STEM is Center Stage at Denver Science Museum
We are science nerds. And we’re not afraid to admit it. Every member of our family has an interest in natural science. Those interests are peaked at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. From Planetarium and IMAX shows to the more than 4.3 million artifacts on permanent exhibit, to the traveling shows, we always find something new to see and to learn.
Here is a quick guide of all you need to know to enjoy the museum.
Ready to discover the final frontier? At space Odyssey, you can explore the outer confines of our solar system and universe.
The exhibition includes a plethora of interactive displays. You try to dock the space shuttle. Computers guide you to see topographical images of earth. You may zoom in on a continent or ocean to see what it looks like from the air. Docents project images of planets on a giant sphere and explain our knowledge of the planet.
You can watch a replica of the Martian surface and even watch someone walk on the surface while taking questions from the crowd.
And the brace can purchase tickets to ride on a virtual reality simulation ride.
We enjoyed a tour of the solar system at the Planetarium show.
Insider Tip: Skip the lines. You can purchase tickets online for easy entry into the museum.
Gems and Minerals
You may be lost for hours admiring all the bling at this exhibit.
The exhibit includes a replica of the Mexican crystal palace. Gemstones from around the world are displayed.
One of the more interesting exhibits includes sculpture by Ukrainian artist Vasily Konovalenko. The gemstone carvings depict Russian folk life. They are whimsical and the expressions of the people in the sculpture are adorable.
We also enjoy the gemstones found in Colorado, from aquamarine and amazonite, to the rare rhodochrosite. The rhodochrosite on display is stunningly large and beautiful.
Gold mining is important in Colorado history, and the exhibit explains and celebrates that history. On display is the largest gold nugget found in the state.
This one draws the attention of every toddler int he museum.. The taxidermy animals, representing species around the world, cover to floors of the building. Those kids who live in the city can see grizzly bears, moose, muskox, elk, and walrus, to name a few.
Throughout the exhibit, you can listen to the sounds of an elk and other animals. Kids (and adults) enjoy seeing the size of the larger species.
We enjoy the massive tree trunk found on the second floor. You can read the tree rings to discover how old the tree was. Markers within the rings display historical events from that year.
Insider Tip: Arrive early. There are fewer crowds during the early hours, giving you more time and space to enjoy the exhibits. It’s also easier to get Planetarium and IMAX tickets to early shows.
How do our bodies work? You find the answer to this question at the Expedition Health exhibit.
Throughout the tour, you use all of your sense and learn how your body works. Kids enjoy a rock climbing wall. They also enjoy the Genetics of Taste Lab, where they can learn all about how taste buds operate.
The central display includes two cadaver specimens, one a full skeleton, and one showing muscles and tendons. A word of caution: the second specimen is male, and genitals are in full view for the questioning young tike. If you’re not comfortable having a discussion with your young one, you should quickly walk past the display.
The exhibition is the most hands-on, interactive one at the museum. As you enter the exhibit, you will be handed a card. Place the card into the computer terminals and enter information about your age, sex, and physical condition. Throughout Expedition Health, you can insert your card into the machine and perform a number of physical tasks. When you leave the exhibit, enter your card into the computer terminal, and you get a print out of your health (heart rate, etc). Our kids enjoyed this. Wary of the results, I chose not to print out my findings.
The Phipps IMAX theater is a 440-seat, four and one half story tall screen showing the latest IMAX films, many in 3D. Additional fees apply.
Our family checked out the latest “Pandas” film in 3D during a recent visit. We were impressed with the quality of 3D on the IMAX screen. Movie technology continues making great strides.
The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District hosts a number of free admission days at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and other area Museums. Check their calendar for information on free admission days. Some special exhibits, IMAX and Planetarium are not included in the free admission.
One of our favorite exhibits at the museum. Two female mummies are the centerpieces of the Egyptian Mummies room. The mummies were brought to Colorado in 1905 by entrepreneur Andrew McClelland. They are on permanent display.
The mummies date back to 2900 BC and 2400 BC. It was once thought that the different stages of decay in the specimens was a result of socioeconomic difference among the two women. Recent research, using new advanced technology, proves instead that the difference are a result of the 500 year age gap of the two specimens.
The Egyptian Mummies also displays sarcophagus from other mummies and details the theology of the ancient peoples.
You feel like you are on an archaeological dig site, without actually traveling to Egypt.
Dinos. Dinos. Dinos.
Prehistoric Journey takes you through time. You watch video displays explaining how scientists believe the earth was formed 3.5 billion years ago. Then you take a trip through the oceans to a ancient time, discovering single cell organisms. You see trilobites and other sea animals.
You climb up a staircase (or take an elevator if you are toting a stroller), where you discover prehistoric insects and plants.
Finally, you start to see prehistoric dinosaurs. an overlook allows you to looks down upon the massive beasts, urging you to descend the staircase to find more.
And you do find more. From an 80-foot Diplodocus that will make you feel like an insect, to Allosaurus and Stegosauraus in an eternal battle for dominance. You can measure yourself against the prehistoric giants, or just admire the casts of dinosaurs and fossils of over-sized sea monsters.
Our favorite part of the exhibit is the science lab, where you can watch workers through a glass window chip away at stone to uncover ancient bones.
The museum has a few rotating exhibits as well. Some require extra fees. Others are included with your museum admission. Exhibits have included the Dead Sea Scrolls, Viking artifacts, Creatures of Light (about bioluminescent plants and animals), Whales, and The Silk Road to name a few.
Outdoor Splash Park
What is inside the museum building is impressive, but the kids also enjoy getting outside. On the western side of the museum, you can take a walk through a large lawn which overlooks a lake and see the breathtaking views of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains.
The kids, however, love to run through the splash park on site. On a hot day, you find kids giggling as they run through the blasts of water jetting in the air. While the museum charges admission, frolicking in the splash pond is free.
A trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a must-do for families traveling in Denver. A family can easily spend a day investigating, learning, and playing at the museum. There are enough exhibits to keep everyone in your family entertained. An extra stop at the in-house Planetarium or IMAX theater should also be considered.
The museum is next door to the Denver Zoo, so those wanting to see both could easily do so in a full day.
Do you like natural history museums? Which is your favorite? What type of exhibits do you enjoy. We’d love to know. Tell us in the comments.
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