back to playing. On the main floor, there are multiple cubbies available for jackets and bags, as well as family bathrooms. The main floor bathrooms have considerably more space than the upper floor bathrooms, but they are still accessible. There is also a beautiful and extremely fun treehouse and natural-ish playground adjacent to the parking lot.

Parking is plentiful and free. If you prefer to travel by commuter rail, the South Acton Station is a half mile away from the Acton Discovery Museum. It looks as if there is a sidewalk along the road. Personally, I wouldn’t opt for this, as the road didn’t feel very walkable when I drove it, but I can’t say I was looking for walkability, either.

Water bottle filler & recycling. (C) The Invisible Trendsetter

Discovery Museum & Sustainability

It is abundantly clear that The Discovery Museum has put a lot of effort into maximizing sustainable practices throughout the facility. The parking lot is covered with massive solar panels, which generate power for the entire building. Inside, there are multiple recycling containers, as well as opportunities to compost. Additionally, there are water-bottle refillers on each floor – and the water is the perfect temperature – cool (not cold). It is clear the Acton Discovery Museum places a high priority on attention to detail, practices what it preaches, and has the budget to back it up.

The Acton Discovery Museum’s Exhibits

The first floor houses most of the sensory and Earth elements exhibits – water, air, magnets, light, and sound. There is also a room for various classes they host, which can be found on their calendar. Recently, we discovered the back corner has a rotating seasonal activity. The day we went, the activity was sock skating and it was exactly what you would expect – so. much. fun. They had really gone all out with decorations and music, and the kids spent a fair amount of time running around here.

The Acton Discovery Museum water play area.
Water play area. Photo by: The Invisible Trendsetter.

I would argue the most popular exhibit on the main floor is the water play area. The water play area is a big hit with all the kids, and because of this, smocks are sometimes hard to come by. I like to take a raincoat for each of my kids in the event we can’t find a smock in their size. This has only happened once or twice, but it’s a bummer every time. There are two Dyson air dryers in the back corner, but I recommend washing hands after this activity because the smell of chlorine is definitely present.

One of my absolute favorite exhibits on the first floor is the massive air tube structure. Conveniently located across from the main cubby area, the kids have a ball with this one – literally and figuratively. There’s something really fun about watching the scarves and gigantic poms zip through the tubes and shoot out. My kids have discovered that if you wrap a few poms in a scarf they will all separate and come out rapid-fire. Elf (Will Ferrell) has found a worthy competitor. I don’t think we’ve gone to the Discovery Museum and missed an opportunity to play here.

Air tubes at the Acton Discovery Museum.
The Acton Discovery Museum, air exhibit. Photo by: The Invisible Trendsetter.

The second and third-ish floors are home to an incredible array of imaginative play areas, a dedicated baby/toddler area, a craft section supplied with all manner of recycled goodies, sand play, and gigantic magnetic boards with ball tunnels and gears.

Pretend kitchen at The Acton Discovery Museum.
Pretend play at The Acton Discovery Museum. (c) The Invisible Trendsetter.

Located between the train exhibit and the camping exhibit is an adorable little diner of childhood dreams. On our last trip, this was the first place my older children wanted to visit. The diner is loaded with all the things you’d expect at a diner, but kid-size. We even found cinnamon sticks and other fragrant spices in the spice containers for smelling. All my kids absolutely adore this exhibit, but it can become quite crowded, which often makes them abandon ship. This is one area of the Acton Discovery Museum that becomes congested easily, just due to design and popularity. I suppose this is part and parcel of trying to fit something like this into a pre-existing structure instead of the other way around. My advice is to go early, or burn one of your sick days at work and go mid-week. Mental health days are important for everyone.

Diner role-play at The Acton Discovery Museum.
Bessie’s Diner. (C) The Invisible Trendsetter

My personal favorite exhibit is right behind Bessie’s Diner, and you wouldn’t even know it was there unless you went looking for it. It’s a camping exhibit and it has all the nostalgic feels. Complete with pretend campfire, a lighted tree house, and a wall mural that is reminiscent of late summer evenings. While also tight and easily congested, I almost never find anyone back there. On our most recent visit, we encountered exactly one other family.

Backyard camping at The Acton Discovery Museum. (C) The Invisible Trendsetter

The attention to detail at The Acton Discovery Museum is, quite frankly, incredible. They go to great lengths to keep each and every exhibit on theme. For example, in the backyard camping exhibit, the basket has an exterior that looks like a log. Additionally, each and every exhibit has a bookshelf with literature related to the theme. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, so this is hugely exciting for me.

