Museums this side of Pasadena? Yes, they do exist. But since I'm just now discovering them, maybe you have been in the dark too. No they aren't huge and in our face like the Getty (which imo looks like a giant utility plant anyway. I just have never seen the appeal of THAT building, tho the gardens are awesome).
1. The Dinosaur Museum AKA The Raymond M. Alf Paleontology Museum at 1175 W. Baseline in Claremont. Their website is at http://www.alfmuseum.org/visitors_index.html The museum is on the campus of the Webb School, a private high school in the Claremont foothills. The museum boasts some 70,000 fossils, from the collection of a former Webb high school teacher and his students. There are lots of interactive exhibits. Children 4 and under are free, us adults are $3. My 3 year old sped through the two level museum rather quickly, but he still hasn't stopped talking about our visit 3 months ago. My favorite part was kicking a ball around on a deserted soccer field afterwards and checking out the funky campus, complete with dormitories. When Mr. Big is a little bit older, we'll go again.
2. Chino Youth Museum at the corner of D and 6th Streets in Downtown Chino (that's below the 60 freeway off Central). 13191 6TH St., Chino, (909) 464-0499. Their website is at http://chinoyouthmuseum.com/ but most of their website is still under construction, other than their special events section. Regular admission is $2 a child and they have some free First Friday events in July and August, which include a craft and a performance from 5 to 8 p.m. We just went to a birthday party there and I had no idea what to expect. The place has different kid-sized theme rooms, such as a kitchen, a play stage, an oldtime bank, a water plant, a barn, a police and fire room complete with real helmets, broken-in boots and used uniforms, along with a real police motorcycle (torn seat and all) that the kids can get on. Of course, the fire pole seemed to be the favorite attraction in the whole place. We will definitely return here. This place would work for kids as young as 18 months. 4 stars! Best birthday venue I've seen (but then I'm more of an in-home B-day thrower). This place proves that low key works for kids just fine.
3. Adobe de Palomares, 491 E. Arrow Hwy. (where Orange Grove dead ends) Pomona 622-1256 or 623-2198. I lifted this from the Scripps College website: "This historic structure was built in 1854 as a way station for both the San Bernardino stage line and the 20-mule-team freight carriers. Adobe de Palomares was the 13 room home of Don Ygnacio Palomares and his wife, Dona Concepcion Lopez de Palomares. Its construction lasted from 1850 to 1854, the period of the great California gold rush, that was accompanied by California statehood. The house represents the meeting of two cultures: Mexican-era adobe construction combined with American influenced technology, seen in the use of milled roofing and flooring."
Open Sundays from 2-5, complete with picnic area. We've been wanting to go there for some time, but can never swing that Sunday time. The Pomona Historical Society has photographs and more description on their website at http://www.pomonahistorical.org
4. American Museum of Ceramic Art at 340 S. Garey (between 3rd and 4th Streets I think), Pomona. Their website is at http://www.ceramicmuseum.org. Okay, you are thinking ceramics and small children do not mix, but we once went in here to buy a book and Mr. Big was fascinated by the sculptures and ceramics. And these two upcoming listings from their website sound kid friendly to me: 1) July 15, 2-4 p.m.Performance of ancestral music from Maya, Aztec, and other indigenous pre-Hispanic peoples of Meso-America by instrument maker, Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. 2) July 29, Noon-4 p.m.Hands-on Ceramic Whistle- and Rattle-making workshop for children and families. Kids 12 and under are free and adults are $3 each. The owner seems down to earth and eager to share his passion.
5. Just mentioning again, the Claremont Village first Friday art and music walk and the Pomona Arts Colony second Saturday arts walk.
While I'm aware there are some museums at the Claremont Colleges, I've been to a couple and it's just too stressful with a kid, harnessed or not. Does anyone know of any other local museums that are kid friendly? What about the Graber Olive House in Ontario at http://www.graberolives.com?? Or the Museum of History & Art in Ontario? All I know is that it's at 225 S. Euclid Avenue, Ontario (909) 983-3198. Apparently it's in the former city hall, and features agriculture, industry and aviation displays. Open Wednesday - Sunday 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. Admission: Free.
It's worth mentioning that if you want to get in the car and drive west, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is a great museum for children and it's free every Friday evening. It's not so huge and it has an outdoor garden and pond for the stircrazy. http://www.nortonsimon.org/home.asp
The Huntington Library in Pasadena, and in particular their fairly new Children's Garden, is definitely worth the drive. http://www.huntington.org/Information/ChildrensGarden.htm. We took Mr. Big there for his second birthday. Although, I was suprised that the Children's Garden was not shaded and the rocks were quite slick, with several children slipping while we were there. I'm hoping there have been some improvements. Most people rave about the place. The Huntington is free every first Thursday of the month.
A friend told me today that the Children's Museum at LaHabra is a bigger version of the Chino Youth Museum. Not as cheap, at $5 a person, and also not local. Their website is at http://www.lhcm.org/. The place does look cool.
And coming full circle to dinosaurs again, The Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana will unveil it's long anticipated Dino Quest exhibit on June 30. http://www.discoverycube.org/index.htm