Our family loves space! We love looking at the stars, learning about the planets, and watching the International Space Station fly through the sky. So it makes sense that one of our favorite places to visit is the Clark Planetarium. The planetarium just got a makeover, so we went to check it out!
Clark Planetarium is FREE! You can walk through the exhibits and do all the experiments for free, and we love that! There aren’t too many museums like this that don’t have a fee. They have movies and light shows in their dome theater that cost, but we usually skip those to keep our adventure really cheap. You do have to pay for parking at the Gateway. We paid $1 because the first hour is free and the next hour cost us $1.
The new exhibits are very hands-on, which was really fun for all of our boys no matter the age. On the first floor there is a large earth in the center of the room. There is also a desk to buy tickets to the shows, a gift shop, and my boys tried to land a lunar rover on the moon. There is also a smaller area on this level where you can see the Foucalt Pendulum that has been at the Clark Planetarium for ages, as well as meteors, and a few other exhibits about earthquakes, lightning, and the moon.
On the second level there is a small snack bar where you can buy some food (you can also buy food at the restaurants in the Gateway). Near the snack bar is the entrance to the dome theater and also a few interactive screens where you move your arms to affect the Aurora Borealis or the planets. You will also find the bottom of Newton’s Dream. It is an audio-kinetic sculpture that extends from the 2nd level up to the 3rd. We spent a lot of time watching this sculpture, and there are also levers that the kids can turn to change the different mazes for the balls to travel through. This is definitely one of the highlights at the planetarium. You can watch or play with Newton’s Dream on either level.
The third floor has most of the exhibits and we spent most of our time at the planetarium. There are fun science experiments to try such as making a tornado, or watching ice freeze, or figuring out how much you would weigh in different places in space. Our boys liked forecasting the weather for different planets next to the green screen, and I was fascinated with the different smells from space. We also tried to land a Mars rover on a bullseye, built rockets and flew them into space, and found blackholes. It was so fun!
There is obviously information everywhere to help you understand what is happening as you play with science. A lot of the exhibits are with touch screens so you can virtually practice doing different space activities. They have definitely moved Clark Planetarium up into the technological world.
One of the best new parts of the planetarium is the Kid Space, which is a play area for kids (and adults). There is a rocket to climb into, and a slide, but if you climb inside you will find lots of tunnels, and fun places to explore. My boys played here at two different times and they loved it.
Clark Planetarium is definitely worth a visit. It is great for all ages. You might need to help your little one participate in some of the experiments and work the screens, but our four year-old did really well on his own. I had to drag the kids out to the car and only after I promised we would come back on the weekend with their father, and I think I had more fun than they did! If you are looking for a fun place to spend a few hours for FREE, visit Clark Planetarium.