Forget test tubes and Bunsen burners. Today's young Einsteins can rap with robots, dabble in DNA, or seek outer space anomalies at a host of interactive science museums.
Arizona Science Center Phoenix—Meet the locals—tortoises, iguanas, and Gila monsters—and see how various scientific subjects relate to the Grand Canyon State. (602) 716-2000, www.azscience.org.
Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose—This purple, 52,000-square-foot building houses an eclectic mix of eye-opening exhibits, from bubbles and springs to seeds and ham radios. (408) 298-5437, www.cdm.org.
Discovery Museum Science & Space Center—Sacramento, Calif. Get down to earth with local flora and fauna. Or experience a simulated space mission at the reservations-only Challenger Learning Center. (916)—575-3941, www.thediscovery.org.
Exploratorium San Francisco—Stuffed with more than 600 exhibits, this museum was ranked as one of the 10 greatest of its kind by Discover magazine. Make reservations to worm your way through the pitch-black, labyrinthine Tactile Dome. (415) 397-5673, www.exploratorium.edu.
Explorit! Science Center—Davis, Calif. From oceanography to chemistry, the common theme of the center's hands-on exhibits changes five times a year. Interact with the pros during the monthly Meet the Scientist program. (530) 756-0191, www.explorit.org.
Lawrence Hall of Science—Berkeley, Calif. Feed your head with biology, mathematics, and astronomy at this smorgasbord of science. (510) 642-5132, www.lawrencehallofscience.org.
Lied Discovery Children's Museum—Las Vegas. The six-story Science Tower features Viscosity Tubes, the Everyday Pavilion, and, for toddlers, the Desert Discovery exhibit. (702) 382-3445, www.ldcm.org.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry—Portland. Five exhibit halls, eight interactive labs, and a retired navy submarine (see article at right). Need we say more? (503) 797-4000, (800) 955-6674, www.omsi.org.
Tech Museum of Innovation—San Jose, Calif. Computer geeks take note. Each year, more than 500,000 people interface with the Tech's advanced gizmos and gadgets. (408) 294-8324, www.thetech.org.
Photography by Susan Schwartzenberg; courtesy of Exploratorium
This article was first published in January 2003. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.