Themed literature at each Acton Discovery Museum exhibit. (C) The Invisible Trendsetter.

All in all, I can safely say that my children still have not explored the entire museum. While the footprint isn’t huge, the attention to detail is immense. We literally just experienced the magnets section during our last visit, and still haven’t even visited a whole section on the second floor. My middle child is now gravitating towards trains – who knew?


Located on the first and second floors, the bathrooms at The Acton Discovery Museum are clean, thoughtful, and accessible to all. How can a bathroom be thoughtful? By having family bathrooms, step stools, clean changing tables, and diaper disposal available within arm’s reach. Additionally, the changing tables are closely located to the toilet (but not too close), so you could have a kiddo using the facilities while changing a baby/toddler, without feeling stressed.

One point of contention for me; however: the soap used in the bathrooms is “antibacterial.” Antibacterial soaps kill both good and bad bacteria, can leave hands cracked and dry (and thereby more prone to infection), and often have other harmful ingredients in them. I’d love to see them switch to a healthier option like Attitude Living, or another EWG Verified hand soap. It’s healthier for humans and the planet, and it smells better than the chemical-ly soaps that can induce a migraine in a hurry (especially in pregnant women).

A Word on Germs

Handwashing sign at Acton Discovery Museum. (C) The Invisble Trendsetter.

The Discovery Museum does a really good job of keeping things clean. I’m not entirely sure what they clean their toys with, but there are “tasted toy” bags posted to the walls for adults to place toys that have been slobbered on. The baby area toys are constantly rotated as there is a dedicated staff member there watching and cleaning at all times. In fact, while we were checking in during our last trip, I overheard discussions with new volunteers about how to mitigate disease transmission even further – by taking toys out of the rotation for 24 hours.

While the microbiologist in me thinks that the toys should be wiped AND out of rotation (and definitely for more than a day), it does go to show that they are making efforts in this department. That being said, my family has yet to come home with any sort of germ from this place. Having a background in epidemiology and not going to many places throughout the week, I can personally vouch for The Discovery Museum and whatever methods they are employing to keep families healthy.

That being said: children get a terrible reputation as walking Petri dishes. While they do not yet have the capacity to always remember to cover their mouth when they cough, and can’t always feel a sneeze coming on, it’s really the fault of adults for taking children places when they’re sick. So I’m going to take a minute to just say this: if your child has had a stomach virus in the last fourteen days, is coughing, or has mucus secretions pouring from their nasal passages – they. are. still. contagious.

Listen. I understand that our society is set up for people to get back to work and school as quickly as possible (capitalism and all that), therefore, the standard is set with “absence of fever for 24 hours.” But I beg of you – please stop taking your kids to “extras” if they are symptomatic. A few weeks ago, my cousin lost her fantastic mother-in-law (aka a unicorn) because she was battling lung cancer and caught a cold. Within a week, she was dead and a bunch of sweet little kids were left without their adoring grandma. Your ticket to whatever flavor of the month activity or dues to gymnastics are certainly not worth that woman’s life. What may be a mild cold to you, may be deadly to another. Case in point: COVID.

As a society, can we pledge to stop the spread of transmissible disease and stay home from “extras” when we’re sick? That would be such an epic trend to set and every single person on the planet would benefit. If we all do it, our children will be healthier and we won’t miss as many fun experiences in the first place. #Bethechange.

Moving on.

Discovery Woods

Last but definitely not least is Discovery Woods. Adjacent to the parking lot and across from the main museum is a natural-ish play area and an incredible tree house. Discovery Woods has slides, swings, and rock structures for climbing. The sign states that some aspects may be “challenging” for children under six, but all of my kids (1,3,5) are able to navigate it with little assistance. That being said, the slides are fast, so test them out yourself first and use your best judgment with your own children. We could easily spend an hour or more here, so factor that into your time calculus when making plans to visit.

Cost and Ways to Save

Admission to the Acton Discovery Museum is $17/person (1 and up) or $16 for seniors. There are multiple ways to save on admission which can be viewed on their website. In the age of minimalism and experience gifts, I imagine it would be perfectly acceptable to ask a grandparent for an annual pass in lieu of a “thing” for the next birthday or holiday. This is definitely a place you’ll want to visit more than once and grandparents seem to appreciate some direction in the gift-giving process. Just sayin’.

Make it Happen

The Acton Discovery Museum is a children’s museum that clearly takes play and discovery to the next level. If you’re in the greater Boston area and looking for an engaging way to spend an afternoon (or a whole day) with kids under 12, The Discovery Museum is a fantastic option. So plan your visit soon because life is for living!

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