Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Science Center Spree

ASTC is the Association of Science-Technology Centers.  They have a passport program in which if you buy a membership at any of their participating centers, you can have free entry into all the others (with a couple restrictions- click here to learn about it if you're interested in getting one).
So, I bought a membership from Pacific Science Center and we took advantage of that and 3 other centers in the past 5 days.

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
McMinnville, Oregon
When I first saw this on the list I didn't think much of it except that it was probably a bit too far off I-5 to be worth the trip.  Boy was I wrong.  I pulled up their website and found that they have the actual Spruce Goose on display!  Yes the actual thing built by Howard Hughes.

Spruce Goose @ Evergreen Aviation Museum
Notice the tiny people standing below the nose
 And more surprises were in store- a water park.  Are you kidding me?  A water park at an aviation museum?  This place looks dang awesome with a wave pool, water slides, and a water science museum.  We didn't go to this part because it was an extra cost, but I would love to go there some day, it looks like a blast.  Very out of the box and an excellent attraction that probably puts McMinnville on the map.
The aviation museum and the Spruce Goose...all I can say is- wow.  Wow!  That thing is HUGE.  My jaw was dropped open most of the time and I was happy to get to go inside and we even paid a little extra to go up into the cockpit.  Amazing.

8 Huge propellers powered this giant

Tail of the Spruce Goose

Yup, it's actually made out of wood!  View inside passenger area

The cockpit - notice the tube on the back of the pilot's chair on the left - this was the special ventilation system for Howard Hughes.  Hepa filters were based on his invention.  We got to sit in these chairs and imagine what it would have been like to fly the old girl.
Spruce Goose Cockpit

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum - If you're ever in the vicinity it's worth the detour.  And it's really not that big of a detour anyway, just a different route.  (Click to visit their website.)

Pacific Science Center
Seattle, Washington
(Click to go to Pacific Science Center website.)  I remember this place when my family went several years ago when I was a teen.  I had vivid memories of the cool water guns outside, the giant furniture, and the exhibits that explore the senses.  Those things were still there and we got to explore some music exhibits, space, ...  They have an exhibit of King Tut that I'm sure must be fabulous but it would have been an extra $40 for myself and my two boys, so we passed on that.  We did get to see a movie To the Arctic which was fantastic- it's the story of a mother polar bear and her two cubs.  Very beautiful 40 minute 3D IMAX film.
My big splurge that I justified as a birthday present to myself was They Might Be Giants "Here Comes Science" CD and DVD together for $35.  I thought that was a pretty killer deal.  The kids already know the songs by heart.

Portland, Oregon
When I was remembering my long ago visits to Pacific Science Center and OMSI I thought that Pacific Science Center would be the better one.  I was wrong again.  I think OMSI was way better.  (Click for OMSI's website.)  They had a great exhibit on natural disasters that went through earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanoes.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  They had a computer program where you could "create a volcano" by setting high or low gases and high or low silicon in the lava, and by adjusting those two settings you can create the 4 types of volcanoes (shield, cinder cone, stratovalcano, and lava dome).
Exhibits on life science and earth science thoroughly geeked me out and the kids loved the sand and water table in the earth science lab.  They also have a "science playground" meant for ages 6 and under that is pretty sweet.
Then we went into an awesome physics exhibit- many machines, laws of motion, etc. being explored here.  And one very cool feature was the inventor's ball room where you can hook up pipes and valves to create new pathways for blue foam balls to catapult around the enclosed room.  Major coolness factor.  There are also Chemistry, Physics and I think one other lab off of this area but they were closed by the time we got there.  The center stays open later- 7:00- which is great, but the labs close at 5 or 5:30.
There is also a submarine tour that I didn't find out about until 15 minutes to close.  It does cost extra though so we might not have done it anyway.  They have an actual sub in the river next to the center so it could be pretty neat.

A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village
Salem, Oregon 

Another surprising find.  They have 3 houses and then a huge outdoor play area with a maze, giant chess board, mammoth skeleton, and more.  In the houses were exhibit rooms such as the China room, China room, fossil room, and my favorite - the bubble room.  This is a place I think I will take the kids to anytime we have to pass through Salem or even close because it's a great way to kill a few hours and very educational stuff disguised as wicked awesome fun.  (Click for the website.)

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