PLEASE NOTE: This post was originally written in 2014. While it should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, it is also possible that some information may be outdated. Please visit their website for the most up to date information, especially for details like hours and pricing. If you notice something in this post that needs to be updated, please feel free to leave a comment with the updated information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make the updates. Hey, it takes a village, right? 🙂
You can also check out Mandy’s original post on the Science Center from 2013 HERE.
Also note that special exhibits rotate, so some of the activities described in these posts may no longer be available. Find more information on current exhibits HERE.
Over the past three years I have written about a LOT of family-friendly destinations in Connecticut. And even though I discover new, wonderful places each week, there are some spots that I take my family back to time and time again. The Connecticut Science Center in Hartford is one such place.
I have actually written about the Science Center before, but a few things have changed since my last post so I thought I would do a little update for our readers.
So what’s new at the Connecticut Science Center?
- New Exhibit – Grossology opened and is dedicated to all sorts of gross things that kids love. If your little ones find burps, farts, and the inside of noses interesting and hilarious, they will love this space!
- New Member Benefit – Members now receive a flat rate parking benefit for the parking garage, just $5.
- New Food Offering – Subway opened and replaced the cafe for onsite food offerings.
- New Admission Policy – A change has been made to the Science Center’s policy on admission prices for children. Kids ages 3 and under used to get in for free, but now only kids ages 2 and under get free admission. And while that does make an outing there more expensive for some families, the change in admission policy was actually combined with an addition of a few new exhibits dedicated to the younger crowd.
So instead of giving you the standard tour in this post, I thought it might be fun to take a slightly different approach . . .
Here are the 10 Reasons the Science Center has become a Top Outing for my Family
#1 – The parking garage
If I’m heading to an indoor destination with the kids, it is usually because the weather is not fit for outdoor play. It could be too hot, too cold, raining, snowing, or some bad mixture in between. One of the great things about the Science Center is that you can avoid some of these elements all together by using their main parking option, the Science Center Garage. The garage costs $3 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour (or a flat rate fee of $5 for members) and it is attached to the Science Center building. I love the option of avoiding the rain and snow with the kids by parking in the garage and taking the elevator right up to the Science Center lobby without ever having to go outside.
The Science Center parking garage has three levels and the lobby is actually located above the third level. I always get in the elevator area and want to go down, but to get inside the Science Center, hit the “up” button.
Once you get off the elevator (or you take the stairs or escalator from Garage Level 1), you will enter the lobby area. Here you can hang up your coat, put the stuff you don’t want to carry around in a locker, and check-in at the main desk.
And checking into the museum is a nice segue to the second reason I like the Connecticut Science Center . . .
#2 – Reasonably priced and flexible membership
A one-time visit to the Science Center can be a little expensive: adults are $19, children ages 3 and up are $14, and kids ages 2 and under are FREE. The good news is that if you live in the area and think you may visit the science center a few times during the year, getting a membership is a reasonably priced option that comes with quite a few benefits. For my family, we actually have a four person membership and have had it for a few years even though we didn’t need that many spots to get our family in (since the children were all free for a period of time). But, we got the higher level membership because we could use this destination as our go-to outing when friends and family were visiting. The way the membership works is that at least one named member has to be in attendance, but they can use the remaining spots for guests. So with our 4 person membership, I could bring in myself and 3 guests. Rather handy!
And if you visit for the day and decide that you want to trade in your admission tickets for a membership, you can apply a portion of your admission fees toward a membership purchase (plus receive 10% off if purchased the same day).
Here are a few other reasons I like their membership program:
- Members pay a flat-rate fee of $5 for parking in the Science Center garage
- During the busy season, members have their own line for entry
- Members typically receive reciprocity at another destination during both the spring and fall. For the past few years, the spring destination was the Mystic Aquarium and the fall destinations have been the Beardsley Zoo and Old Sturbridge Village.
- Local dining discounts.
- The purchase of a membership is considered a donation to a non-profit organization, so it is tax deductible!
- Find even more benefits here.
#3 – Exhibit space for the younger crowd
As a fairly new, very popular indoor destination, the Science Center can get rather busy. During the week, this busyness can come from the school groups that visit the Science Center on a daily basis. Normally it might be a little overwhelming to bring little ones to a destination filled with elementary and middle school children, but the staff at the Science Center help make it an enjoyable experience. One thing that helps is that there are a few areas in the building that are designated for the younger kids. Which means the toddlers and preschoolers can have a fun time without me worrying that they are going to get lost in a crowd of fifth graders.
