Ever wanted to travel to a galaxy far, far away for a view of the night sky (minus the clouds and light pollution)? If you answered yes, the Pierce College Science Dome in Lakewood gets the job done without needing to launch in a rocket ship. With two genres of planetarium shows that cater to space explorers of all ages, interest levels and attention spans, your crew can embark on a journey through the cosmos they’ll love to the moon and back.

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photo: Pierce College Science Dome

The Launch Pad
Located at Pierce College Fort Steillacoom is the Science Dome, a state of the art digital-planetarium and the only one of its kind in the South Sound region. From the moment your pint-sized space cadet walks into the theater they will be mystified by the 38′ dome-shaped screen, cleverly illuminated with rainbow lighting giving the aura of boarding an alien vessel. There are 58 seats to choose from, but your kids will love getting a spot right in front where pillows have been spread out on the floor for them to lounge on and gaze up at the mock night sky. Everyone will ooh and aah as two projectors display astonishing representations of celestial bodies making it easy to forget not only where they are, but that they are learning complex science concepts.

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photo: Pierce College Science Dome

Children’s Show
The staff at the Science Dome know that junior astronomers don’t want to sit through a boring college science lecture, so they have created a short (just 40-50 minutes) children’s show that is entirely interactive and geared towards kids between the ages of 3-8. The presentation consists of out-of-this-world hands on activities (think crazy glasses for exploring the light spectrum, building a mini-satellite, or bouncing on the moon) an overview of the current night sky, and a legendary story about the constellations.

Whether you have a preschooler who just loves hearing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over (and over) again or a mini-Galileo on your hands, everyone will walk away inspired with curiosity for our majestic universe. Show topics rotate regularly and include themes such as comets, asteroids, moons, the auroras, and more giving oodles of reason to return again and again.

Times: Sat., 12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.
Cost: $3/kids, free for accompanying adults

Science Dome 3

photo: Rachael Brandon

All-Ages Show
Older star-gazers who are ready to dig deeper into the wonders of our universe without all the bells and whistles of a kid-centric program will love the all-ages show. During the first half-hour the whole family will enjoy a live presentation that includes an exploration of the current night sky, learning about upcoming celestial events, and a visit to some awesome extraterrestrial bodies. Following is an amazing full-dome video selected from a rotation of topics where explorers can blast off to the moons of our galaxy, explore the depths of space, and time-travel back to our own planet’s ancient past.

Helpful Hint
Video descriptions are available on the planetarium’s blog as well as the recommended minimum ages. Psst! Most shows are suitable for the early elementary school age-set.

Times: Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat. 3:15 p.m.; Wed. (summer only) 1 p.m. & 2:15 p.m.
Cost: $6/adults, $3/children

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photo: Pierce College Science Dome

Fuel Up
Wanna get your caffeine fix before zooming off into space? Just a two-mile detour will take you to the historic town of Steilacoom and the Topside Coffee Cabin (located under the Topside Bar and Grill). Not only is the coffee delish, but there’s a stellar view of the Puget Sound to admire!

Lot A, located just inside the north entrance of the campus is the most convenient for accessing the dome. Signs for the Science Dome will direct you toward the Rainier building, which is located adjacent to the back section of the lot.

Good to Know
Reservations can be made online for an additional (small) fee. Only cash is accepted at the door for ticket purchases, so be sure to bring your moola.

Pierce College Science Dome
Rainier Building 263-9401
9401 Farwest Dr. S.W.
Lakewood, Wa 98498
Online: wp.pierce.ctc.edu/blog/sciencedome

Have you visited the Pierce College Science Dome? Tell us about your experience in a comment below. 

— Rachael Brandon