What to do on your 43rd visit to the Boston Museum of Science

Another in our ongoing series: What We Did This Summer.

OK, so maybe we haven’t really been to the Boston Museum of Science 43 times this year, but sometimes when I’m waiting while my daughter digs in the midden for discarded shells and old arrowheads, flies the Apollo space capsule to the moon again, or watches the How a Fossil is Formed video for what must be the hundredth time, it sure can feel like it.

So where do you go when your preschooler has memorized the permanent dinosaur exhibit, categorized the complete contents of the midden heap, swarmed the Butterfly Garden, grown tired of the Apollo and Mercury space capsules, eked every last bit of joy out of the orbiting marbles in Mathematica, and despaired of the chaos in Science in the Park?

The Discovery Center

General view, Museum of Science, Boston, Massa...

Science in the Park (Image: Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons)

Tucked between the Planetarium and the Riverview Cafe on the first floor of the Museum’s Red Wing, from the outside the Discovery Center looks like a small and not very interesting cubbyhole.

Most people passing by only see a not-very-enticing bookshelf full of rocks, a few stuffed animals (stuffed in the caught-in-the-wild-and-preserved-through-taxidermy sense), and a line of empty strollers by the entrance.

We’ve walked by it hundreds of times without once being tempted to go in. In fact, we only went there at all because a docent who recognized my daughter from her many visits to Triceratops Cliff asked her if she’d like to touch a real dinosaur fossil, and when she said yes, led us there.

What’s there:

  • A water table with a complete assortment of toy fish, boats, and nets for hours of happy water play
  • A bee hive, complete with larvae, bee finger puppets, pollen pellets, and bee costumes to entertain your little honeybee
  • A robin’s nest, for those who prefer to play at being a bird
  • A staffed Science Experiment station with a rotating set of experiments to entice young chemists, physicists, and engineers
  • The Midden Heap

    A large mystery animal skeleton that you and your child can assemble on the floor

  • A wall full of Discovery boxes with fossils, bones, field tools, and other items designed to help you and your child explore a specific topic in-depth
  • A variety of animals, both live and stuffed, scattered about to be touched and/or examined up close
  • A Geology field station (that bookshelf full of rocks)
  • A separate play / nap area for infants under a year old
  • A small reading lounge

And that’s just the first floor. There’s more upstairs, if you have any energy left to visit it.

If I were running the Museum I would seriously consider changing the face the Discovery Center presents to the outside world. Those rocks don’t do the place justice. (Unless of course, the Museum needs to fool passers-by into thinking the Discovery Center is a very dull place indeed to keep the crowds inside it at manageable levels.)

BTW: I wish I could show you some pictures of this place, but sadly we were so busy at the Center that I simply forgot to break out the camera, which is why this post is peppered with photos of our usual haunts.

The Pseudosphere in Mathematica

When to go

Immediately after a snow storm. You’ll have the Discovery Center–and its docents–to yourself while everyone is still shoveling out. If you must visit in summer or during school vacation week, either plan to arrive at the Museum right at 10 o’clock or after 3 to beat the crowds.

What to take with you

A child under the age of 8. You can’t get in to the Discovery Center without one.

So would we go again?


Logistical Stuff

Where Museum of Science, Boston’s Discovery Center 
What A section of the Museum where you will find an assortment of hands-on activities designed to please scientists age 0 – 8.
Address 1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114
Phone 1-617-723-2500
Twitter @museumofscience
Facebook Museum of Science, Boston
Flickr Museum of Science, Boston’s photostream
YouTube Museum of Science, Boston
Email information@mos.org
Cost Included with admission to Exhibit Halls. Admission to Exhibit Halls is free for members. Non-member Exhibit Hall prices: $22/adult, $20/seniors, $19/children ages 3-11.
Hours Discovery Center

  • Saturday – Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.
  • Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, September 26 – Friday, September 30,  Closed for yearly maintenance

(Discovery Center only, hours for the rest of the Museum listed here.)

Related Caterpickles:


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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8 Responses to What to do on your 43rd visit to the Boston Museum of Science

  1. Sheila says:

    I loved the math exhibit. Gave me ideas to use in the Euclidean/noneuclidean class we teach at UD.


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