The first space available for kids ages 6 and under is located on the first floor, right when you go through the main entrance. This area is called KidSpace and it contains all sorts of fun for the little ones. It includes water play areas, a reading nook filled with books, magnets, blocks, and a variety of other fun things. A lot of times I will bring the kids here and we will stay in the KidSpace area the entire time!
Oh, and if the idea of water play gets you a little nervous, don’t worry too much. The kids can attempt to keep dry by using the smocks provided or taking advantage of the hand dryers in the area. But, if you think your kid could get a little messy in this space, maybe save it for the last stop and bring a change of clothes for them.
#4 – Plenty of room to move
Even on the busiest of days at the Science Center, it never feels overwhelmingly crowded. The building itself is huge and each exhibit covers a lot of square footage. Not only does this mean there is plenty of space for the kids to move around, but there is also plenty of space for extra items like strollers. This is one of those destinations where you can easily let your baby sleep in the stroller while you explore the building with your older child.
#5 – Natural light fills the space
Even if the weather isn’t pleasant outside, you can still enjoy the beautiful views of the city and the Farmington river from the comfort of the Science Center building as large windows surround many of the exhibit areas.
#6 – Restrooms are plentiful
You know how we like to talk about restrooms here at Out and About Mom. Well, the Connecticut Science Center has some of the nicest restrooms I’ve seen yet. There is at least one restroom facility in each exhibit area and all of them have baby changing stations. So if you have a baby in a diaper or a potty training toddler, no worries.
#7 – There are a lot of entertaining AND educational exhibits for the kids to explore
There is so much to see and do at the Science Center, that any age will find it to be a fun outing. My kids definitely have their favorite exhibits to explore, but we try to check out at least one new thing every time we go.
#8 – There are also exhibits to entertain and educate me!
The Science Center even has areas designed specifically for the adult visitors. My favorite is the puzzle area in the Invention Dimension exhibit on Level 5. Some of them are pretty tough to figure out!
#9 – Onsite eating options
Whether you purchase food from the Subway on the first floor or bring your own meal and enjoy it at the tables located right outside the restaurant, it is so nice to have a place in the building where the kids (and adults) can eat. No need to worry about about “hangry” toddlers (or adults)!
#10 – Always new things to explore
And one of the best things about the Science Center is that it never stays the same. Their traveling exhibit area changes often and other exhibits have new and interesting projects and spaces added from time to time. Currently, the latest traveling exhibit is called Grossology. If your kids are interested in farts and burps (what kid isn’t?) than this is the exhibit for them!
So there you have it, all the details as to why the Connecticut Science Center is my go-to indoor outing destination. For even more information on the Science Center, including pictures of their rooftop garden, check out my post from 2013.
Have you been to the Science Center? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below. What would be on your top 10 list?
Phone: (860) 724 – 3623
E-mail: See here for email contact options
Typically they are closed on Mondays and open from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm on Tuesdays through Sundays. However, the schedule does change from time to time so be sure to check here for the latest details.
- Adults: $19
- Youth (ages 3 – 17): $14
- Children ages 2 and under are FREE (Note that prior to this summer, children ages 3 and under were free)
- Membership opportunities are available starting at $75 for an individual membership
- Stroller Friendly: YES. Elevators and lots of open space make it fairly easy to navigate with a stroller in the Science Center.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: SOMEWHAT. Food and drinks are not allowed in the Science Center exhibits, but there is a place on the first floor where you can either purchase food and drinks or enjoy something you brought from home.
- Restroom: YES. There are restrooms in every exhibit area.
- Baby Changing Station: YES. Every restroom that I went into had a baby changing station.
- Parking: YES. The best parking option is in the Science Center Garage. The parking rate is $3 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour.
- Food for Sale: YES. A Subway restaurant is located on the first floor. There are also food and beverage vending machines located on the first floor near the locker area.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES. Bring lunch or a snack and enjoy it at the tables located right outside the Subway.
- Cash Required: NO.
- Dress Code: No specific dress code, but you might want to bring a change of clothes if your child plans to play in the water area. Sometimes they can get pretty wet.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- Discounts: YES. Free or reduced price admission area available for employees of corporate members. Get all the details here. There are also courtesy discounts available for active military personnel, educators, museum professionals, and college students.
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