To make up for all that time we spent not paying attention during science class, we’re often forcibly bringing our kids to museums in the hopes of feeding them a little brain food. But we took a page out of Sid the Science Kid’s book and found a place that seamlessly blends science and fun into one awesome center that’s great for kids of all ages. For those of us who never thought the words “science” and “fun” could be used in the same sentence, pack up your little learners and meet us at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego’s Balboa Park. We promise it’s well worth the few hours of entertainment (and learning, wink wink) and when the kids have had their fill, the rest of Balboa Park is rife with family-friendly activities.

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Permanent Exhibits
The bottom floor of the Fleet is filled with interactive exhibits that you can literally play with. Touch a tornado, try your hand at the sound reflecting Whisper Dishes, or keep a ball in the air using the Bernoulli Effect. The Block Bustesr! exhibit can be found upstairs. Here, using Keva planks (little wooden rectangles), budding engineers and architects can build suspension bridges, skyscrapers, boats and so much more. There are 15,000 planks and plenty of examples for inspiration. You won’t be able to resist the urge to knock your creation down after completion. Discover your inner inventor at the Tinkering Studio by following in the inventive footsteps of Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Leonardo da Vinci in the hands-on workshop area. These are just a few of the amazing exhibits open daily.

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Kid City
If you’ve got tots under the age of 5 in your crew, then a visit to Kid City is a must during your visit. Parents can sit back let the little ones explore. Babies in the crawling stage can safely play in the designated Infant Area. The big attraction is the Ball Wall where kids, whether they know it or not, are using the laws of physics to change the ball’s direction. The imagination play areas get kids behind the wheel of a firetruck or manning the conveyor belt at the grocery store. Everything is interactive and begging to be played with, so inquisitive kids will be playing and learning every step of the way. Rejoice as this area (in line with the rest of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center) is very clean, colorful and padded.

Before it Leaves Orbit
Space cadets will learn all about space rocks–asteroids, meteors, comets, and how they were instrumental in the formation of our solar system. Then see how much energy they create when they come crashing into other objects. It’s sure to make quite an impact on your astronomers. These asteroids won’t be in orbit for much longer; the Great Balls of Fire exhibit closes June 11, 2013.

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The World’s First IMAX Dome Theater
Movies in the IMAX theater are perfect kid-length at about 45 minutes per show. Do a bit of research and check the ratings of each movie to make sure it will hold your child’s interest and be age-appropriate. This IMAX movie screen is shaped like a dome so the movies play up and around you, versus right in front of you like a traditional movie theater. Check the schedule before you go, as you want to plan your visit around the showing of a particular IMAX movie.

Currently Showing: Your train crazy kid is likely to never forgive you if you miss Rocky Mountain Express. Little trainiacs will go off the rails when they fly over the Canadian Rockies and follow the creation of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.

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Gift Shop
Don’t roll your eyes! We parents may loathe negotiations that occur in a gift shop, however, this is one to stop into. Everything in it has a learning angle and for less than $6 there are little party favor, stocking-stuffer type toys you can take home. Want a mini DIY Diet Coke and Menthos experiment or bubbles you can hold in your hand? You’d also be surprised by how much fun a preschooler can have with an inexpensive little magnifying glass. Though you can bring home a fancy science lab, if you need a unique gift or a reason to get your kids in the car without whining, go ahead and stop in.

Resident’s Free Tuesday
San Diego County residents get in free to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center on the first Tuesday of every month. A valid ID is required. Make sure that your ID has a San Diego County street address or bring your ID and a utility bill.

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Tips
School groups tend to explore the Fleet in the morning so after 1:00 pm is an ideal time for a weekday visit. The facility is very stroller-friendly though you may not need it at all unless you’re planning a visit to another museum on the same trip. A small cafe is just outside the entrance if you need an emergency drink or snack. The San Diego Natural History Museum is right across the way if you want to stop into both and there’s plenty of pretty space for a picnic at tables outside, near the fountain or in the large grassy areas.

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
1875 El Prado, Balboa Park
San Diego, Ca
(Two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd.)
619 238-1233
Online: rhfleet.org

Hours:

Monday – Thursday:  10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday:  10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday:  10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday:  10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Cost:
Adults: $11.75/With IMAX $15.75
Juniors/Seniors: $9.75/With IMAX $12.75
Family Membership: $84

What was your science kid’s favorite exhibit at the Fleet?

–Katie Dillon

all photos courtesy of Reuben H. Fleet Science Center facebook page