It's described as 102,000-square-feet of color and fun. But that description hardly captures absolutely everything that goes on at the Joe & Joan Martin Center in downtown Charlotte.
The space is home to both ImaginOn, an innovative children's library that's part of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and the Children's Theatre of Charlotte, which offers professional live performances to families and pulls from around the state.
Just in the library, you'll find Legos. A play train. Computer games. A doll house. Play pieces for little ones. A sound recording booth, blue screen technology and much more for teens. And a space dedicated just for tweens with self-directed activities. Free programs are offered daily and, right now, includes this summer's "The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head" exhibit, which runs through next month.
On top of that, the Children's Theatre offers a year-round slate of programs and performances, bringing to life popular children's books, including Frog and Toad and Junie B. Jones, among others this season, which launches in September.
"We bring stories to life," said Linda Reynolds with the Children's Theatre.
The goal for the building, Reynolds tells me, has been to create a space that's all about storytelling. Together, the library and the theater work to blend their offerings. Joint programs highlight their expertise - a costumed actor, for instance, will read from a story from the performance she's appearing in. The two jointly present visits from top authors, including next month's sold out reading featuring Kate DiCamillo.
My own kids could have easily spent most of a day here, exploring the building's various nooks and crannies, checking out the different games and activities and settling in with a book from time to time. Once the Children's Theatre's season launches for the 2016-17 season, it's easily a spot where families can spend several hours, checking out the amazing library and all of its free activities and then taking in a show.
This year's Mainstage series begins Sept. 30 with "A Year with Frog and Toad." It continues in October with "Grace for President." "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical" is on stage during the holidays. "June B. Jones is Not a Crook" is scheduled in February. "Bud, Not Buddy" and "Go, Dog. Go!" are planned in the spring.
If you're headed to Charlotte, a visit to ImagiOn and the Children's Theatre should make your list of things to do.