Whether you're looking for a place to learn 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, you will probably not be able to experience everything at this museum in one visit. Instead, do what my family did and focus on what appeals to you most.
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 Mississippi River Gallery also shows the influence the river has on people's lives, and how complex and ever-changing the river is. Engage children by asking them to find various animals and plants on display in this exhibit.
Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery
Kids enthralled with all things dino, will “dig” the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery. Numerous dinosaur skeleton bones are on display. One of the museum's most treasured items is 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.
Filled with hands-on exhibits that explore the physical sciences and mathematics, the Experiment Gallery invites visitors to “be a scientist for a day.” Young children will love it for its plentiful buttons to push and knobs to turn. Still, I like to think some knowledge soaked in.
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.
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.
My favorite part of the museum 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.
We had a hard time dragging the kids away from this interactive exhibit. It reveals the properties of groundwater. They loved pumping water from a real artesian well into elephant-shaped watering cans. Then they poured 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.
My daughter 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 about the Science Museum of Minnesota
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.
The museum hosts youth classes and even overnight camps. In fact, on the day we visited, my sister's 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. Now it's 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!