Connecticut Science Center Review for Families

Interactive floor at the Connecticut Science Center

Interactive floor changes to musical instruments and scenes of bubbles or balls.

The Connecticut Science Center opened an architecturally intriguing building in Hartford two years ago. The outside of the Science Center is interesting and spare.

The expansive, open lobby at the CT Science Center

The expansive, open lobby at the CT Science Center

The same goes for the inside, for the architecture and the exhibits. The main lobby is expansive, open all the way to the roof many stories above. Colorful, red stair railings zig zag all the way up to the sixth floor. Not to worry, there are three glass elevators that are used almost exclusively.

Here are the coolest, most time-worthy, don’t miss exhibits:

  • KidSpace: a colorful, water-filled lab where balls follow the stream and kids can get very wet. Though it is designed for eight years and under, my 10 year old still enjoyed it. It was hard to get my four year-old to leave. It is a well-lit area adjacent to the Science Center’s enormous glass well. Aprons help to keep the little ones a little drier.
  • The 3-D movies
  • The native Connecticut marine animals on the 6th floor
  • The hurricane chamber, also on the 6th floor (though the wind never actually gets stronger after 25 mph even though the report of speed implies that it would get as high as 80 mph).
  • Touch a real meteorite in the Space exhibit on the 5th floor–I like it but my kids didn’t really get the coolness of it.
  • KidSpace at the Connecticut Science Center is designed for 2nd grade and younger, but is fun for older kids, too.

    KidSpace is designed for 2nd grade and younger, but is fun for older kids, too.

    Also in the Space exhibit are loungers to lay back in and watch a journey through the universe.

  • The Invention area with a golf ball Rube Goldberg machine which is also on the 5th floor.
  • LEGO table and ramp in the Invention area.
  • In the Sports Science area, an arcade ski game I remember from my youth is a lot of fun, fifth floor.
  • The kids really enjoyed whacking a mannequin head with a heavy weight, also in the Sports Science exhibit.
  • The Mind Ball in the Picture of Health, fifth floor, was a big hit with my kids.
  • My littlest wanted to feed a virtual lady and make her fat and skinny but he was a bit too short for the game in Picture of Health on the fifth floor.
  • I would have loved to have made a crater and my daughter tried for several minutes until we realized the exhibit wasn’t working. I hope it works when you visit.
  • The interactive floor in the Sight and Sound exhibit on the fourth floor.
  • Racing down a ramp in Forces in Motion, also on the fourth floor.
  • Holding a ball in an airstream (a Bernoulli demonstration), Forces in Motion.
  • Making a paper helicopter to float in an airstream, Forces in Motion
Make your own paper cone flier at the Connecticut Science Center

Make your own paper cone flier

The temporary exhibit on Animation was fairly interesting for my 10 year old. The four year-old was too young to get much out of it. I particularly enjoyed the stop-motion animation stations, of which there were four.

Those are a small portion of the exhibits available at the museum. Each of the areas has many more exhibits. The ones listed above were the ones that actually held the children’s attention.

We went this past weekend and the museum was delightfully empty. We had plenty of time to explore each area. We felt we had a full day at the museum after four hours. If you are willing to spend a lot of time in the water area or having your kid build with LEGOs, then you could spend more time.

The museum has a cafeteria and gift shop, but no coat room or place to store strollers. The museum recommends to not even bring a stroller and to carry your baby instead. If you have a coat or bag you don’t want to carry around for hours, you have to pay for a locker space.

There was very little explanation through out the museum–except for the sports area where there was more explanation with much less interactivity. Many of the demonstrations were not particularly interactive. As an exampled of a lack of science, in Exploring Space there were two places where different wavelengths of light were used, yet there was no good explanation of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Bernoulli Demonstration at Connecticut Science Center

The beach ball stays in the airstream

My kids felt the Exploring Space exhibit was boring because it only had movies, save for the crater exhibit that was not working.  The video of the sun had recordings of the two most boring years during the least active solar minimum. I felt the whole experience was more akin to a children’s museum than a science museum.

While, as a mechanical engineer, I could imagine so many ways the exhibits could be improved with more reliable operation, real interactivity, and more in-depth explanations, the ultimate result is whether my kids had fun, and they did.

So head out for a day of fun to the CT Science Museum. The kids will definitely find fun things to enjoy. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm each day. The museum is closed most Mondays. It costs $17 for each adult and $14 for children 4-17, 3 and under are free. Movies are an additional $5 to $7 and typically run 4o minutes.

Additional information for things to do with kids in CT. More writing about parenting and education.

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