Looking for an educational activity with wow factor…that WON’T break the bank? Consider visiting the California Science Center with kids! It’s got activities for all ages, and is sure to get you cool mom credit with your kids!
I want to give my kids tons of educational experiences. I want them to see new things, visit new places, and learn in fun, challenging ways.
I just don’t always love the price tag that comes with that.
It’s why I love visiting the California Science Center with kids. Everything is so hands on, interactive, and appropriate for kids (and adults!) of all ages.
And the best part? It’s pay-what-you-can donation based system.
So if you’re looking for a free activity to do with your kids in Long Beach, consider putting the California Science Center at the top of your list!
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Planning a Visit
The California Science Center is open 7 days a week, from 10-5. Check to see if reservations are required before you go. It is typically available for drop in, but this may vary due to any capacity restrictions in place.
Here is the address, for Googling purposes: 700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037
How Much Does the California Science Center Cost?
The California Science Center is a donation based museum. That means that, essentially, it is free.
If you cannot afford a donation, don’t let it deter you from visiting. It is a low pressure donation situation, with boxes located near the entrance and throughout the museum.
If you can afford to donate, we encourage you to do so.
How is Parking at the California Science Center?
The paid parking lot at the California Science Center is generally a relatively painless process. I’ve never been unable to find a spot, so odds are good you’ll be able to park easily.
Parking in the lot is $15 for the day. You can grab a ticket upon entry, and pay at one of the conveniently located kiosks before you go.
We often skip the parking situation altogether, and take the Blue Line from Long Beach (transfer to the Silver Train to get to the Rose Garden!) for added adventure.
What is the Best Age Range for the California Science Center?
So far, I’ve taken my kids of all ages to the Science Center, including tiny toddlers, up through a group of 5th graders on a field trip.
So far, kids of all ages have loved the Science Center.
Younger kids will love the habitats exhibits, and the Family Discovery Rooms.
Older kids will go more in depth in these exhibits, and can properly geek out over the Endeavor.
Depending on your family’s ages, you might expect to spend more or less time at the California Science Center, but there is truly something for everyone.
Should I Bring a Stroller to the California Science Center?
The California Science Center can be a lot of walking, esepcially when you factor in the parking lot, Rose Gardens, and any expeditions for food.
Kids 4 and under will likely be begging for a ride, or to be carried, before the day is through.
However, there are also lots of stairs, and a fun escalator kids will probably be begging to ride up. Be prepared to lug your stroller along with you, or hunt for the elevator. For this reason, we recommend bringing an Ergo or other baby carrier with you instead.
Can You Bring Food Into the California Science Center?
You have several great food options at the California Science Center.
First up, there is a large food court style eating area near the Rose Garden entrance of the California Science Center. There are good food options to choose from, and lots of seating.
You can also bring food into the California Science Center, and enjoy a picnic on the patio overlooking the Rose Garden, or just eat what you’ve brought at the food court tables.
Or you can do what we do, and head over to the Chick Fil A located directly across the street from the California African American Museum on Figueroa.
It’s a good change of scenery, food our kids are familiar with, and a nice reset before continuing on at the Science Center for the afternoon.
How are the Bathrooms?
The bathrooms are clean and well cared for at the California Science Center, and most are equipped with the SafeStep stools for younger kids to use to reach the sinks.
We like to use the restroom immediately to the right when we first arrive through the front entrance. It saves us from looking for a bathroom right away.
There are also bathrooms sprinkled throughout, but can be tricky to find when you need one. We recommend using the restrooms when you see them so you don’t get in a sticky situation, especially with young kids.
Can I Take Lots of Kids With Me?
For this one, it really depends on the ages and demeanors of the kids.
We went once with a group of toddlers, and had several close calls with kids hiding behind exhibits or going around turns without their grown up.
I went with my 5 and 8 year olds by myself recently, and had no trouble keeping track of them. However, there are lots of turns and blind spots, so I could see it being harder to keep track of more than two.
Mostly- know your kids, lay down some ground rules before you go, and you should be okay.
How Long Should You Expect to Stay at the California Science Center?
When my kids were younger, we’d typically stay at the science center for three hours or so. You’ll miss some exhibits, and move quickly through others, but the kids will mostly be focused on the aquarium and the Discover rooms, anyways.
With older kids, we usually can see everything in the museum, and have a lunch break, in about 5 hours. (Bonus: if you get there at 10, this means you’ll be ready to leave at 3, right before traffic gets horrible)
You can easily extend your day by visiting the local, free California African American Museum, strolling through the rose garden, or taking a walk around the rest of Exposition Park.
What Shouldn’t We Miss While We’re There?
The California Science Center regularly hosts special exhibits. While we were visiting, there was a special, paid entry Lego exhibit on the third floor. (We didn’t go, as it was cost prohibitive for us. But since it’s on the third floor, it’s easy to miss without disappointing the kids).
There is also an iMax theater with educational movies playing. The movies rotate throughout the day, but if you’re hoping to make a day of it, it’s a really neat way to extend your time at the California Science Center.
Why We Love the California Science Center
The Calfornia Science Center is one of the easiest, most cost effective ways to entertain my kids all day long in a big adventure kind of way. There’s SO much for them to see and learn there!
The Endeavor Space Shuttle has some serious WOW factor. If your kids are into space or astronauts, they’re going to marvel at the huge size of it.
Older kids and adults will love to soak up the timeline of the shuttle program, and, honestly, just stare in amazement at something that has been into real, live outer space.
Don’t be surprised if your younger kids are like, “okay, neat” and then are done! They’ll get more out of it each time they come back.
The Family Discovery Rooms
These rooms are best for families with young children, seven and under. There is tons of hands on exploration to be done in each of the rooms, as well as space for good old fashioned play.
There are three discovery rooms: Creative World, World of Life, and Ecosystems. Each is designed to give information in a more kid-friendly way for the exhibits it is near.
As a bonus, each discovery room has a closed entrance/exit with an attendant, so you can catch your breath while your littles take a much deserved break from the bustle of the museum.
In my opinion, kids under 10 get the most from the Ecosystems/Habitat sections of the California Science Center.
There are animals to look at, weather to learn about, and different habitats to explore.
My kids’ favorite is the kelp forest area, with an aquarium and touch tanks. It’s a great alternative if the Aquarium of the Pacific is out of your budget, with a lot of the same benefits.
Life (Parental Advisement!!)
Just a heads up- there is a new semi-permanent exhibit about Life…and specifically, how life begins.
To say I was surprised by the video-game style lesson on sperm meeting an egg was an understatement. I’m not opposed, I was just taken abakc. My kids, though, didn’t bat an eye.
There was also a small exhibit on Safe Sex, which could make for some awkard conversations.
But there was also a beautiful tank to see moth eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis, and moths up close and personal. So I do recommend visiting this area, just prepare yourself for some questions.
Whether you’re going for a couple hours or making a day of it, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the free California Science Center with Kids.
Will you be tired afterwards? Yes.
But will it be worth it? Also, a resounding yes.
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