Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Visiting The California Science Center With Young Kids

Triangles, Lines, Squares & Circle - Los Angeles, California
The California Science Center, located in Exposition Park near downtown Los Angeles, is a free museum. That's right, free. Well, not entirely free, but we'll get to that later.

I recently visited the California Science Center with my family, including three children all under the age of seven. Would this place keep us entertained? Would little ones actually learn something?
Pianist - Los Angeles, California
We were greeted by a modern structure. From the outside the place looks interesting. On one side is an IMAX theater, on the other the California Science Center, and in the middle is a covered courtyard with  some modern art that appears to be based on outer space.

We didn't visit the IMAX theater. They have several different movie options (all documentaries), but we didn't come to see a movie. Ticket prices are about the same as any other movie theater. 
Two At A Window - Los Angeles, California
Inside the museum are a bunch of different exhibits on three different floors. The permanent exhibits are free, the traveling exhibits (plus a few other things) cost money. The traveling exhibit Pompeii was there for our visit, but the arm-and-leg price tag convinced us not to see it.

One of the permanent exhibits that we spent a lot of time in was Ecosystems. This exhibit is subdivided into eight "zones" that explain the different ecosystems found on Earth. Within this area is the Family Discovery Room that is for children seven-years-old and younger. There is also a large fish tank, and at certain times of the day you can watch scuba divers feed the different fish.
On Mars - Los Angeles, California
Honestly, I think we could have spent most of the day in Ecosystems. The kids had a blast and learned a lot. There are plenty of hands-on learning opportunities. Some favorites were Extreme Zone, River Zone and the fish tank.

Another exhibit that we spent some time in was Creative World. There are five areas within this exhibit: Communication, Structures, Transportation, Tech Lab and Discovery Room (another seven-years-old-and-younger area). While I think my kids were a little young for some things in Creative World, there were enough age appropriate activities and displays to keep them entertained. 
Learning At The Science Center - Los Angeles, California
A highlight for my five-year-old son was all of the rockets, satellites and other space objects on display. Most of these are not hands-on, but he loved them anyway.

The space shuttle Endeavour is on display in a separate structure that is accessed through the museum. It sometimes costs money and it is sometimes free. It was free on our visit. This exhibit underwhelmed me, and I felt it could have been a lot better (I think it is a work in progress). However, my son said it was his favorite part of the trip.
Cactus Hotel - Los Angeles, California
There are plenty of other things to do and see in the California Science Center, and we didn't get to them all. We spent several hours there and only went through about half of the museum. This could be an all-day adventure.

If you should make it an all-day trip, there is a cafeteria with some different food and beverage options. All are overpriced, of course, but it is good to have refreshments available. 
Hands On Learning - Los Angeles, California
At the top of this post I asked, "Would this place keep us entertained?" The answer is a resounding yes. Even after several hours my kids did not want to leave. They were disappointed that it was time to go. Several days after our visit my six-year-old daughter wanted to know when we'd go back.

I also asked, "Would little ones actually learn something?" Surprisingly, yes. On the way home my kids were pointing things out, telling us why things were they way they were. They actually absorbed quite a bit.
Building Corner - Los Angeles, California
The California Science Center is free, but don't expect the trip to be free. Parking is not free ($10 per car, I think). The IMAX theater isn't free. Some exhibits and activities are not free. The food certainly isn't free. I'm not complaining. I'm simply suggesting that you should be prepared to spend some money.

If you find yourself in the Los Angeles area, the Science Center is a great place to both entertain and educate children. This is can be an inexpensive stop, yet one that the kids will be talking about for days.
Three At A Window - Los Angeles, California
All of these photographs were captured using a Nikon D3300 DSLR. I post-processed them using Alien Skin Exposure 6 software.

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