Once Upon A Time

April 16, 2016 - August 28, 2016

Once Upon a Time... Exploring the World of Fairy Tales is a unique and educational exhibit focusing on the power and significance of fairy tales throughout history and from around the world.

From an African jungle to a giant’s castle, explore larger-than-life pages of seven favorite fairy tales. Enter via a magical portal into a fabulous storybook kingdom, and learn the meaning and history of tales you’ve known all your life and others that may be new.

Get into the story as you cross a wooden bridge in "Anansi and the Talking Melon," play a harpsichord in "Beauty and the Beast," try on a glass slipper in "Cinderella," work at a cobblers bench in "The Elves and the Shoemaker," climb a beanstalk in "Jack and the Beanstalk," catch a wolf in "Lon Po Po," and crawl through a mole’s hole in "Thumbelina."home.

Anansi and the Talking Melon

  • Explore a jungle environment
  • Sit on the Monkey King’s throne
  • Balance on a jungle log
  • Try on animal costumes including a monkey, elephant, ostrich, and warthog
  • Hunt for Anansi in a melon patch. An African folk tale from the oral tradition, Anansi is a spider who loves to trick his friends. The trickster is a common character in fairy tales, myths and legends. Anansi stories arose in the folktales of West Africa; when African slaves were shipped from their villages, they brought Anansi stories with them to America. The spider’s courage and ingenuity gave the slaves hope.

Beauty and the Beast

  • Play a minuet on a harpsichord
  • Stand on Beauty’s balcony
  • Set the Beast’s banquet table with elegant dinnerware and delicious foods
  • Use only the sense of touch to discover Beauty’s possessions in her dresser
  • Sniff the scented flowers in the Beast’s garden
  • Dress up as Beauty or the prince
  • This tale was first published in France in 1756. Like many fairy tales, it illustrates how goodness and virtue triumph. It also shows that you should not judge by appearances – under this Beast’s appearance is a man with a generous, kind heart.


  • Ride in Cinderella’s coach and see scenery pass by
  • Sweep, mop, and cook like Cinderella in front of her kitchen hearth
  • Activate images of Cinderella through the ages with a magic wand
  • Try on the magical glass slipper and see the lights flash
  • Dress up as the prince, or as Cinderella in rags or in her ball gown
  • This French story by Charles Perrault was first published in 1697; It is the world’s favorite fairy tale and communicates the classic rags-to-riches story. There are more than 1,500 versions of this tale, which has been retold by almost every culture.




Jack and the Beanstalk

  • Scramble up a beanstalk
  • Slide down into the ogre’s lair
  • Listen to the music of the ogre’s harp
  • Hunt for the magic hen’s golden egg
  • Count gold coins
  • Climb onto the ogre’s massive stool
  • Hide from the ogre in a kid-sized cubby hole
  • “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.” This English tale was first published in 1809. The boy whose magic beans sprout a plant that reaches to the sky tells a tale familiar in many myths around the world: the small triumphs over the giant.

Lon Po Po

  • Hoist the wolf to his doom using a pulley
  • Try on traditional Asian costumes
  • Explore English and Chinese versions of the story
  • Open the window to discover the wolf looking for the children
  • Roll the translator to move from English to Chinese writing
  • This ‘Red Riding Hood’ story from China illustrates how fairy tales transcend cultures. In this version based on the Caldecott Medal-winning book by Ed Young, three sisters outsmart a hungry wolf (Lon) who disguises himself as the girls’ grandmother (Po Po).


  • Crawl through the mole’s eight-foot tunnel and see tiny Thumbelina
  • Change the seasons and see the differences
  • Discover Thumbelina in her secret hiding places
  • Search the sky for Thumbelina as she is carried away by a bird and a beetle
  • Wear fairy wings for pretend play
  • The famous Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, published this story about the exciting adventures of a thumb-sized girl in 1835. In this tale, a small heroine uses her clever mind instead of size and strength to make her own way in the big world.

Fairy Tale Author

  • Select your characters
  • Choose where and when your story happens
  • Mix in some magic
  • Create a heroic deed
  • Write a fairy tale ending
  • Publish your very own story
  • The exhibit includes two specially designed computer kiosks where children can create their own illustrated fairy tales, print them, and take them home.