What did you like most to do when you were six years old? Undoubtedly, C’MON and its focus groups of six-year-olds and grown-up former six-year-olds in Naples have already anticipated your answer.
The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (a.k.a. C'MON) opened in February 2012 to great acclaim in the North Collier Regional Park, next to Sun-N-Fun Lagoon Waterpark.
Some of what the six-year-olds suggested has to do with what they experience here in Florida; some of it, what they miss.
The latter is most obvious in the Mother Nature’s House seasons exhibit. In the spring in Martha’s Vineyard room, they can make a bird’s nest. In the summer in the Naples section, they can do a news broadcast about a tropical storm on-camera, reading from a teleprompter.
C'MON museum welcomes kids of all ages — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
But when they get to fall and winter, the fun really starts: attractions include a tree that spits out leaves they can rake up and a chilly igloo where they can write their names in the condensation on the window.
The Naples Trolley is the centerpiece, as you enter the 30,000-square-foot hall of the colorful ship-shaped building. Inside the trolley, kids get their picture taken for a driver’s license and punch buttons to virtually travel to some of the museum’s 12 different galleries.
Behind it, a mammoth, very real-looking banyan tree has its 350 branches filled with stuffed animals. Inside, kids can step into a virtual pond and watch the fish flit away and water plants grow.
The Journey through the Everglades exhibit’s boardwalk winds up into the tree and overlooks the mangrove maze of 20 or so pods with hands-on learning experiences such as making a rattlesnake noise. Looking through special glasses, you can even see the world through an alligator’s eyes.
As visitors make the journey, lighting and sound effects mimic spending a day in the moody environment.
At the Beach, kids can fish with poles and magnetic bait, then identify the fish they caught. A paddle boat, crayon rubbing station and 22-foot-tall shark’s eye shell they can walk through all teach in a cleverly sneaky manner.
At the Farm & Market, conveyor belts take sorted fruits and vegetables to the grocery store next door, where the check-out person runs functioning machinery to ring up what customers have taken off the shelves.
In Backyardville, a hedge maze, rolling hill and graffiti wall provide outdoor fun.
Inside the museum's toddler area — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
Soft, touchable fabrics (such as covers a super-sized gecko upstairs) make the museum’s toddler areas irresistible to the blankie set.
There’s even a room for those tricky-to-please ‘tween-agers. In partnership with the local PBS station, Curious Kids holds computers, karaoke and sewing machines, a disco lounge where they can mix music and science discovery experiences. Staff presents special CSI-type programs and others with appeal for eight- to 12-year-olds.
Adults, too, get their due with a fine art exhibit and one woman’s donated collection of masks, puppets and other cultural artifacts from around the world. They also have their own night to come in and play without kids each month.
The dream-come-true (literally) of Naples mother Allyson Loos, the $25 million building is all green down to the organic food served in the Garden Café. After Loos lost her 13-month-old daughter, little Bianca appeared to her in a dream in the setting of a children’s museum. That’s the moment the project began.
With the donation of $5 million from namesake Tom Golisano, the generosity of a community and the vivid imaginations of some six-year-olds, dream became reality.