Museum of Science in Boston: Fun enough for a day and then some

Welcome to Museum Week at The Mother of All Trips. This week I’m profiling some museums – both new to us and old favorites – that my family has visited over the past few months and which I haven’t yet written about on the blog. If you like this post, you might also like Five favorite museums to visit with kids or the other posts in my Museums and Zoos section.

Our first full day in Boston last summer was a true scorcher – heat over 100 degrees rendering any kind of outdoor activity impossible. Since I had planned to begin our trip with a walk on the Freedom Trail, this necessitated some shifting of plans. I wasn’t sure that the boys would be up to spending an entire day at the Museum of Science, but figured we could start out there, and if necessary, return to our room at the Custom House for some hanging out time.

We started our day in the Modeling the Mesozoic exhibit, which focuses on showing how scientists’ perceptions of dinosaurs change as they gather new evidence, and how this changes the way dinosaurs are modeled and how we understand the relationship between dinosaurs and modern-day animals like birds.

After exploring dinosaurs for a while, we moved closer to home at the Human Body Connection. In addition to visiting with some newly hatched chicks and adorable tamarins, the boys checked out the different systems of the body, rode bikes with a skeleton, and checked out how their heights compared to other kids their age.

How tall am I? At the Human Body Connection Riding a bike with a skeleton at the Museum of Science in Boston Exploring the brain at the Human Body Connection Next I had purchased tickets for a showing of Waking the T. Rex: The Story of Sue in the 3-D Cinema, but I can’t really report on it beyond this picture of Teddy in the glasses:

3-D Cinema at the Museum of Science in Boston He lasted for about five seconds into the loud and toothy opening and then demanded to be taken out. Matt said that it wasn’t really scary (and was in fact very cool) once you got past the beginning, but I’d recommend saving your money if you’ve got a skittish little one.

It didn’t take Teddy too long to recover once we moved onto the Mathematica exhibit, a classic at the museum which was created by design gurus Charles and Ray Eames and opened in 1981. I’m not really sure how much any of us learned in this exhibit which explores different areas of math including probability, Boolean algebra, and logic. But I liked the cool post-modern aesthetic and the history wall showing a timeline of achievements in math. The boys mostly played with the funny mirror that’s tucked in one corner.

Funny mirror in the Mathematica exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston Math timeline at the Museum of Science, Boston The Discovery Center is intended for children ages birth through 8, but our 9-year-old enjoyed this part of the museum too. He focused on building a ball tunnel out of pieces of PVC pipe while Teddy and Matt tried unsuccessfully to untangle themselves from these two pieces of webbing without loosening their hands.

Playing with pipe at the Discovery Center in the Museum of Science, Boston Trying to get untangled in the Discovery Center, Boston There are lots of hands-on exhibits in this cozy, self-contained area and I would suggest that anyone visiting the museum with a toddler head there first.

The Lightening! show in the Theatre of Electricity is worth a visit. You’ll get to see actual lightening produced indoors on an enormous generator that looks like it might have been used to bring the Bride of Frankestein to life. It was during this performance that I learned the true reason we’re safe from lightening in our cars – not, as we have been told, because the rubber tires ground us, but because the metal body acts like a cage and absorbs the current all around us, keeping us safe.

Seeing is Deceiving explores how vision works by offering a series of various optical illusions that visitors are invited to try. Most of them involved staring and spinning until I was sure that Tommy would end up on the floor from dizziness.

Seeing is Deceiving exhibit at the Museum of Science, Boston Tommy and I then spent a great deal of time in the temporary What I Eat: Around the World in 25 Diets exhibit (open through January 1, 2012) which shows photographs of people around the world and all of the calories they each consumed on a given day. The caloric intake ranges from 800 to 12,300 and the accompanying panels allow each person to explain a bit about why they eat as they do.

The Making Models and Mapping the World Around us Exhibits (which are adjacent to each other) offer a chance to explore how scientists use models to understand how everything from packing containers to the human heart work best. One interactive game invites users to create a model of a place using sounds that you’d find there.

Making Models using sound at the Museum of Science, Boston Last of all (but far from least) we got our wiggles out at the Science in the Park exhibit. By now the kids were pretty much burned out and proabably weren’t really learning from the activities they were trying, but they did enjoy the chance to time themselves as they ran along a brief sprinter’s course set up against the wall.

Finally Matt turned to me and suggested it might be time to leave and I realized that we had spent seven hours at the museum without even realizing it! This was a new museum record for my family and speaks to just how engaging the Museum of Science is – all that time and still had exhibits left to see. And since Boston isn’t exactly known for its stellar weather, isn’t it nice to know there’s a place where your family can be diverted indoors for hours on end?

Travel-with-kids tips

  • For lunch, I recommend planning to eat at the museum because there are no other convenient restaurants in the neighborhood. The Riverview Café in the museum (which is run by Wolfgang Puck’s catering company) offers a variety of different choices including a taqueria, salad bar, wood-fired pizza, and a grill serving burgers. The food was reasonably priced and was very good and if you’re lucky enough to snag a table by a window you’ll have a gorgeous view of the Charles River, Cambridge, and Boston.
  • The Science Park T Station is closed through at least November 2011. You can take a train to either North Station or Lechmere Station and then get a free shuttle bus to the museum. We left the museum at rush hour and didn’t feel like waiting for the bus which was caught in traffic; the walk back to North Station took about 15 minutes.
  • The Museum of Science is one of the attractions included in a Go Select Pass from Smart Destinations (it’s also included in their Go Boston Card). I saved money by using this pass for our admission and we also didn’t have to wait in the line (which was pretty long) to get tickets. You can also buy your tickets for the museum and special exhibits online in advance of your visit.
  • There are a variety of add-on attractions including an IMAX theatre, a butterfly exhibit, a 3-D Cinema, and a planetarium. You can buy tickets for these using a credit card at self-service kiosks inside the museum. The Lightening Show mentioned in my post does not require an additional ticket, but takes place at specific times during the day. The museum publishes a daily schedule with times and additional information.

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  1. says

    Science museums are always such great hands on fun! We would never have been able to watch the Dinosaur movie either as my youngest frightens easily – we almost had to leave the last Toy Story movie during the incinerator scene! The exhibits at this museum all sound fascinating but I’d really like to know who ate 12,300 calories in one day!

  2. says

    Mara, this brings back good memories of a similar experience I had years ago with my daughters. I just returned to Boston with my younger daughter for some college visits — and she reminded me of how much fun the Boston Children’s Museum ( is. It’s aimed at a younger group than the science museum, but we spent ALL DAY there. One of the favorite activities involved Marc Brown’s Arthur character. In addition to role playing, we saw a lively little Arthur show on stage. All the fun was had for one price per person.

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