The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center announced January 2, 2024 that the museum achieved a record-breaking attendance in 2023, welcoming a total of 120,002 visitors. This surpassed the previous record set in 2019, which stood at 97,989 visitors.
A number of factors contributed to the record-breaking attendance. The museum is currently hosting the nationally-traveling Curious George: Let’s Get Curious exhibit, one of three special exhibitions hosted in 2023. Others included the nationally-traveling Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: A Grr-ific Exhibit, and Camp Kansas, a locally-built exhibit introducing families to Kansas state parks and outdoor areas. Special exhibits were funded with support from private donors and Gage Park Improvement Authority funds.
The museum also experienced a notable surge in out-of-town visitors, constituting 38% of the total attendance, with 45,945 individuals traveling to the museum from outside Shawnee County. The number of out-of-town visitors increased by over 12,000 compared to 2022 and 14,000 more than in 2019, when the previous overall attendance record was set. Visitors traveling to Shawnee County to visit attractions help drive local spending and generate tax revenue. [More: Museums as Economic Engines: An Economic Impact Study for the American Alliance of Museums]
Accessibility remains a key focus for the museum, with over 1 in 3 admissions being either free or subsidized in 2023. Discovery Center continued to offer free admission nights on the third Thursday of every month sponsored by local businesses, with an average attendance of 300 people each month. The museum also welcomed 10,866 visitors with Sunflower Summer, a Kansas Department of Education program that provides summer enrichment learning opportunities to Kansas families. More than 76 percent of Sunflower Summer visitors traveled from outside Shawnee County, and 40 percent were visiting the museum for the first time.
The nonprofit children’s museum opened in 2011, and in the past thirteen years has grown significantly, gaining prominence as a regional tourist attraction and community anchor for families. The museum has hosted nine major traveling exhibitions, reached thousands of children through community outreach events, and welcomed over 900,000 visitors from all 50 states and 23 countries since its opening. President/CEO Dené Mosier has led the museum since 2015.