• Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, Georgia

      Puppets are more than just entertainment for young children, and if you don't already know that before you go to Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts you certainly will by the time you leave. Almost immediately as you begin your tour, you're greeted by the Trash Can Phoenix, which, as the name implies, initially looks like a trash can, but unfolds before your eyes to reveal a huge animatronic phoenix (a spectacle just about worth the price of admission by itself) and immediately your eyes and ears are open to the rich possibilities.

      The well laid-out exhibit space showcases puppets of every type from all over the world, some of which date back a century or so. These include Indonesian shadow puppets, African rod puppets, Chinese hand puppets, and such classics as Punch and Judy. The exhibits reveal that far from being just a frivolous diversion, puppets have always been instruments of social commentary and philosophical insight.

      In addition to hundreds of puppets on permanent display, there are long-term special exhibits honoring the incomparable legacy of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog, both of whom cut the ribbon at the Center's opening in 1978. The puppets, photos and videos chronicle Henson's career from its beginnings, through his work on The Jimmy Dean Show and Sesame Street, up to his pioneering contributions to such movies as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

      But the Center is more than just a museum. There are also performances in two theaters, featuring some of the world's most renowned puppet troupes demonstrating a variety of styles, and include live actors and life-sized mechanical creations. And lest you think that the material is all juvenile, note that some performances are restricted to mature audiences.

      There are also special activities at the Center, including workshops in puppet design and construction fro kids of all ages – including those who are all grown up!

      IF YOU GO: The Center has a limited amount of free parking. Additional parking available across the street at low cost.

      WHEN TO VISIT: Weekdays are a good time, especially in the afternoon. On Thursday afternoons there is free admission to the exhibits between 1:00 and 3:00. (Performances are extra.)

      JURISDICTION: Center for Puppetry Arts
      INFORMATION CURRENT: January 2011
      ADDRESS: 1404 Spring St. NW at 18th Atlanta, GA 30309-2820

      Bill Jones (c) 2010 Center for Puppetry Arts