Exploring Science Museum Oklahoma
Part one of our whirlwind Oklahoma City weekend adventure!
The last weekend of March 2019 was notable for a couple reasons: 1) It was unseasonably cold! and 2) Daniel, Joss and I took what may have been our first family vacation that didn’t involve visiting family. I don’t love driving at high speeds, so road trips are not on my list of favorite activities–plus, Daniel often works on weekends so it can be hard to get away. But I’d spent a couple weeks working on a Route 66 article for TulsaKids’ May issue, and felt inspired to finally see some of the sites I was reading and writing about! We went to Oklahoma City, stopping at Pops, Science Museum Oklahoma and other attractions.
Joss in his road trip attire, complete with “Mr. Squish Man,” a gift from Decopolis
Pops 66 Soda Ranch
We left Saturday morning and did not travel Route 66 for our whole journey, choosing to take the faster route–but we did take a detour to visit Pops 66 Soda Ranch in Arcadia, OK. I knew Joss would go giddy over the walls of soda bottles (picking out “his red soda” was apparently his favorite part of the whole trip), and we’d heard good things about their diner, so it seemed like a fun place to stop for breakfast as well as browsing. Make sure you look to your right when you’re a couple minutes away from Pops, so you don’t miss the Arcadia Round Barn, another famous Route 66 attraction!
Daniel and I both chose “The Mother Road” breakfast. Delicious! And they conveniently open at 6 a.m.!
Science Museum Oklahoma
One great thing about making a Pops stop on your way into Oklahoma City is that by the time you’re there, you’re probably less than half an hour away from your destination! It was only about 19 minutes from Pops to Science Museum Oklahoma. SMO is located in Oklahoma City’s Adventure District, and I was surprised to see that it is literally right next door to the OKC Zoo. So you could easily divide your day up between the two attractions without even having to move your car! On the way to SMO, we drove past both the Oklahoma Railway Museum and the Oklahoma Firefighters Museum, and more. Further down the road is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, a mere minutes away.
Now, we could have spent an entire day at SMO, but we had a date with the National Cowboy Museum in the afternoon (look for an upcoming blog post about that!), so we only spent about 3 hours here, I think, which meant that we had time to experience a lot of the museum but not time enough to go really in-depth as far as the science behind the fun activities.
After picking up our tickets, a display of curiousities caught our eye, so we spent some time ooh-ing over a double-headed cow, giant fish and aardvark skeletons before heading to CurioCity, located to the right of admissions.
I’d first heard about CurioCity a couple years ago, when I was a GTA grading papers for a communications class at OSU. The students were instructed to come up with an advertising plan for CurioCity, which opened in the summer of 2015. So it was fun to finally see it in person! According to SMO’s website, “CurioCity, pronounced “curiosity,” is a 20,000-square-foot village featuring eight whimsical
neighborhoods where familiar meets the fanciful as children get a taste of the wonderful world of science.”
Joss loves Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch, so he was eager to pose with “Mr. Silly Walks Man”!
I couldn’t name off all eight neighborhoods at this point without cheating, but our first stop was BrainiAct, directly to the right of the entrance, where Joss enjoyed dressing up and playing actor/stagehand on the stage. There is a “backstage” area, complete with makeup counter mirrors (no makeup, don’t worry) and chests of costumes.
While Joss didn’t “collaborate with others to create productions to develop social skills and teamwork” (from the SMO website), he did enjoy moving the set curtains back and forth and hiding behind them.
Our next stop was Riffs & Rhythms, which was all about music! My favorite was the washboard people; Joss enjoyed a wooden drum set and chimes.
The inside of a piano!
Both the “Hands and Feats” and “Spark Park” neighborhoods had a delightful carnival atmosphere. I loved the aesthetics throughout CurioCity–it all felt a little bit steampunk-y, which is a lot of fun! A favorite attraction in Hands and Feats was the tightrope, and “Spark Park” included a small, human-powered carousel, which was a hit with Joss.
Unstable Table teaches about balance/weight distribution
Among other features, there is also a large water play area, which we peeked at but decided against, not wanting to be wet for the rest of the day! But as we left the area, we realized that there was a heat lamp drying area, so file that away as helpful information for your next visit 🙂
A Science Museum Oklahoma employee had advised us ahead of time that there is a ride-on mini excavator in the Gardens, so even though it was a chilly day, we knew Joss would not want to miss riding on the “digger.” It was fun to step outside of the noise into the Gardens anyway; in addition to the diggers, there were some nice art pieces, a garden gnome photo op, a rabbit hutch, lawn games, etc.
The Second Floor
View of The Science Floor from the second floor–this entire area is full of different sections/activities, including Segway Park, which you can see on the right
Our first stop on the second floor was the space exhibit! Here, we were able to view NASA artifacts, including a MIR toilet (which I kept misreading as Mr. Toilet), space suits from various missions, etc. Also, Joss and I were able to climb inside a mini shuttlecraft that rocked backward as a SMO employee walked us through liftoff!
Past the space exhibit, we came to an area themed around the Olympics, Power Play, which had an obstacle course and gymnastics center–this whole area was a great place for kids to be active and let off some steam–in addition to learning about how bodies work!
Next, we came to Mind Games, an exhibit all about optical illusions! This was one of my (many) favorite parts of the museum–it was brightly colored, there were lots of interactive elements–and illusions are just fun!
A few video highlights from our visit, including two optical illusions from Mind Games
And finally, an unexpected treat for our family was a small exhibit–but dear to our hearts because Daniel is a mechanic/partner at City Cycles in Jenks, so bicycles are pretty important to us! Cycle Dynamics (I believe it is called) showcased an impressive number of historical bicycles, from the early “Boneshakers” to more modern–but vintage–steel frames. There was also a recreation of the Wright Brother’s bicycle shop!
4-seat tandem! Who wants to go with me?! 🙂
A final notable feature of the second floor is Big Game Theory, where visitors can play large-scale versions of popular games; we didn’t have the time to do this, but just so you know: it’s an option!
After a quick lunch in Pavlov’s Cafe (a great place to grab a bite to eat in the middle of a long day of exploration!), we walked past a real-life 1929 Pullman Car, which is adjacent to the Tiny Tracks exhibit, another thing we didn’t quite have time for, although I’m sure Joss would have gone wild for the massive miniature train set! I would have LOVED to have been able to walk through the Pullman Car, but alas you could only look through the windows and imagine yourself a rich person traveling by train in the 1920s. Oh, it was so beautiful–lush red fabric and lace everywhere!
On the other side of the train was the airplane exhibit, which houses several historical airplanes as well as a couple cockpits kids can climb into. Joss loved being a pilot for a few minutes.
A Note for Nursing Mothers
SMO has two nursing rooms on the ground floor. This nursing room inside of CurioCity is probably the most attractive one I’ve ever seen!
All right, that wraps up the first part of our Oklahoma City trip! For those of you who have gone to Science Museum Oklahoma recently, what were your favorite attractions? Obviously, we missed some key elements like the Planetarium, but we still felt like we had a good, full experience! What else does your family like to do in Oklahoma City?
Check back next week for a walk-through of our time at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum!