If there were a Disneyland for science buffs, it might look like the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The $130 million museum-cum-amusement park has a 50-foot robot, real space capsules, more than 100 interactive exhibits, and hordes of starry-eyed children. Perfect for budding Einsteins and confirmed mad geniuses, the museum's permanent galleries and exhibits are free. The center is a remake of the old California Museum of Science and Industry and was built with public and private funds.
Diane Perlov, who manages the center's exhibits, says, "It's a place to discover basic science principles and then tinker with them to see how they work on real-world problems." Like building a giant archway and testing it against a simulated earthquake. Or piloting a virtual hovercraft over land and sea.
This version of science practically screams cool, perhaps one reason why the place attracts 1.3 million visitors a year. Kids and adults line up to flight-test a spaceship of their own design, and everyone wants to take a thermal self-portrait.
Price Check: General admission to San Francisco's Exploratorium, $12. The Science Center's permanent galleries and exhibits—free.
Tip: Parking costs $6 per car. At www.mta.net, find a list of public buses that run to the Science Center park. Weekends or weekday afternoons are the best times to visit; weekday mornings are often packed. Information: (323) 724-3623, www.casciencectr.org.
Photography courtesy California Science Center
This article was first published in September 2003. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.