A vacation doesn’t always have to be mindless. Give your kids plenty to ponder with an exciting trip to the Orlando Science Center. This fun and provocative museum, located just north of downtown, has a worthy mission statement: to inspire science learning for life. With its giant CineDome movies, a planetarium, four floors of hands-on exhibits, and thought-provoking live programming, the OSC makes for a perfect day trip, particularly when it’s rainy or your group needs a break from the sun.
The museum’s philosophy is to get parents to participate in the process of inspiring natural curiosity in their children. Its website points to a little-discussed crisis in America, that of too few future “knowledge workers.” A knowledge worker develops, interprets and uses knowledge . . . scientific fields are the most classic example, and American schools are not inspiring sufficient numbers of students in this direction. The OSC hopes to change that, and successfully motivates kids of all ages to think about whats, whys and hows, in a fun context. It’s been one of the must-do family attractions in Orlando for over 50 years, in fact.
Hundreds of exhibits and labs lure kids in clever ways. When the current facility was built, traditional museum designers worked hand in hand with theme park designers, and then fabricators went to work making the exhibits innovative, interactive as often as possible, and totally about immersion. Kids love seeing the real-world applications of science when presented in a thrilling or unusual way, especially if there’s a hands-on component. Interactive learning is a big part of the fun at OSC and opportunities for learning extend beyond the exhibit floors and into the planetarium and theaters.
The OSC boasts an amazing feature—a 300-seat “CineDome” which features films shown on giant screens, and planetarium shows. Films shown here are shot in the largest film format in existence. When audiences “journey” to scientific wonders around Earth, like the top of a mountain, or the bottom of the ocean, the feeling of actually being there is overwhelmingly real. The screen measure 8,000 square feet and films are projected through a fisheye lens, creating an image which literally wraps around the audience.
Get your kids psyched for the theater with some of the fun facts about the nearly-eight-stories-high Dr. Phillips CineDome. The projector’s lamp is almost as hot as the sun, and a lamp just like it actually lights up the space shuttle launch pad and landing pad! The large-format film that runs through the Dr. Phillips CineDome projector is so strong, you could use it to pull a car. A forty-minute film uses two and a half MILES of film. And the projector itself goes 23’ into the air and weighs 2,300 pounds. This is not your grandma’s film projector!
A second theater, the Digital Adventure Theater, is where you’ll enjoy Orlando’s best 3-D experience on the world’s largest screens. Designed to take guests to the cutting edge of science, this 226 seat theater is home to an incredible collection of National Geographic films. As if that weren’t enough, the OSC’s Crosby Observatory is home to one of Florida’s largest refractor telescopes.
It’s highly likely that different members of your gang will be interested in different activities, so you might plan to take as many charged cell phones as possible, for easy reconvening.
This award-winning museum works closely with Florida school districts, to match its exhibits to current science curriculum, so a visit might have your kids seeing their own science class in a whole new light.
Admission includes all the exhibit galleries, planetarium shows, the Digital Adventure Theater and an observatory tour. Children under two are admitted free.