Shoppers walking through Factoria Mall last week were stopping to peer in a storefront window at the pink cab of a semi truck. A real one, full-size...

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Shoppers walking through Factoria Mall last week were stopping to peer in a storefront window at the pink cab of a semi truck. A real one, full-size. They watched workers climb under the hood and clamber in and out of the cab and sleeper section.

A little farther down, another crowd was gazing at a stream of water running through a network of see-through plastic pipes down to plastic containers, overflowing to a pump and circulating all over again.

For a place that doesn’t open until Dec. 11, KidsQuest Museum in Bellevue is attracting a lot of attention.

“I can’t wait to bring my grandchildren here,” said Carolee Danz, a member of the board behind the long-awaited facility.

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After nearly a decade of planning and fundraising, organizers are hoping people will agree the children’s museum was worth the wait. Next to Mervyn’s California and across from Petco, the 10,000-square-foot, $3.7 million facility is full of activities to inspire imaginations.

Children will find a place that invites them to touch things, turn cranks, climb a tree structure, fill water tanks and crawl through the cab of the Peterbilt truck.

They can crawl into the cab through the sleeping compartment and roll the truck to any imaginary location. The steering wheel turns. Engine sounds zoom when the accelerator is pushed. The windshield wipers swish, and the radio belts out three stations, said Putter Bert, executive director of KidsQuest.

KidsQuest Museum opens Dec. 11


Factoria Mall: 4055 Factoria Blvd. S.E., Bellevue (two blocks southeast of the I-90/405 interchange).

Hours through December: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Saturday, Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission: Members and children younger than 1 year free; children, teenagers and adults $6. Memberships range from $60 to $250.

Information: To book a private party or a group visit, call 425-637-8100 or go to www.kidsquestmuseum.org

Children can pump 100 gallons of imaginary fuel into the truck from a play pump and track a destination 750 miles away on a wall map.

The musical corner, called the garage, features a “soleful” keyboard with oversize keys shaped like shoe soles. Across the garage, percussionists will keep time on frying-pan drums. When construction is finished, there will be a boom mic and a slide guitar.

Babies and toddlers have secure play areas and a train table. Several toddler birdhouses serve as playhouses and feature activity boxes with levers, wheels, knobs and doors.

“We have the best busy boxes in the Seattle area,” Bert said. “They look so fantastic, I want to play.”

The backstage touches are as well-designed as the play spaces. Anyone who has struggled with a 4-year-old in a tiny restroom stall will appreciate the oversize restroom spaces in the women’s room.

Cooperative play will be encouraged in the construction zone. Flat Lincoln Logs, enough to build a 4-foot by 6-foot playhouse, work best if put together by a team.

A giant treehouse provides two entrances: one by a ladder hidden inside the tree trunk and the other via a climbing net. Danz and her family underwrote the exhibit, and she’s delighted with the nearly completed structure.

She wasn’t a grandmother in the mid-1990s, when planning began for an Eastside children’s museum.

Originally, the group hoped to build it in the historic Pickering Barn in Issaquah. That plan didn’t materialize, and in 1997, the group formally became iQuest Interactive Museum. Bert, former director of the Tacoma Children’s Museum whose background includes stints at children’s museums in Arkansas, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, was hired as executive director in 1999. In 2003, iQuest became KidsQuest when a capital campaign was launched.

Even with Factoria Mall donating the 10,000-square-foot space for the first five years of operation, it hasn’t been easy raising the $3.7 million to open the doors. The group is $300,000 short. The largest donation was $500,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’re confident we’ll raise that, particularly when people see this place,” Bert said.

KidsQuest has booked a number of private birthday, after-hour and corporate parties for the next six months.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com