Update October 2014: This past summer, the Science Center made a few changes. They changed their admissions policy from ages 3 and under being FREE to ages 2 and under being FREE. This update was made because they added more exhibits for preschool aged children. The Science Center also changed their in-house food option from a cafe to a Subway restaurant. Check out my 2014 post on the Science Center for all the details.
I have actually been avoiding taking my kids to the Connecticut Science Center.
I had this perception that they were too young for the activities at this venue and that it would be difficult to manage the twins in such a large environment.
Well, it seems that both of my assumptions were completely wrong.
A few months ago (I think it was November) the Science Center was offering everyone an opportunity to visit for FREE. So I couldn’t resist checking it out. (Oh, and just in case you are wondering, “Mandy, why didn’t you tell me the CT Science Center had a free admission day?”. Well, it was on our Facebook page. Make sure you “Like” us so that you are in the loop for other fun events.)
I’m sure many of you have seen this cool building in the Hartford skyline (Photo credit: www.ctsciencecenter.org).
The Science Center opened its doors in the summer of 2009 and is located in the heart of downtown Hartford.
On our visit, we parked in the Science Center Garage (located right under the building) because it was the most convenient. There are lots of parking options in that area. If you are visiting on the weekend and are able to find a metered space, than parking is even FREE.
If you park in the Science Center garage, it has three levels. Just remember where you parked!
You can either take the stairs or elevator to enter the Science Center building. We had a stroller for the twins, so we took the elevator all the way to the lobby on Lobby Level 1. If you enter from the street, you will be on Garage Level 1. You can then either take an escalator, stairs or elevator to the Lobby.After you reach the lobby, you can check in at the front desk. Now, this venue is a bit pricey. Adult tickets are $19 each and children are $14. The good news is that kids three and under are FREE and that they have a great membership program. Membership for a family of 4 starts at $165 per year and it seems that the way their membership program works is that it allows entry for 4 people as long as one is a named member. They also have other member benefits including free access to other venues in Connecticut throughout the year. For example, Science Center members will have free admission to the Mystic Aquarium this March.
Also, this is a really big venue. Their website says that on average visitors spend 2-3 hours there per visit. We spent about 2 hours and didn’t see even close to everything. You could probably burn 2 hours just on one floor alone.
It is also important to note that the admission price is good for all day. So, you could spend a couple of hours there in the morning, grab some lunch and then head back in the afternoon.
Once you check in you will be given a wristband to wear during your visit. You are then free to explore.
Before we get to our exhibit adventures, I will just mention briefly what we used to get the three little ones around the Center. We brought the twins in a double umbrella stroller and I carried Sweetheart in a Baby Bjorn. You can easily get around everywhere in the Center with a stroller, but I’m sure if everyone brought a stroller with them, it would get a little crowded. I would recommend carrying a baby in some type of carrier. But, if the baby needs to sleep or if you need to move several little ones at once, bring a stroller with you.
Level 1 is not only where you check-in, it also includes the Theatre, Cafe, Gift Shop and the Children’s Gallery.
We headed to the Children’s Gallery to check it out.
This area is designed for kids ages 3-6, but my 22 month olds loved it. WARNING: Your kids will get very wet in this area. It is super fun, but I would suggest either blindfolding the kids and not letting them see this area until last or bringing an extra set of clothes just in case.
The exhibit includes lots of water activities combined with balls and legos. The kids can pour, dump, splash, build and take apart to their heart’s content. To protect from all the water, there are cute little aprons they can wear. They will still get wet, though. Sparkles didn’t look too bad when she was done. Here are a bunch of pictures from our adventures in this area.
After the kids were nice and wet (but very happy), we headed to the next exhibit floor which is actually Level 4. Here is a quick overview of each level.
Once you get off the elevator there is an atrium and two sets of double doors providing access to the exhibits. The doors can be opened automatically by pressing the handicap access button. Having the exhibits enclosed allowed me a bit of comfort that my kids would be somewhat confined. Unfortunately, it didn’t take these two curious toddlers very long to figure out how to push the button and get the doors to open!
The exhibits on this floor had all sorts of things to keep my little ones entertained. You could investigate different types of matter, play with musical instruments, cut a rug on the disco dance floor, race sail boats and cars, and try to balance balls in the air using air itself. Here is a little taste of all the fun.
As you are enjoying the exhibits with your kids, there are a few housekeeping items to keep in mind.
Since you and your kids will be touching lots and lots of stuff, you may want to make a trip to the restroom for a hand washing session. Fortunately, each exhibit area has both a men’s and women’s restroom facility. Each restroom has a baby changing station (nice) and on levels 4 and 5 there are family restrooms. Hand sanitizing stations are also located throughout the exhibits.
If you are a nursing mom, there are plenty of options for you as well. Outside of most of the restrooms, I saw comfy cozy chairs where you could feed your baby while your older child explores. There are also more private nursing options if you need them. Just ask at the security kiosk on the Lobby Level.
Ok, enough with the nitty gritty, let’s get back to the fun stuff!
We made our way up to Level 5 where we found more entertainment.
We checked out the Sports Lab gallery.
Sparkles got herself prepared for her next playtime with Bruiser.
Then, across the hall from this gallery, we looked around the Exploring Space and Invention Dimension Galleries. Here we found lego activities, creative domino structures, and a fun area dedicated to space exploration.
One of the things that I enjoyed most about our visit to the Connecticut Science Center was the beautiful views throughout the building. Look at little Sparkles just playing with her legos with that picturesque scene behind her. Our second to last stop on our grand tour was Level 6 which included a few more exhibits plus the building’s roof garden.
One of the most interesting exhibits on this floor was, the River of Life, which explained all about the ecosystem of the beautiful river right outside the Science Center’s doors, the Connecticut River. There were fish, river rocks, snakes and more. Plus you could always just head over to the window and take a look at the river itself.
We couldn’t hang out in the rooftop garden long, though, because my hungry and tired kids were ruining any sense of serenity for the other visitors. It was time to head to the Cafe and get some lunch. [Update: As of 2014, the Science Center has replaced their cafe with a Subway restaurant.]
The cafe has a variety of food options, a few high chairs, and offers outdoor seating during the warmer months.It was a good place to grab a bite to eat before we got back in the car. If you have more time, though and kids that don’t take afternoon naps, another options would be to grab a bite at a restaurant in downtown Hartford and then head back afterwards to hit up a few more exhibits before heading home.
Overall, the Connecticut Science Center was a fun experience. Honestly, my kids were too young to understand many of the exhibits, but they had a great time exploring. It is new, very clean, and the exhibits are fresh. You would enjoy going with your little ones, but this would also be a wonderful outing for older children or a group with a mixture of ages.
I would definitely recommend visiting this gem in our capital city.
Check out our most up to date Momsense information in our latest Connecticut Science Center post.
Have you been to the Science Center? What was your favorite part? Do you have any tips for our readers who are planning a visit?