Leo Sameniego, 6, builds a colorful house in the new Imagine It exhibit at the Children’s Museum Tucson downtown.

This story was created by #ThisIsTucson and underwritten by Zoppé Family Circus, spending three weekends in January at the Mercado District. Thank you for supporting the local organizations that support us!

With the new year comes so many new ways to spend quality time with the kids (and kid-like adults) in your life.

Here are five things to look forward to that will spark their imagination, give them the chance to run wild, experience another culture, or share a fun, educational experience together. 

We can't wait!

New things coming to Children's Museum Tucson and Oro Valley

Nikki Hampton, left, watches as hew god-daughter Alexandra Moran, 2, checks out the "kitchen" of the Wee World exhibit at the Children’s Museum Tucson. 

There are exciting things coming to both Children's Museum locations in the new year.

In January, the downtown location, 200 S. Sixth Ave., is adding a performance stage with curtains and a whole bunch of human and animal costumes and props in its Wee World area. 

"It's a great way (for children) to exercise their imagination and become somebody else and that's just a great way for them to learn," says Teresa Truelsen, director of marketing for the museum.

Kids will also be able to learn about and practice basket weaving at a new station being added to the Tucson-themed Sense of Place exhibit, Truelsen says. That station is expected to open during the first quarter of the year. 

Up at the Oro Valley museum, 11015 N. Oracle Road, there are plans to add a small water feature outdoors where kids can splash their hands in the water, Truelsen says.

And something happening at the Oro Valley site that's sure to delight parents: free admission the first and third Tuesdays of the month starting in January and anyone who attends on those days will get a free pass to return for free on another day, thanks to funding from the Town of Oro Valley, Pima County, First Things First and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation. 

Wild Katz Children's Adventure Opening Grand Opening

Wild Katz will have climbing walls, obstacle courses, toddler slides and a ball blaster arena with spiral slides and tunnels.

Wild Katz, 4629 E. Speedway Blvd., a brand new indoor playground in Tucson is set to open in the Spring 2020, ideally by March if all goes according to plan. 

The 15,000-foot space will have climbing walls, obstacle courses, themed party rooms and more for children ages 6 to teens. While the kids are running around, parents can enjoy TVs, cozy couches and massage chairs. And there will also be an old-fashioned soda fountain with ice cream, coffee and snacks available for purchase. Go here for more information and updates. 

Mildred and Dildred's Second Location

Mildred and Dildred owner Autumn Ruhe, left, helps a customer in her La Encantada store. The second location will be twice as large.

Mildred and Dildred, the best place in town to find a unique selection of toys, puzzles, games and books for littles is growing. The locally-owned toy shop in La Encantada, purchased the former Kids Center space at 1725 N. Swan Road in Fall 2019 as its second location slated to open in Spring 2020. 

The new space is double the original location at 2905 E. Skyline Drive which means more room for storage and books, Mildred and Dildred owner Autumn Ruhe told This is Tucson in October. 

"(At the La Encantada store), the book section is one corner, and we want to have books for older kids, but there is no space," Ruhe says. "With the Kid's Center space, our book section will be four to five times the size." 

New Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum

The Mineral Evolution Gallery at the UA Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum will focus on how the solar system and minerals have evolved over time.

The University of Arizona's Gem and Mineral museum is moving out of the basement of Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium and into bigger digs in the historic Pima County Courthouse (the beautiful pink building downtown). The new museum is set to open in fall 2020 and will be more than triple the size of its current home.

According to a recent Arizona Daily Star story the museum will have the space to showcase more sparkly gems and minerals, and more interactive activities. Exhibits will include the Mineral Evolution Gallery, which will show how the solar system and minerals have co-evolved over time, the Arizona and Mexico gallery will highlight the minerals of both regions, in the Crystal Lab visitors can grow their own quartz, sapphires or diamond and the Gemstone Gallery and Treasury will showcase jewelry, carvings and art work.  

Asian Lantern Festival at Reid Park Zoo

The Asian Lantern Festival is returning for a second year in a row at the Reid Park Zoo. More than 400 giant, colorful lanterns of sea creatures, dinosaurs and African animals will be aglow all throughout the zoo's grounds and 80 percent of the lanterns on display will be new from last year, according to the zoo's website.

The festival runs from Feb. 13 through March 29 and also includes entertainment, Asian-inspired arts and crafts, games, food and a new interactive light floor. Tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for kids ages 2 to 14. Go here for more information.

The Zoppé Family Circus, established in 1842, is an Old-World Italian circus that has become a much-loved and appreciated annual event in Tucson. See them for three weekends in January at the Mercado District.

16-year-old, Chiara Zoppé, will make her co-directing debut in the creation of the show "La Nonna" — a special tribute to a past Zoppé matriarch who kept the show alive during the great depression with her tenacity and perseverance. Zoppé premiers three groundbreaking all-female troupes in (until now) male-dominated disciplines.

Where: The MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento

When: Jan. 10-12; Jan. 16-19 and Jan. 23-26

Cost: Tickets start at $10

More info here

🎪✨ Do you work at a school or want to send your kids' school to the circus? To make it affordable to send as many schoolchildren as possible to the show, you can get one chaperon ticket for every 20 tickets sold to the $10 one-hour shows. Call 520-461-1107 or christine@mercadodistrict.com for more information about school field trips. ✨🎪

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