The Science Factory is a children's museum where kids can explore scientific concepts in a welcoming, hands on environment. They have a traveling exhibit that changes a few times a year, as well as some things that are permanent fixtures. There's also an exploration dome (aka planetarium).
It's located in Alton Baker Park, just south of Autzen Stadium. (Their parking lot is used for football games, so they're closed on game days.)
Visiting the Science Factory:
- Just getting there is fun: the parking lot is a little ways away from the building, so to get there, you park and walk down a lovely little path lined with ponds which often have all sorts of fun birds splashing about. There are even benches so you can hang out and let the littles run.
- Inside, the exhibits are geared towards kids elementary school age and older. Now, I've been taking my little there since he was two, and it is still very easy to enjoy everything. Just not on a super technical level. :)
- In the back corner of the building, there's a corner called the Tot Spot that is meant for kids ages five and under. There's a little ball pit, a bunch of blocks, puppets, a very cool ship, and a highly sought after/slightly dangerous (watch where you're swinging that crane!) excavator. It's a very popular place to hang out.
- The exploration dome is recommended for elementary age and up, but they are working on getting a preschool show together. Do me a favor and ask the staff about it. Maybe if enough of us ask it will light a little fire and we can make it happen!
- Before you visit, check out the website - there is a free printable scavenger hunt that I think would be a big hit. I haven't done it with my littles yet, but am planning on it!
- Busy times with big crowds: weekends and May (schools do field trips).
- Slow times: during the week (we've gone plenty of times when there are only a handful of other people there. It's great!) and the summer.
- Here are some ways to extend your trip: take advantage of the dog park nearby, the awesome bike paths, and the 20 min walk to the main part of Alton Baker park, the part with the solar system model. Pack a picnic yo!
- The Science Factory is the perfect place to visit on a rainy day. If you have a membership, it's always free to visit, so you can go for just 45 minutes or whatever and it's totally worth it. Love it.
- Carolyn Rebbert, Executive Director, and Emily Shelton, Marketing and Communications Director, were kind enough to sit down and chat with me a bit. When I asked if there was anything they wanted to share with folks, they said three things:
#1. They welcome feedback.
#2. Kids enjoy the museum most when they interact with the exhibits with an adult.
#3. They love kids and visitors of all ages, so please visit soon and often! (Okay so they didn't directly say that last part, but it was definitely implied.) :)
- They host two open houses each year: one on Earth Day (coming up on April 19) and the other in December. Everyone gets in free on those days, so it's a great chance to check it out.
- Every first Friday of the month is Tot Discovery Day. From 9 am - noon, they have themed activities designed for littles ages five and younger. These are very fun and popular, and usually pretty darn busy. I will be honest - I used to watch a precious friend of ours who is five weeks older than my kiddo, and I took them both to Tot Day many times. With two busy and eager explorers in a very crowded museum, it was a challenge. (Bless all ye parents of twins and more!) Eventually I stopped going to Tot Days and just took them during the week when I knew it would be less crowded. Braver people than me totally can rock it with multiple littles. I am just wimpy about crowds. That's all. Tot Days cost money, but not if you're a member!!
- Kids in grades 1-6 can attend all day workshops on no-school days. So fun! Discounted rate for members.
- Spring break and summer are filled with chances to visit the Science Factory for workshops and camps. Summer camps fill up fast - registration starts in March. Members not only get a discount, but also get to register a few weeks sooner than nonmembers. Doesn't that make you feel cool? I know!
- Here's a brand new opportunity: hour long workshops for homeschooled kiddos are now being offered on Tuesdays. Again, discounts for members.
- Girls in grades 4-6 can check out the Girls' Science Adventures on Saturdays. From 9 am to noon, little ladies can explore all sorts of scientific stuff. Some of these workshops take place on the UO campus. What an amazing way for girls to get exposure to labs, professional scientists, and all sorts of great role models. Each adventure costs $20, but not if you're a member!!
- Looking for somewhere to have your kiddo's birthday party so you don't have to clean your house? Look no further. The Science Factory lets you bring in your own food, gives you a private room for your guests to eat in after they've enjoyed the exhibits, and provides staff members to lead the littles through hands-on science experiments. We were invited to our first Science Factory party last month, and it was super fun.
- If your teenager is scientifically inclined, the Science Factory would love to welcome them as a volunteer! Excellent way to fill up those required service hours. Visit the "Get Involved" section on the website.
- Other special events happen at the Science Factory all the time. You can meet a giant tortoise, watch astronomy demonstrations, make prints of microscopic cells, or challenge yourself with some hands-on geometry activities. Not all at the same time - that would be nuts. But it seems like something special and interesting is always happening at the Science Factory.
- There's a newsletter on the website that will give you all the details about Science Factory goodness. Read it.
Parking: A nice big free lot.
Cost: Ages 3-61 - $4 for either museum admission or an Exploration Dome show, $7 for both
Resting/nursing spots: there are several benches scattered throughout the museum
Time frame: half an hour to all afternoon!
At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I really do recommend getting a membership. In addition to all the great stuff I already mentioned, here's the added bonus:
Through the ASTC Travel Passport Program your Science Factory membership currently gets you in FOR FREE to the following:
- A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village - This is AMAZING. We stop almost every time we pass through Salem. Please go there. Like now.
- Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum - Home of the Spruce Goose. Way too much text and not nearly hands on enough to earn the double thumbs up from me as far as being suitable for kids of all ages, but the planes are super impressive and it is 100% worth the trip if you are anywhere near McMinnville.
- Oregon Museum of Science/Industry (OMSI) - Such a hit. Every time.
- Portland Children's Museum - We could live here if they let us. Shares a parking lot with the zoo, which makes it a total pain. Go during the week, never ever ever on the weekend.
We have taken advantage of the free admission to these places more times than I can count. It's so amazing to be able to visit for free - it totally takes the pressure off. If someone gets cranky or tired or you forgot to pack snacks or the diaper leaks, it doesn't matter - just go home and come back another day. So much nicer than gritting your teeth and growling under your breath about how you paid $84 to get in so everyone BETTER smile and enjoy themselves or else.
Also these are free but I've never visited them so I can't vouch for their coolness. Maybe someone else can?
- ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum - Ashland
- Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory - Sunriver
- A whole list of other places in Washington, California, Idaho, Nevada, and Alaska!
Go enter, quickly!!
To enter, tell us what YOU like about the Science Factory. If you've never been, mention something that Megan told us about that you're looking forward to checking out.
We will draw winners on Thursday night at 10pm!
Megan Defferding is the mom to two super fun boys who love to find great stuff to do all around Lane County! Check out her blog series, Happy Adventuring, weekly on GoMomGo.