Puppets use to freak me out before we had kids. And the last time I had been to a puppet show before kids was in Budapest where I was covering family travel for a publication I work with. My husband and I sat among adorable, Hungarian kindergartners and smiled when the kids erupted into laughter with no idea what was happening. But the concept was mostly the same. The puppeteers used silly, dramatic voices to entertain with lovely and painstakingly hand-crafted puppets.
After the show, we were in the lobby area to explore when a young boy was crying and appeared lost from his group. Since there was a large group with many teachers, I wasn’t too concerned about his well-being, and hesitated, knowing we would have no real way to communicate with him if we reached out.
Of all the adults and kids in the room, he focused on us and made a beeline in our direction. My husband said, “Awww…” which is surely universal in any language, and the boy explained something weepily in Hungarian. I nodded and smiled, took his hand and made the rounds to see if he recognized someone before bringing him to a friendly looking older woman, telling her I only spoke English, shrugging and gesturing sympathetically to him.
Turns out that type of body language of helping a lost child find his group is universal. And puppet shows are universally fun in any language.
Kermit the Frog & Miss Piggy Hang at the Center for Puppetry Arts
While Budapest has a fantastic kids puppet center, I really took for granted that Atlanta has one of the world’s most renown puppetry arts center at the Center for Puppetry Arts. If you’re not convinced, just remember that both Kermit the Frog and Jim Henson vouched for this place. On September 23, 1978, Kermit the Frog and his creator Jim Henson cut the ceremonial ribbon, and today is the largest American non-profit organization solely dedicated to the art of puppet theater.
The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta features the Jim Henson collection with an interactive exhibit following his completely colorful and puppet filled imagination through his creations. Kids can see real Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy puppets on display.
Jim Henson’s exhibit is definitely a must-see, but I personally love the Global Collection featuring puppets from around the world including Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It’s a good history lesson for kids while they’re staring at breathtaking, and sometimes kind of creepy, puppets.
Puppet Shows for Teens and Adults
Most newcomers, and even longtime locals who don’t have puppets on their radar, will just assume that the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta is just for kids. But that’s not really true. There are family series with shows featuring Pete the Cat and company (fun fact: Some of the Pete the Cat story books were written in part by Learning Groove music teacher and founder Michael Levine). Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is also an annual family favorite.
Planning tip: Get on the Center for Puppetry Arts email list and keep an eye out for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer preview tickets that go on sale in early November to enjoy a bit discount.
However, there are also plenty of shows for teens and adults. The XPT: Xperimental Puppetry Theater combines artists of all kinds of disciplines for bold, original puppetry works for adult audiences. The Ghastly Dreadfuls is also a favorite for adults who want to grab a beer from the pop-up cafe and enjoy some Halloween humor.
Extend the Fun at the Center for Puppetry Arts
Shows rotate throughout the year, and sell out quickly. I recommend upgrading your ticket to add on the puppet making workshop that happens directly after the show. Kids get to make paper puppet creations themed around the show, and there’s even a small puppet stage area where they can try it out for their parents. Just know that glue, markers and googly eyes abound. The Center for Puppetry Arts also offers Members Only Birthday parties with priority seating for live puppet shows, a special announcement honoring the birthday child, Create-a-Puppet workshop and souvenir puppet.
The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta recently underwent an extensive renovation, and now has a new and improved (and totally child-irresistible) gift shop, playground and exhibits. Come a bit early to explore, and bring extra money if you plan to get out of the gift shop without too much puppet-inspired drama.
(This post contains affiliate links to promote a product or service I believe in. As always, my opinions are my own.)