Location: Science City’s entrance is on the main floor of Union Station. Union Station is at 30 West Pershing Road in Kansas City, Missouri, directly across the street from the Liberty Memorial.
Cost: As best I can tell, it’s $10 a person for anyone over age 3 (it cost Efrit and me $10 each, but I can’t find an overall listing on their Website; rather, they have online ordering that’s for specific dates/times, and it seems to be $10 a piece on there, too.) There is a BOGO coupon in the Entertainment Book, but it’s listed under Union Station Science City, so it’s hard to find. (We missed it. Grr.)
Web site: http://www.sciencecity.com/
Simply put, Science City is enormous. It’s designed to look like an actual city, and each “building” and many of the streets hosts different hands-on science activities. Towards the end of our visit, we were able to find a map, which was enormously helpful–a scanned copy of it is to the left for your reference.
Music Park and Melody Lane
These two areas are sound-oriented, so they worked reasonably well for my vision-impaired toddler
There are trash can “drums” for kids to hit, a floor piano for them to
walk on, a light “harmonica” around the faux tree and a variety of other “instruments” to try out.
Some of these work better than others for the toddler set, but most will be navigable for a blind or visually-impaired child with some parental assistance.
There’s also an animatronic dinosaur hanging out by the Music Park–Peanut was fascinated. It’s big, it moves, and it makes noise–the trifecta for my visually-impaired husband and son. There’s only the one animatronic dino, but there is another dinosaur-themed exhibit if you have a budding archaeologist at your house.
Dig Site/Dino Lab
The dig site is really neat–so much of it is tactile that it’s easy for kids with low vision to appreciate it, and based on the swarm of schoolchildren covering the dig, it’s fun for sighted kids, too. You can get tools and dig for fossils in rubberized dirt–truly, it is the cleanest dirt you’ll ever see. The dirt is fun to dig in, and there are rocks and fossils to touch that are under the dirt; you can feel out the skeletons and figure out what they are. It’s a good terrain challenge for little walkers as well, with constantly shifting peaks and valleys.
They have actual fossils you can touch in the Dino Lab, plus footprints you can feel in the cave by the Nature Center. There are lots of things in this area that are tactile, which makes it great for blind/VI kids.
There’s a desk outside the Nature Center that’s where we found our map–it might be worth heading down here first to pick up your own copy. There are live animals in the Nature Center, including parakeets, lizards, degu and the largest guinea pig I have ever seen. There weren’t any people manning the center, however, so it was very much look-but-don’t-touch. The critters are noisy, but they held limited interest for my critter-crazy son.
There is an exhibit outside the Nature Center that lets you match animal pelts to the animals they’re from. With help, any kid can do this activity, and it will give them an idea of what the animals feel like and how they’re built.
The cave next to the Nature Center has rubber roots hanging down through its entrance and animal prints to feel. It’s called an “Echo Cave,” but I didn’t notice any echoes. It does have lots of fun tactile elements to explore.
The Crime Lab is very visually oriented, and it’s definitely designed for older children. There are many hands-on elements, such as looking at fingerprints, evaluating DNA, or working with a computer sketch artist. The lab has definitely seen better days, and it shows the wear of many, many children having been through it.
The Tot Lot is a playground for small(er) children on the bottom floor of Science City. It has a maximum height limit, but there’s no one there to enforce it, so bigger kids end up on the equipment. Since bigger kids aren’t always aware of little guys like Peanut, and it’s already a small space, this really didn’t work well for us. Also, the play equipment is clearly designed for larger children–I’m not sure that the person who selected the climbing equipment kept the size of toddlers in mind when picking it out.
There is a faux car in the Tot Lot that has two parking meters in front of it. The parking meters are part of a smell-oriented display that could be good for you to work with your kiddo. Peanut was not much interested, for his part.
The Kinder Lab was extolled to us as their new exhibit for smaller kids. Efrit and I agree: if the Kinder Lab is the only place you’re going in Science City, it’s not worth the price of admission. There’s lots of stuff to do, but none of it’s very exciting. There are little white lab coats hanging on the wall for kids to use while they’re “experimenting,” which is cute, but the Kinder Lab isn’t much of a lab: it’s more of a play area with a very few novel toys.
There is an air machine that pumps air through a vacuum-like hose; Peanut liked being able to control which way the air blew, but he lost interest quickly. There’s a train table, a wooden log with critters to move around the top, and an enormous chalk board across one wall.
We visited the S.O.A.R. Lab only briefly. It had a section where you could build an arch from foam blocks; this could be fun for an older blind or VI kid to do with his or her family. There’s also a big gear wall that’s very tactile; the gears are magnetic on a big, steel wall, so they’re easy to move and manipulate. Again, your kiddo will need help finding some of the gears, as there is a great deal more wall than gears on the wall.
Mister E. Hotel
The Mister E. Hotel is dedicated to optical illusions. Surprisingly, this might not be so bad for a vision-impaired kiddo as one might think: Efrit, who is also visually-impaired, told me he was able to experience some of the exhibits. It’s not a 100% winner, but it might be worth checking out if your child has a reasonable amount of visual acuity.
The Train Overlook is simple and awesome. It’s a small area with huge windows that overlooks the tracks at Union Station. If your kid loves trains, this is a great place to look at them. At least two trains went by while we were there; they’re big and loud, and Peanut was excited to see them go by.
Science City truly is designed to look like a city, so there are lots of different surfaces and tactile elements to the structure itself. It’s fairly open and easy to navigate as well, although we do strongly recommend getting a map. It was absolutely swarming with children when we first got there–there were at least three school groups in attendance–which made it a bit overwhelming at first, particularly because the kids were loud and racing everywhere. Once the kids headed out, it was a fairly calm place for us to explore with our son. I think Science City is worth a visit if you have older (school age) children, but I’d skip it for tiny tots like Peanut.
Note: not everything works in all exhibits. There are some stations that are broken or malfunctioning.