Science Museum of Minnesota for Hands-On Learning and Fun

Whether you are looking for a place to learn with your kids about dinosaurs, experiment with interactive science exhibits, play a round of educational mini golf, or just escape the snowy (or sunny) climate for awhile, the Science Museum of Minnesota has got you covered. With 70,000 square feet of exhibition space, including a 10,000-square-foot temporary exhibit gallery and five permanent galleries covering the areas of paleontology, physical science and technology, the human body, people and cultures of the Mississippi River, and the museum’s collections — you will probably not be able to see all there is to see at this museum in one visit. Instead, do what my family did and focus on what appeals to you most.

Science Museum of Minnesota interactive exhibit

My sister, Karen (a.k.a. Auntie KK) helping my son, Leo, to understand one of the numerous interactive displays at the Science Museum of Minnesota

Mississippi River Gallery
The Science Museum of Minnesota is located in St. Paul along the Mississippi River, a waterway that has played a crucial role in Minnesota’s natural and cultural history. It makes sense that one of the museum’s galleries would focus on this river. The Mississippi River Gallery encourages visitors to think about how their actions impact the river, the influence the river has on people’s lives, and how the river ecosystem is complex and ever-changing. Engage children by asking them to find various animals and plants on display in this exhibit.

Triceratops at Science Museum of Minnesota

The largest mounted Triceratops skeleton in the world

Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery
Kids enthralled with all things dino, will “dig” the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery. Numerous dinosaur skeleton bones on display, including one of the museum’s most treasured items, the largest of only four mounted Triceratops in the world. Kids will particularly like the T. rex Jaws Interactive, a giant set of Tyrannosaurus rex powerful jaws that recreates the predator’s giant-sized bite.

Kids at Science Museum of Minnesota

Leo and his big sister, Karissa, were mesmerized by this floating ball exhibit that demonstrated Bernoulli’s Principle

Experiment Gallery
Filled with hands-on exhibits that explore the physical sciences and mathematics, the Experiment Gallery invites visitors to “be a scientist for a day.” Of course, for young children like mine, this area is exciting not for the scientific discoveries but because it is filled with lots of buttons to push and knobs to turn. Still, I like to think some knowledge soaked in as I read aloud descriptions and tried to explain the principles behind their play.

Science Museum of Minnesota Experiment Gallery

My son learning through play in the Experiments Gallery

Big Back Yard EarthScapes Mini Golf and Exhibits
Since we visited the Science Museum of Minnesota on a summer day, we spent much of our time exploring the outdoor  Big Back Yard EarthScapes Exhibits. This 1.75-acre area is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and on weekends through September, weather permitting.

Science Museum of Minnesota Miniature Golf

The EarthScapes Mini Golf gives new meaning to the term “water hazard”

For a few extra bucks each you can play nine holes of EarthScapes Mini Golf. Water elements throughout the course teach mini-golfers about water’s role in shaping landscapes.

Science Museum of Minnesota prairie maze

Karissa loves exploring nature mazes like the prairie maze at the Science Museum of Minnesota

My favorite part of the museum, probably because I am a nature nut, was the 17,000-square-foot prairie maze featuring plants, grasses, and flowering plants native to Minnesota’s prairies. This is a good place for kids to expend some excess energy as they run through the maze.

Science Museum of Minnesota Backyard Earthscapes

This groundwater exhibit was a big hit with my kids

We had a hard time dragging the kids away from this interactive exhibit that reveals the properties of groundwater. They loved pumping water from a real artesian well into elephant-shaped watering cans and then pouring the water onto boulders and containers filled with pebbles, sand and rocks…again…and again…and again. My sister and I even got in on the action, partially as a way to beat the summer heat.

Science Museum of Minnesota interactive exhibit

My daughter panning for treasure and revealing a stone she discovered

Karissa had a ball panning for gems and fossils, using running water to separate sediment from treasure. This is an add-on activity for which you purchase a bag of sand-covered goodies.

Additional Information
In addition to the galleries detailed above, the Science Museum of Minnesota is also home to an Omnitheater, the Human Body Gallery and the Collections Gallery. Special exhibitions vary from such topics as Real Pirates (showcasing over 200 artifacts from a pirate ship that sank in 1717) to Future Earth (exploring what the Earth’s people and landscape will look like in 2050).

The museum hosts youth classes and even overnight camps too. In fact, on the day I visited with my sister and my two kids, her teen-aged triplets were attending a class on how to create a video game. They all agree it was totes awesome, by the way.

I fondly remember visiting this non-profit science museum (in a previous location) as a child growing up in the Twin Cities. It has grown and changed quite a bit since my grade school field trips, making it an even more worthwhile place for children and adults to learn about science through doing.

Do you like to visit science museums with your kids? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Thank you, Science Museum of Minnesota, for providing my family with tickets to explore your museum!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is a mom of two and the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of THE TRAVEL MAMAS' GUIDE, she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen teaches blogging classes and has given travel tips on television, radio, and as a paid video blogger. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing.

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