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Exploring STL: St. Louis Science Center

2013 April 25
by Becky

Since our skies refuse to give us a break from the wet stuff, I thought a post about a very fun indoor activity is timely.

I know, I need to get over the whole rain thing. But I have just never in my life seen so much in such a short time!!!!

In our attempt to get out of the house amidst the downpours last week, I thought we’d give the St. Louis Science Center a try—it had been about 10 years since I’d visited and I wasn’t sure it would be all that toddler-friendly. I made the potential mistake of telling Ethan there were dinosaurs at this place…something I knew to be true a decade ago but couldn’t confirm via the current website. I do that a lot, build up expectations, and they don’t always pan out. 

But we went for it.

It’s about a 10 minute drive from our house so we zipped over, windshield wipers blazin’, paid $10 to park (there was some sketchily marked street parking I later found out was truly legal, so free parking is available) and entered the Science Center for free, right into this:

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Ok, this only about a third of the ENORMOUS ball machine that encompasses the entire lobby. Ethan and I just stopped and stared, watching all the intricacies of the impressive piece of machinery. That hamster wheel part is something older kids can use to actually power of the “ball elevators”, very entertaining when a group of middle-schoolers is present.

We were still standing in front of the door when a very nice staff person brought us a map and explained what was free and what needed tickets. She and I started chatting as Ethan wandered forward to look over the balcony into the lower level…

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He then proceeded to freak out.

“Ohhhhhhh, T-Rex!!!” he exclaimed in that over-the-top-excited two year old whisper-yell-grunt.

And he just stood there, staring.

I’m pretty sure we could have sat right on the floor, looking through the glass railing at the life-size dinosaurs, for an hour and the Peanut would have been blissfully happy. But I urged him down the stairs, we needed a closer look (and had the whole place to check out). 

It was slow going, he took a break on the steps for a bit. Staring. His eyes locked with Mr. Rex.

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Here’s where these guys got a little scary. Even for me! I got a slight chill, not sure if it was due to the extreme-life-likeability of the huge dudes or just in awe of the incredible detail. But I was fully prepared for Ethan to resist getting closer. He’s seen plenty of dinosaurs in his short two years, but nothing like this.

Oh, and did I mention they are animatronic? The move and roar. Seriously.

After a few minutes, Little Man took my hand and ventured down with just a few little whimpers of concern.

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There was a lot of open-mouthed staring in disbelief once the initial shock wore off. Soon he was traversing freely in front of the hungry-looking T-rex. The Science Center has a whole archeological dig set up in true toddler style—shovels, mounds of fake dirt, buried fossils, sound effects, and big toy dinosaurs to carry around.

He was blissfully happy for a very long time before I urged him toward the next exhibit: Energy. (This did involve a long, dramatic goodbye sequence with the toy dinos…he got attached very quickly.)

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While I’m not so sure the concepts were hitting home, the imagery and hands-on aspects of the Energy exhibit kept Ethan and plenty of other kids extremely occupied. We rode a bicycle to create our own power, built a windmill, drove some roller coasters, and more energy-ish activities. I learned something

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We just scratched the surface of the other areas and exhibits after spending so much time with the dinos, but a place I see us spending plenty of indoor hours is the Discovery Room.

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I had to settle for a picture of the outside as we didn’t have tickets and didn’t have time. But, since I bought a membership prior to exiting the building, we’ll be walking in there free of charge from here on out. It’s geared for kids 3-7 (but two year olds are welcome) and looks like tons of fun—Ethan was climbing the wall to get in so I distracted him with a train.

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Though I’ve always know about the awesomeness of the Science Center, this refresher was eye-opening and a whole new experience having Ethan along for the ride. I can’t wait to take him to an IMAX movie about butterflies or icebergs or whatever happens to be playing. I’m looking forward to meeting friends here. I see us blowing through those six free parking passes (that come along with the membership) by the fall.

Note: While a staffer told me the planetarium probably isn’t the most exciting activity for toddlers, there is a version of the show called “The Little Star that Could” with a nursery-rhyme theme that sounds promising. Here is the schedule of showtimes.

I also have full intentions to push Ethan’s bedtime to make an upcoming laser light show in the planetarium featuring Jagger, Pink Floyd, ELP, and other classics…totally worth being a little late to bed.

So, entrance fee is $0, but parking, the discovery room, IMAX movies, and planetarium required a paid ticket. A membership covers all of this stuff (some is limited, like six parking passes, six movie tickets). 

Let us know if you want to meet up! 

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Grandpa Joe permalink
    April 25, 2013

    Another great Mind Expanding Experience.

  2. April 25, 2013

    st. louis has so many kid friendly places! my kids are scared of huge dinosaurs like that, awesome that ethan liked them!
    Dara recently posted..A Minute With JenMy Profile

  3. Lara permalink
    April 25, 2013

    This place looks amazing. Toddler heaven! Ethan’s open mouth stare is my absolute favorite.

  4. April 25, 2013

    Those dinosaurs are awesome!

    OK I have a little question for you: we are heading to DC next weekend. I plan to look through all your DC posts, but what are your one or two (or three) top must-do’s for a 2 yr old boy who loves trains, planes and automobiles? There are so many to choose from and I may need a little help narrowing it down :)
    Jen recently posted..from my toddler’s mouth, part 2My Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      April 25, 2013

      The American History museum has an incredible transportation exhibit that just goes on and on. Full size trains, trolleys, boats, cars, buses, and even a subway that simulates moving. He will love it. The Air and Space museum is also incredible, especially the one out by Dulles. It’s worth the drive (if you have a car). You have to walk the monuments too…he will love them all and if the weather is nice the walk is really fantastic.

      Have a great trip!! You can’t go wrong!

  5. Lauren G permalink
    April 27, 2013

    I feel like Ethan is finally starting to look like a bigger kid! Maybe it’s the hair, but the he’s definitely growing up.

  6. April 29, 2013

    Parking on the (old) planitarium side–Forest park–is free. Then you have the perfect reason to walk over the people bridge. I think there’s a Dino in the yard on that side too, behind the trees.

    Also, don’t take your toddler into the IMAX until he’s totally cool with movies, this one is super load and the screen is so curved its hardto watch. My kid freaked when I took him in there too little.
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  7. Mike Anderson permalink
    April 29, 2013

    And On the first friday of the Month the Science center is open late. They do A science themed thing. This Month its Star Trek Vs. Star Wars. Then at 10:00 pm They show a Free Science Fiction Movie. Last Month was Alien. (not for the Kiddies).

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