What’s to Love: Where do I start? The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (affectionately know to all as “OMSI” ahm-zee), is almost a pointless post. Most people in the Portland area are well aware of this incredible community resource, and everyone seems to love OMSI. I should probably break this up into 5 or 6 different posts, because there are so many things to love about OMSI. However, since OMSI offers a plethora of general information via their website, I’m going to stick to my usual format – trying to pinpoint what might be extra special just for parents and their kids.
If you are unfamiliar with OMSI, this is an absolute MUST in the Portland area. There are incredible science labs, the Kendall Planetarium, the USS Blueback Submarine, the Science Playground (probably the best option for kids 6 and under), the OMSI Science Store, and of course, the OMNIMAX Dome Theater that shows giant IMAX films.
The Science Labs and the Science Playground are my son’s favorite areas. They did an excellent job of making these areas a hands-on experience for the kids. Kids can touch the snakes, hold a walking stick, scrape rock off a 65 million years-old dinosaur bone, play with flubber, build huge block-towers, jump in cushions, read books, make a puppet show, etc…etc…etc. Truly, the fun never ends at OMSI. We’ve been going there on a regular basis since my son was barely walking, and at four years old, he still loves going there on a regular basis.
Caveats: Great location, staff, exhibits, store, labs, etc…I seriously cannot think of one caveat to all the positive things I’ve said about OMSI. If you drive and it’s busy, you may have to walk a ways, but it’s not bad. If you can think of something I might be missing, please add it in the comment section below!
Distance from Portland: Within 2 miles of downtown Portland.
Recommended Ages: They have pretty much all ages covered here. They even have an area in the Science Playland for babies and pre-toddlers.
Parental Stress Factor: It’s pretty minimal if it’s not busy. However, when it gets busy, you may be putting out a few fires here and there. Most times, parents are right there with their own kids to help everyone get along. I haven’t had too many problems at all. There is just so much to see – if you’re visiting and this is your only stop at OMSI, you may feel stressed to try to get in as much as possible.
Physical Difficulty: Easy to get around at OMSI – fully accessible.
Family Fun Factor: High! I would rate this as one of my favorite Portland destinations. There are just so many ways to have fun at OMSI.
Pet Friendly: No pets.
Weather Considerations: The perfect winter option for parents and their kids! OMSI has saved the day many times when the rain was coming down.
Insider Info: Parents with young children often stick to the Science Playground upstairs on the 2nd level; however, the area back by the submarine on the first floor is definitely worth checking out. As my son got older, we started spending more and more time in this area. They have a space capsule, a steam engine, bottle rockets, a ball room (difficult to describe) and MANY other great exhibits in this area.
If you have kids under 5, they will definitely enjoy watching the steel-ball-maze (Gravitron), which is located right outside the Planetarium. We used to always start our OMSI trip with a stop to watch the balls travel through the maze and drop into a big swirling metal bowl.
Breastfeeding moms also have their own area in the Science Playground, if you feel the need for privacy.
Family Tips: OMSI is in the perfect spot for biking – it’s right along the Esplanade bike trail, which connects up with the Springwater corridor trail. If you live in southeast, you’ll have a pretty easy time getting over to OMSI. In good weather, we always ride our bikes.
If you forget your snacks and/or food, OMSI has the best “museum food” you’ll ever taste. They actually have organic and local-food options here with many healthy choices for your kids. Granted, they also have some junk food, but the “Market Cafe” is definitely head-and-shoulders above what you’d find in similar destinations.
Don’t forget to check-out the “brainteasers,” which are often moved to different locations depending on what space is available. These are fun to do with your kids and will test your mental sharpness!
If you go often, please become a member! It’s a great deal for the price, and you get some nice VIP options. Plus, you’ll be supporting this wonderful museum!
Other Posts of Interest...
Rainy Day Favorites on October 12th, 2008
I don't think it's a big revelation to anyone that our incredible fall weather is winding down.
Curious Comedy Theater on June 15th, 2011
Out of This World on October 8th, 2008