When we were trying to figure out what to do on our one day in Portland during a heat wave, we met some moms in Salem who said we should go to OMSI. To where? To the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. An entity big enough in Portland to warrant its own set of freeway signs.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
1945 SE Water Avenue, Portland, OR 97214-3354
(503) 797-4000 or (800) 955-OMSI (6674)
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:30am-5:30pm (plus Mondays of school holidays; summers open until 7pm)
Prices: $11/adults, $9 kids & seniors, under 3 free. Show your AAA card for a discount. OMNIMAX, Planetarium, some rides & shows, extra.
Parking: $2 but they didn’t actually charge us for it.
It was dinosaur month and they had a special exhibit. A couple of the dinosaurs moved and roared and it took Miriam a few minutes to believe they weren’t going to jump the wall and come after her. Then she asked to go see them and had fun. Even looking at the pictures as I was writing this, she said, “oh I am so scared” (half kidding) and added “are they alive?” We were there almost two months ago but she remembers…
They had both full-featured dinos and some that were just skeletons.
And of course some silly tourist stuff.
Since we had gone to A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Villiage in Salem the day before, I was a little concerned about doing science museums two days in a row. But the places were quite different and Miriam had a blast both times.
OMSI features an OMNIMAX Dome Theater, a Planetarium, and Laser Light Shows, which all cost extra, so we didn’t go. The Featured Exhibit when we were there was the dinosaurs but now has switched to something else.
They also have a Science Playground for children 6 and under, which is a large room with places for parents to sit down and watch their kids play. Any child over 3 would be bored there. The Life Science Hall and Earth Science Hall have a bunch of interactive exhibits that range from fun to lecturey to broken. Most were geared for elementary school age children. Some were old and outdated and some of the newer ones were very patronizing.
They have several labs (chemistry, physics, marine science, etc) there which are mostly for elementary and secondary school aged children.
Where we spent the most time was Turbine Hall, which, ironically, is free to the public. Here you find all the hands on hard science fun that I experienced at science museums both as a kid and as a teacher a couple of decades ago. Miriam’s favorite was the Earthquake House, a little cottage on a moving platform that rocked and rolled to the sounds of Carole King (I felt the earth move under my feet…no, really).
Accessibility: The building is two stories and there are stairs, escalators, and elevators. There were plenty of places to sit and rest around all the exhibits and the hallways and lobby. As I recall, the bathrooms were pretty stinky (air freshener or cleaning product fragrance) but not completely unusable. Some of the labs (the chemistry lab mainly) emitted very strong chemical smells that wafted out the door into the Hall. Something was going on in the building at large because I had a headache and the typical spaciness/fatigue that comes with exposure. I can’t pinpoint it though.
For a 3 year old, this is a great place to go once in a great while. I hear that older children (in the 10 year range) love the place. And they seem to have enough fun to keep teens occupied too. A toddler would have enough interesting things to keep busy. It’s the 3-6 range that might be a bit weak, but then we didn’t explore every area they had. It certainly was a good way to stay cool on a hot day.