Nov 29 2007

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Fabulous & free: Orlando vacations, Part 1

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By Samantha Chapnick

Craft_table_2The Orlando Science Center may not have “children” or “museum” in its name, but that doesn’t stop it from serving as one for locals.

The science center is must-do, in my opinion, for families with kids (11 & younger) seeking amusement beyond the theme parks or on a rainy day during an Orlando vacation.

It’s a blend between a children’s museum with exclusively science-related exhibits and a science center targeting kids 11 and younger, and it does both well enough to intelligently amuse the average kid for at least 6 hours.

Right now, the top floor is the hub of scientific exploration with four main exhibits.

Dinosaur_exhibit The two that occupied our 6-year-old the longest were the dinosaur room with life-size casts of several species, two pits where she dug for bones, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that roars and moved at her command; and the BodyZone where she was thrilled to enter a giant mouth, play with “blood” and learn why evil mom’s always forcing her to eat more fruits and veggies.

She enjoyed milking a cow in The Dairy Science center as a gaggle of tweens was screaming while experiencing a full force hurricane.

We didn’t spend much time at the one place that is more relevant to older children, Dr. Dare’s Lab. It was intriguing with numerous computer workstations, microscopes and other interactive equipment. Water_table_in_kids_town_2

That is set to change with the opening of two new exhibits: The Titanic Experience and discover The Daytona 500. Both are mega-exhibits with ample artifacts to engage a wider age range.

The bottom floor is kid-dom, part children’s museum and part zoo. Kid’s Town is basically an indoor playground for preschoolers with a water table, “space shuttle” and an orange packing “factory.”

NatureWorks is a habitat for live alligators (small, young ones), turtles, and other reptiles and bugs.

There were two activity centers that attracted crowds of kids. One was a “gross” workshop making things like scabs, slime and other untouchables. This was filled primarily with older boys. The other was a crafts corner where kids were decorating holiday cutouts with crayons and markers. Many a tense moment passed in this spot when kids were called on to share their color.

Like most dual-purpose facilities, there are a few compromises. Where a children’s museum is focused on getting energy out through playspaces, aside from Kid’s Town I couldn’t find a playspace for older kids.

By the same token, some of the exhibits are a bit dated or in need of upgrading. A continually looping documentary on twins was clearly shot in the ’70s.

Still, for members of any reciprocal Association of Science Technology Centers (there are 280 children’s museums and science centers on the list) admission is  free. For others the fee is minimal and of course, anyone can join and get in free to the other 279.

Do you have a favorite children’s museum or science center?
Please share it with us in the comments section below.

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Posted on: November 29, 2007 | Tags: , , | Category: Family timeCategory: Florida VacationCategory: Freebies & DiscountsCategory: Orlando Vacation

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