Children’s Museum at JBLM

The first children’s museum on a U.S. military installation — the Museum is a private non-profit funded by visitor donations.

Children’s Museum at JBLM

Introducing the first children’s museum on a U.S. military installation funded by visitor donations.

Museum Hours

For capacity updates please check our stories on Facebook and Instagram.

To visit the Children’s Museum at JBLM, you must have a valid Base access pass.  Admission to Children’s Museum at JBLM does not include base access. Please contact the JBLM Visitor Center for questions about accessing JBLM.

Celebrate at the Museum

Public Hours

Thursday – Sunday

  • 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Low Sensory Hours

  • Low Sensory Hours
    • Monday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Low Sensory Hours are reserved for families with sensory sensitivities. Ambient noise and light are turned down to provide an even more inviting place to explore, play, and learn. Weighted vests and noise-canceling headphones are available for families upon request. Low Sensory Hours are especially appropriate for children with autism and sensory processing disorder. Low Sensory Hours are open to all children experiencing special needs and their families.

Playful Programs

Play to Learn

Exceptional Family Member Program Playgroup

Group Visits

  • Available for all regular hours except during low sensory hours
  • Reserve your group visit here


2275 14th and Liggett Ave
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA 98433

Ample free parking is available adjacent to the building.

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Pay As You Will Admission

Admission to the Museum is called Pay As You Will, which means that it is by donation only, where families may choose to give whatever is right for them. This admission model began at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma in 2012 and is the only one of its kind among children’s museums in the nation.  It has been recognized with a national award from the Association of Children’s Museum and as a finalist for the IMLS National Medal of Honor. All Pay As You Will donations and membership support the Museum and keep it accessible for every family in our community.

At the Children’s Museum at JBLM, we believe play is a crucial component of children’s learning. Our playscapes engage young children, ages birth to 12, and their adult caregivers in self-directed play through innovative design that celebrates imagination and encourages creativity.

The Museum’s playscapes and programs support children’s growth through play by addressing age-appropriate development, especially in the areas of creativity, social and emotional skills, cognitive and critical thinking skills, gross and fine motor development, and early literacy learning.

Core early childhood experiences form the platform for play in the Museum’s main areas: Forest, Water, Studio, Climb, Calm, Invention and Launch. 

PLEASE NOTE: For the safety of all our visitors, only adults accompanied by a child will be allowed in the galleries. We do offer guided tours of the galleries for interested adults based on staffing availability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our children’s museums are wheelchair accessible, adhering to ADA guidelines to ensure a welcoming environment for individuals with mobility challenges. The building has ramps and elevators to facilitate easy entry, and our spacious doorways are designed to accommodate wheelchairs. If you are a wheelchair user and require any additional assistance or information about our accessibility features, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are committed to providing an inclusive experience for all our visitors.

Strollers are not allowed in the Museum galleries since space is limited. There is dedicated parking in the Museum lobby, but we encourage you to leave your stroller home if possible.

We have lockers available free of charge to lock up your bags and coats while you play.

Food and drinks are not allowed in the Museum galleries. We have a cafe space in the lobby where enjoy your food and drinks. Help keep the Museum galleries a clean place to play by keeping them food free.

  • Children’s Museum of Tacoma
    • On the weekends, the parking lot adjacent to the Museum is Pay to Park and open to visitors
    • During the week, the lot adjacent to the Museum is not open to the general public, and visitors can find metered parking along the street on Pacific Avenue
    • There are multiple paid parking lots near the Museum on weekdays
  • Children’s Museum at JBLM
    • Parking is available and free in the lot next to the Children’s Museum at JBLM

Only individuals who have access to enter Joint Base Lewis-McChord can visit the Children’s Museum at JBLM. Please get in touch with the JBLM visitor center for any questions about your base access.


Upon entering the doors, visitors traipse through a noodle canopy hanging above and decide how thickly they want to dive into the various colors and textures.  Hear soft water sounds, and explore rippling light reminiscent of a water splash.


Water is a powerful, sensorial, and fun experience for all ages, and this playscape builds upon and extends our daily experiences with water. As visitors manipulate materials and investigate falling, running, flooding, still, and overflowing vortices of water, they explore the physical properties of water.  What does it feel like?  What does it sound like?  How does it move?  What can it do when interacting with other forces or materials?  

Through experimentation, visitors become active scientists who interact with others, ask questions, test ideas, and formulate hypotheses. 

Note: We always recommend that visitors with young children bring a few extra pairs of clothes.



