The Science Museum of Virginia has only been on my radar for a few months of 2018. A friend who lives in the area goes often and posts pictures that look so fun.
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Between the ability to play air hockey with a robot, race a black bear, do a yoga competition and walk a tight rope it seemed like a fun place to take kids. So grandma and I grabbed the 8 year old boy, P, and drove the two hours to check it out. As a note please be sure to wear good shoes (tennis shoes or something like them) as this is a pretty active museum!
The museum used to be the train station and it is STUNNING.
Ticket Prices and Discounts
At the time of this writing (July 2018) admission is $15 for an adult, $13.50 for youth and senior and $10 for preschoolers. We spent 7 hours at the museum so I consider it a good value.
I will say to skip The Dome (it’s their IMAX theatre) and costs additional money. We saw a video in there and it about made me sick with the movement. I called two other friends who have visited and both of them said they ended up leaving halfway through the movies with their kids. So save yourself the money- there is PLENTY to do in the rest of the museum.
They also have special exhibits set up that add a few dollars to the price if you like. The exhibit for our visit (through September 2018) was Inside Out. Basically it’s an exhibit of animals without skin- you get to see their muscles, blood vessels, organs and some other items. It’s not for everyone but P seemed to find it very interesting. It does add a few dollars to admission as well, as I am sure future exhibits will as well.
Children 2 and under are admitted for free with a paid adult. Active duty military, retired military and veterans with ID receive free Exhibits admission. The Museum offers reduced admission rates for low-income families through the Museums for All initiative.
Visiting The Science Museum of Virginia
In the lobby (you can see this for free) is a Foucault’s Pendulum. You know how you can sit and watch a fire burn for hours? I could do that with this pendulum. It knocks down a pin every 15 minutes and it’s just completely fascinating.
The first section of the museum is called “Speed.”
Above is a picture of P in the pitching cage. Inside is a speed gun and a bunch of different balls- softball, baseball, wiffle ball, soccer ball etc. You can try to throw all of them and see how the size and shape is relative to how fast it goes.
This was one of my favorite things to do. At the beginning you select one of these things to race. So in lane 1 P was running, in lane 2 whatever we selected was running and in lane 3 I was running.
If you look at the numbers at the end you can see our times. I ran it in 27.3 seconds, the rat in .92 seconds and P in 28.1 seconds. Needless to say we could not outrun anything we put in lane 2.
P’s favorite thing in this section was the air hockey game- you get to play against a machine! It’s an hydraulic arm that is a surprisingly good air hockey player. Every kid in the place wanted to try their luck and see if they could win. I did manage to score on it so I felt quite accomplished.
This was my favorite machine upstairs. Basically it’s a day at the races for items in the world around us. Four different items will be showed on the screen and once they are done you have to select who you think would win a race. So does a Virginia Dogwood grow faster than the grass on a mountaintop? Does a seahorse swim faster than a frog can jump? You only know if you play the game and watch the race!
There are also other machines that play with water, light, sounds and even an indoor hurricane!
The second section of the museum is called “Boost”.
When you walk in the first thing you see is a machine. You just press the button and it gives you a QR code to use around the room. It keeps track of how you score on things and you can compare your results to other people.
Once you are inside there are tons of activities to do.
P competes against grandma at a game like “Whack-a-Mole.” I think they tied.
P tries to walk a tight rope.
P and grandma compete in the yoga challenge.
Grandma tries to impress P with her bench press.
Preston beat both of us at this pattern replication game.
There were probably 20 more games in the room to play. We spent a lot of time in there competing at running, biking, singing, movement and just about everything else you can think of! There are even some challenges dealing with recipes and health!
The bees were so incredible to watch.
Next up are the Labs.
Upstairs is a floor of Labs- score insight into operational and classical theories of conditioning while sitting court-side during Rat Basketball (which we missed because we were watching a movie and will make another trip to see it). After the game, head over to the Live Animal Lab where you come face-to-face with scorpions, snakes and other reptiles and amphibians in Virginia ecosystems. Use a microscope in EcoLab to take a closer look at insects and check out the buzz surrounding our Observational Honeybee Hive.
But we spent most of our time in the Art Lab. The Art Lab was FULL of sharpened pencils, good crayons, quality paper, spirographs, drawing tutorials and a million other things you would want to create beautiful things.
P got to practice drawing manatees, sharks, whales and other animals while I colored flowers!
And then you can leave your impact behind for others to see!
There were tons of other things we saw as well that I didn’t get pictures. A very cool area specifically for kids 2 to 6 (with a giant light bright) and a teen lab with legos and electronics can keep the older ones busy. There are displays that deal with transportation, science of industry, vehicles and how they are made and many other science related topics.
I cannot recommend enough to visit the Science Museum of Virginia. It was a delightful day with an 8 year old and we all learned so much!