Science is fun. Science – with its fire, explosions, fire, and did we mention explosions, is a lot of fun. But there’s a lot more to science than just that, and one great place to explore it with your kids is the Orlando Science Center. At the Orlando Science Center, there is a great mix of events, permanent exhibits, shows, and movies to keep every member of the family entertained. Ten tips dives in to see what you really need to know when you’re there.
1. Plan to watch the show
Throughout the year, the Orlando Science Center has several shows on rotation – they change themes based upon the season and other plans. They all feature science educators who combine jokes and “mishaps” with explosions and other effects. They also make sure to explain the why and how of everything that’s happening. The theater is small, so on busy days it fills up quickly.
2. And feed the fish
On the first floor of the Orlando Science Center there’s a habitat for turtles and alligators. A little farther along, you’ll find fish, spiders, and tortoises. Most days there is a fish feeding in the morning and an alligator feeding in the afternoon. These are led by science educators who can talk about the different types of animals, what they eat, and answer a lot of other questions about the animals. It’s a great way to interact with the exhibit.
3. Do your own experiments
On weekends, Dr. Dare’s Lab opens up and that’s where the fun begins for the kids. You and your child will be able to move from station to station, trying different experiments in chemistry, physics, and computer science. Try programming a robot to complete a maze. Then launch a marble into a basket. Finally, check and see what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda. Don’t worry, there are plenty of sinks for hand-washing.
4. Take in a movie
The Orlando Science Center shows two kinds of movies – breathtaking nature films, and Hollywood blockbusters. Current offerings include movies about Antarctica, dinosaurs, and the wildlife of Kenya. At 5:10 from Thursday-Sunday, they show a Hollywood movie. Check the schedule as the movie lineups change each month (and each day).
5. Leave time for Kids Town’s Orange Grove
I will admit that I don’t understand the appeal, but it’s there – both of my kids love the orange grove at Kids Town. They love playing with the “oranges,” sorting them, sending them through the pneumatic tubes, and picking them from the trees. They find all of it to be a lot of fun. I see a lot of kids 10 and under there, so plan to spend time there.
6. But don’t neglect the other areas of the exhibit
While a lot of kids love to play in the orange grove, if you go to the right, there are also other parts of the exhibit. They include a climbing play area (for older kids), and other areas to explore for kids of all ages. Learn about the physics of water as you play with a water table – dams can control the flow of water and fountains shoot water around the kids. A toddler zone encourages little kids to climb and move around, and there are shows geared towards little kids as well.
7. Get a close-up look at the sun …
On some weekend days, the Orlando Science Center opens up its 6th floor. This is the floor that holds all of the astronomy equipment and is where you can break out the telescopes. What can you see on a weekend day? How about the closest star to our planet – the sun. You and your children will be able to look through special telescopes to get a closer look at the sun and learn more about it.
8… and the moon
The 6th floor doesn’t just open up to look at the sun. It also opens some Friday and Saturday nights for you to look at the stars and the moon. There will generally be two telescopes – one smaller, portable one, and the main telescope inside the observatory dome – available to look through. There will also be information on the planets and where they can be seen (if they are visible at all). It’s also a great place to watch night launches from Cape Canaveral, if there are any on the schedule.
9. Go dig for dinosaurs
Kids love dinosaurs. And the Orlando Science Center has dinosaurs covered. In addition to several skeletons – including a T-Rex that can move and make noise – there are two “dig sites.” These sites have shovels and brushes, and let kids try to find dinosaur skeletons. In reality, they just like to play in the rubber “dirt”. Plan to get a lot of it out of your kid’s shoes. For the next week.
10. Don’t try to do it all in one day
The Orlando Science Center has great exhibits, great shows, and different movies monthly. Some of the programs, such as the night sky viewing, are only offered at certain times of the year, and when they are, each week is a different experience. A family membership, available for about $150, is a great deal and includes free parking, and exclusive members only events.
Have you been to the Orlando Science Center? Are there any other tips that you would have?
Orlando Science Center
Location: 777 E. Princeton Street, Orlando
Phone: (407) 514-2000
Hours: Thursday-Tuesday – 10:00AM-5:00PM. Closed most Wednesdays.
Cost: Adults: $20.95; Children ages 3-11: $14.95. Parking is $5 and is cash only.
photos courtesy of yelp users Annette E, Amiyr B and Bry W