About Childrens Museum Of Wilmington

Our Mission Statement: The Children's Museum of Wilmington stimulates children's imagination, curiosity and love of learning through interactive and age appropriate science, math and art activities.

Our Goal: For all visitors to learn amazing things about themselves and the world in which we live through informal, playful, hands-on and child-directed experiences. In our warm and inviting environment, children find ample opportunity to explore and better understand art, science, culture and more through engaging exhibits and weekly programs.

Location: 116 Orange Street in beautiful downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.

How You Can Help: The Children's Museum of Wilmington a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and depends upon donations to continue its mission of providing a safe and fun place where children can actively learn through creative and imaginative play! 

Donations and Sponsorship opportunities are available, needed and greatly appreciated!

A Brief History

The Beginnings

Beginning in 1991, a task force of local parents began pursuing the idea of a "hands-on" learning through play center. The Junior League of Wilmington, NC became involved and assisted in the further development of the idea. After several years of research and study by parents, community leaders and educators, the Wilmington Children's Museum opened its doors on October 10, 1997.

A New Home

With a growing community and a copious amount of children ready to learn and play, it soon became apparent that the current site could not accommodate the increased numbers of guests. The museum was expanding. More programs were being introduced and new exhibits were being made. The love for the museum was already growing and... so was its size. So, it became time for more space!

Historic Downtown Wilmington

To meet the steadily growing number of visitors, in 2004 the Museum purchased the three buildings that comprised the former St. John's Museum of Art as the new site for The Children's Museum of Wilmington (CMoW). The St. John's Masonic Lodge, Greek Orthodox Church, and The Cowan House are dear pieces of Downtown Wilmington's history. They are preserved today as CMoW's new home.

St. John's Masonic Lodge:

A Georgian style structure completed in 1805 by St. John's Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, designed by Joseph Jacobs and Built by his brother Benjamin Jacobs. The historic building still holds the original Masonic Mural done by a Frenchman name Bellanger. George Washington was a known Mason and may have stayed in the lodge during his time visiting the port city.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church:

Completed in 1945, the church became a center, catering to the influx of Greek families if the Orthodox faith settling in Wilmington. The church later purchased a neighboring house serving as a home for the priest and his family.

The Cowan House:

Dating back to the 1800's, the Cowan House was built for the Cowan family from 1816 to 1871. The family briefly operated a free school for the community. The building served as a place for helping children learn for over 180 years. It's legacy live on in the Children's Museum of Wilmington, housing the museum's party and art room which were once the house's parlor and sitting room respectively.

For the Community, for the children

Begun by parents, The Children's Museum of Wilmington works to enact, in children, a true passion for learning. This is done with the best and most natural way for a child to learn; through play! Each exhibit is all fun for children to enjoy and places fascinating topics and challenges for them to learn. The museum explores everything from art and science to cooking and conservation, all with the local community in mind. Every exhibit creates a new opportunity for children to create things for the community and learn how they can contribute to the greater Cape Fear area.

  • We have more than 17,000 square feet of play space and 12 permanent exhibits.
  • Jim Karl is our Executive Director. Jim has more than 35 years of management experience in corporate and higher education sectors and has held leadership positions in both for-profit and non-profit entities.
  • We partner with UNC Wilmington to provide internships for many fields of study.
  • We first opened in 1997 and moved to our new location on Orange Street in 2006.
  • We have 5 full-time staff, 7 part-time, and an excess of 30 volunteers and interns each semester.
  • More than 55,000 visitors come through the Museum each year.
  • We have been recognized as Wilmington’s “Best Family Museum” by Wilmington Parent magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
  • Our STEM program for 1st graders, Bright Minds, sponsored by Duke Energy was renewed for a second year and is currently serving 700 public school children.
  • Nearly half of our fundraising event income is tied to two successful events. YachtVenture, our largest fundraiser, is a unique event on the waterfront where guests have the opportunity to explore the area’s finest yachts. The annual “Fore the Children” Golf Tournament at Cape Fear Country Club allows teams to tee off to support our children. Our adult fundraiser, Pizza Putt, offers 18 holes of mini golf with food and beverage around the Museum.


Jessica Davis

Museum Educator

Sloane Philipp

Museum Educator

Kathleen King

Director of Guest Services & Operations

Mary Ellen Laughnan

Art and Early Childhood Educator

Dr. Richard Lawson

 Director of Advancement

Aleigh Fisher Brilhante

Assistant to the Director, Exhibit Manager

Jim Karl

Executive Director

Board of Directors

Lindsay Prickett - Past President

Executive Committee, YachtVenture Chair

Alexis Wall


Anne Williams


Helen Wells


Rob Zapple

Building and Grounds, Finance Committee

Bill Paris President-Elect

Executive Committee, Golf Tournament Chair.

Anne Tilghman Reiss


Rev. Wayne Arthur Johnson, Sr


Monty Recoulley - Treasure

Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Golf Tournament

Liz Carroll


Kim Shipley


Megan Winslett


Harriett Loweth - Board President

Executive Committee, Strategic Planning Committee

Under Construction

Contact Us

116 Orange Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
Phone: (910) 254.3534
Fax: (910) 254.3565