Whether you only have a hour or two to fill, or whether you are looking at a full day experience for you and your children, the Arizona Science Center is a great choice when you want an educational experience that will never be forgotten. There are three full floors of exhibits, experiments and adventures. What other place on earth can your child lay on a completely real bed of nails, ride a bicycle across a suspended cable, or even experience what a hurricane or tornado feels like?
Staff members from Phoenix.org were invited to do a walk-through tour of the Arizona Science Museum in early April and naturally we jumped at the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with one of the Valley of the Sun’s most beloved adventures. Below you will find a little write up of our time at the center as well as some pictures that were taken during the visit.
The first thing that a person notices while walking into the Arizona Science Museum is the sheer size of the structure. The open design allows a visitor to look from the bottom floor up through both the second and third floors. This certainly is a far cry from what was present back in 1984 when the center was a small 10,000 square foot storefront exhibition space located in the parking garage level of the downtown Phoenix Hyatt. Now-a-days the Center boasts over 120,000 feet of display space alone, an I-max movie theater, three full floors of exhibits as well as a gift shop and concession stand. We are not kidding when we say that there are literally hundreds of things that a person or child can find to do there, and most of them will leave the child having learned something new.
The first exhibit that we saw while touring the facility was the Sky Cycle, a metal bicycle that is counterbalanced with a weight that allows riders, after they have been strapped in, to ride the bicycle across a metal cable. Oh ya, did we mention that while doing this the riders are 14 feet in the air! The ride typically lasts about 3 minutes and consists of the rider pedaling the bicycle about 60 feet across the extended cable and then pedaling backwards over the length again to get back to the platform. Typically at some point in time most riders, after beginning to feel comfortable with the balancing of the bike, will actually shift it back and forth which causes the bike to sway. This supposedly makes the experience even more exciting although it is not something that I chose to do.
After our experience at the Sky Cycle we were ready to try something a little less adventurous so naturally we found our way to the “Get Charged Up” exhibit where we could take a relaxing few minutes and lay down on a bed of nails, yes, you heard me right, we laid down on a bed of nails! To be more direct a person actually lays down on a flat piece of Plexiglas with hundreds of circular holes in it. After the person is settled on the Plexiglas they press a red button and in a uniform movement
nails slowly extend from the holes and lift the person’s body about an inch and a half above the level of the plastic. The nails are sufficiently dull enough and your weight is sufficiently distributed enough that not only do you not feel any pain while laying on the nails but you actually have to pay very close attention to even be able to tell that your body is being raised up by the nails.
Also in the “Get Charged Up” exhibit are smaller exhibits on generators, pulley’s and an electromagnetic workbench where objects move before your very eyes. The pulley tug of war was fun, especially for my 130lbs wife that, thanks to a properly located pulley (as well as a “positive mental attitude” in her opinion) was able to out-pull me in a tug of war contest. If only we could have used a pulley system back in elementary school. Surely then my class would have won the coveted “Tug-of-War” trophy that I so desperately wanted.
Just off the stairway between the 2nd and 3rd levels is what is called the “Music Landing”. This was one of my favorite areas of the Center. There is one exhibit made up of iron shavings that move in time to the music of your choice. “Flight of the Bumblebee” has never been so entertaining as it is when piles of iron shavings dance back and forth with the pitch of the piccolo. There are also a series of large pipes that when your ear is placed up against the bottom cause you to hear a very low pitch, showing that there is truly music everywhere.
On the third floor you will find three of the best exhibits in the Center, these are “Forces of Nature”, “The Science of Fear” and “My Digital World”.
“Forces of Nature” is a large circular standing platform complete with a television screen above you. The narrator then explains the various types of natural forces that we experience in Arizona from floods, to monsoons to intense desert heat. The participants then get to experience each of these “Forces of Nature” with wind and rain present for the monsoon and heat lamps that turn on for the desert scenes. It is quite the experience.
The “Science of Fear” allows a participant to experience many of the most common types of fears such as the fear of spiders, fear of heights and the fear of falling. The fear of falling exhibit was one of the most popular. In this one the participant is strapped securely to a bench and the bench is then suddenly dropped backward making use of a pivot joint in the bench. As if the fear of falling was not enough a camera also takes of picture of the face of the participant just as the free fall begins.
One of the most memorable exhibits at “My Digital World” was the facial structure reorganization exhibit. In this exhibit you were able to adjust a picture of your face and warp it into shapes and forms that seem to be strait from Picasso’s newest painting, he does have a new painting doesn’t he? In this exhibit I was able to see a picture of my lovely wife’s face that in all honesty I hope I never have to see again.
Our final experience at the Center was a 30 minute video in the IMAX theater on Black Holes. The video was very interesting and seeing it projected on a dome that was 30 feet above your head just added to the excitement and mystery that are black holes.
In conclusion the Arizona Science Center is a wonderful place to spend a day, or an hour, with your children or even someone else’s. They have affordable entrance fees, especially if you sign up for a yearly package and it is the kind of place that children will enjoy going back to again and again. We recommend that you take the time to experience it for your self, and tell them that Phoenix.org sent you…
Phoenix.org routinely does reviews of local attractions, restaurants, and more. If you know of a location that you would like to have reviewed then please contact us and let us know.