During focus groups and conversations with key partners, we learned that it would be important to provide a space for families to retreat from the big active play and discovery that will take place in the galleries. The beautiful, cozy atmosphere of Calm provides couches for family snuggles, re-centering activities with light and building, and assistive technology like weighted vests and hanging chairs.


Artists of all ages find their creative muse within the Studio.  From painting at easels, to sculpting, to collaboratively adding artistic touches to a grand-scale whimsical object, process-based creativity converges. A favorite experience are the light projector tables, which allow exploration of concepts of translucency and transparency, all while marveling at the properties of light, color, and shadow. The projected images on the screens above create a presentation space for dramatic performances and engaged audiences. 

Within the Maker’s Studio visitors are invited to make, tinker, and create with STEAM activities. Hoppers brim with recycled materials and workstations are equipped with authentic tools. Children and adults will playfully engage in designing, engineering, and building as they bring a plan into 3-D form.


The Wind wall offers three panels of fans and lights that visitors control with three levers.  Once activated, lights and wind commence.  Mirrors, props, and costumes create an invitation to observe and directly interact with the power of the air.


Launch offers opportunities for engineering paper creations and experimenting with how they react in a wind tunnel or blast off of an air-powered rocket launcher, delighting in the trajectory of their flying creation. Engaging in dynamic scientific inquiry, and repeated experimentation will foster further modification and adaptation of design.



Children, school age friends, and adults alike will delight in this big-body, kinesthetic structure. Climbing platforms make this structure accessible for every ability and talk tubes throughout layer imaginative play opportunities.

Invention, a playscape at the Children's Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord


Invention features a fantastical vessel to climb, explore and pretend to power.  While we’re not sure exactly what this vessel is, it’s a little vehicle-ish, aircraft-ish, dragonfly-ish, we know that it has the power to take children on the journeys of their imagination.  

The First Of Its Kind

We are excited by this partnership with Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Command that has created the first children’s museum on a U.S. military installation in the world.  This new location, in the center of a lifestyle center next to Freedom Park on Liggett Ave, will continue to build upon relationships established through our Play to Learn programming on JBLM, and is designed to serve children and their families, with an emphasis on early learners, those experiencing special needs, and reintegration of our military into family life.

This project is supported by the JBLM Command, as well as a $4.8 million effort by supporters of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma as part of the $10 million More than a Museum Campaign.

“We believe that the Children’s Museum of Tacoma on Base will be the center of family life on post – an oasis where kids can have fun and learn through play, and a place where parents feel supported.” – Diane Dimmer, Executive Director of Dimmer Foundation


JBLM leadership has identified gaps in enrichment opportunities and support for young families:

  • JBLM is the largest family base in the United States
  • Many families struggle to access resources off base
  • JBLM has the highest concentration of children experiencing special needs on a U.S. military base, at 22%
  • Military life can compromise children’s emotional and behavioral development, and lower levels of parent-child attachment
  • Parents often lack a sense of community and spaces/opportunities to gather


Play is a natural, proven remedy for children’s stress and a critical method of developing and strengthening parental attachment. Museums are neutral, welcoming gathering spaces that build a sense of community. During our years on JBLM through our Play to Learn program, as well as our research through family focus groups and surveys, we will strategically address these needs by:

  • Creating the world’s first children’s museum on a U.S. military installation
  • Working with JBLM leadership and families to tailor and develop programs to best meet the diverse needs of military families and children
  • Carefully preparing playscapes, staff, and programs to engage and support children experiencing special needs and their families
  • Providing increased opportunities for children to grow through play, for families to connect and strengthen relationships, and for parents to build their social network of support
  • Extending access of Pay As You Will on base, ensuring financial barriers won’t limit a family’s ability to visit

“Cal and I are pleased to serve as honorary chairs of the More Than a Museum campaign. We have been long- time supporters of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma and believe that the Museum’s mission of honoring children and championing play is a vital component of a livable and vibrant community. This campaign will take the Museum to the next level of its innovation,  growth and sustainability” – Joanne Bamford


The Museum has a well-established relationship with both military leadership and military families through its long-running Play to Learn program. We are uniquely positioned to fill the current gaps in needs, and to plan for future requests for our military families. The new children’s museum on base will be centrally located within the “Freedom Center,” the new town center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord which also includes a spray park, skate park, shopping, restaurants, and movie theater. The children’s museum will be:

  • Focused on early learners, with programming to focus on special needs families
  • Accessible by bus, with plentiful, accessible parking
  • Office space for MWR Children and Youth Services
  • A 24/7 neutral gathering space in times of crisis for military spouses and families
  • A collaborative opportunity with community engagement organizations currently operating on JBLM

Do you have any questions, or would like to get involved? Please contact us here.