On the Road – The Maryland Science Center

IMG_1427I’m a big proponent of educational stops for kids as part of their lives – not everything you hit on a vacation (or staycation) should be an amusement park.  One of the benefits to living in a bigger city, though, is having a bevy of educational options that can also fun and stay fresh…

So in that light, the weekend before last, we decided to take in the Maryland Science Center.

(My usual note: I was not compensated in any way for this – we have a purchased membership.  Unless you count the fact that they’ll probably let us come back as compensation…)

I remember the Maryland Science Center from when I was younger and my grandmother used to take me there… plus I remember going to see films on the IMAX on rare occasions.  My wife, as a teenager, spent a summer working there as an explainer.  So both of us were familiar with how the science center was, but since we’ve been there, there’ve been a lot of changes.  Time affects all things, and since my wife and I were last there, there’s been a major expansion and new exhibits moved in.

The science center is exactly what you would imagine from hearing the name – it’s a science museum that’s on the shore of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.  There are exhibits covering topics from dinosaurs to physics, from weather to electricity, plus a planetarium and IMAX theater.  Like a lot of science museums these days, the majority of the exhibits combine educational material with hands-on activities and more dynamic displays – the whirlwhind above being a good example.  There’s a lot to see at this museum, and for those with younger children, it might be a little bit daunting, and I’d pick and choose what you’re going to see, and take breaks.  For a museum, the tickets are reasonably affordable, and there are plenty of opportunities for discounted admission if you can avail yourself of them.

It’s a very inviting location that’s easily reachable by mass transit – use the Charm City Circulator once you’re downtown, because it’s free – but also has some parking available in the area if you’d rather drive yourself.

We went on a Sunday morning, to try to minimize the potential for crowds and other things that would affect the Monster in a negative way.  (To be wholly honest, we’d intended to go to Port Discovery, only to find that it didn’t open until noon.  But with the Circulator, we quickly changed plans and got around the harbor.)  At the hour we visited, it was nicely calm and quiet, with plenty of room for our kids to roam around and explore whatever it was that interested them.  Because it wasn’t so crowded, our children also weren’t quite as loud as they might have otherwise been, and managed to pay some attention…

Now, admittedly, our kids are 3 and 7, and so keeping their attention on any one thing was a lost cause beyond about 3-4 minutes.  We started out over to the side of the entry hall, where there are exhibits on the weather and dinosaurs (which my children love because of watching way too much Dinosaur Train on PBS), but moved quickly over to Newton’s Alley to get more hands-on with things and work off some energy, and then upstairs to the “Power Up” exhibit, where they got to look at a couple of exhibits and experiments on power…

IMG_1433It became quickly apparent that the kids really wanted to be more active… and that’s where the Kids’ Room came in useful.  Located on the third floor of the science center, the kids’ room is an environment where the younger set can run around to their hearts’ content, exploring various things, from an undersea lab to a boat, to a pneumatic tube (seriously! they have a working pneumatic tube like at the bank!), with a separate area for toddlers and another area for them to do research (or so it looked to us).  Off to one side, there is a reasonable-sized water-table with different heights and activities for children of different ages, so it’s a good idea to consider a change of clothes in your bag if you have children who are going to be… active.

(Plus, for those who need it, there’s a family bathroom attached to the kids’ room.  There’s also a coat-room/stroller parking just inside the entrance, and the kids’ room has an attendant manning a gate to make sure kids aren’t dashing out.)

There’s a lot, though, that we didn’t get to see because our kids really can’t handle more than two or three hours in a single place.  I would imagine, that if your child can handle all day in the science center, that this would be a great place to visit and that you could easily see the majority of the exhibits in a single day.  It’d be fantastic for a visit to Charm City when the weather’s not quite so conducive for being out and about, or as a break from more active sights in the area.  But the benefit to having a membership is that we’ll find our way back there another day, pick other parts of the museum, and see how they handle those at that point…

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