Mesmerized by the Maryland Science Center — Mommy Daze

I hadn't been to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore since I was a kid, so when I snagged a discount deal for tickets I couldn't wait to take my boys. My 13-year-old niece came along, and I can definitely say we all had a great time!

ScienceCenter1We went on a weekday, arriving close to opening at 10 a.m. I've heard there's plenty of street parking nearby if you know where to look, but I don't do cities well so I parked in the Arrow parking garage and got my ticket validated for a discount. I packed a small bag of snacks and drinks and brought an umbrella stroller for my little Luke, who is fond of bolting.

Our discounted tickets included IMAX movie tickets, but the only film I thought the kids would like was starting too soon so we decided to skip it. I was also worried it might be overwhelming for them with it's bring screen and loud sound.

The first exhibit we saw, and our most favorite by far, was the Dinosaur Mysteries on the first floor. It is fantastic. There are tons of full size dinosaur replicas, skeletons and excavation sites to explore. The best part was being able to touch everything! There are casts of dinosaur footprints, egg nests and landscape replicas the kids could climb into. There was also a field lab and dig pits where they could use brushes to dust off bones and lots more. We probably could have stayed there the whole time.

Next to the dinos was the TerraLink exhibit which had this cool tornado simulator where the kids could reach in and touch a swirling mist tornado. Next we headed into the exhibit that I remember most from my childhood — Newton's Alley. Though some of the hands-on activities were geared more toward older kids, which my teenage niece seemed to love, my boys still had fun playing a laser beam harp, riding in a pulley-system chair and watching gravity at work with various hands-on experiments.

We then grabbed a quick lunch in the cafe (nothing to write home about) before heading up to the third floor where we spent a long time in the Kids Room.

This place reminded me of a small version of Port Discovery. The area is for children ages 8 and younger and is apparently field trip free on weekdays until 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays, which is great because it does get crowded. A giant pin screen is the first thing you encounter and the kids loved pushing it to see their hand print on the other side. My niece took Luke into a gated area for kids younger than 2 where he stacked large foam blocks and crawled on a waterbed.

They all had fun learning about the undersea world by climbing through a submarine with a periscope and pushing buttons and turning knobs. Then it was up onto a tugboat structure to fish for plush fish. The little engineering area has plastic pipes to arrange and Legos to build. A water play area was a huge hit. The kids can control the water flow in various ways, use attached squirt guns to fill up tipping cups and move boats along the little channels and pools. Luke was hard at work trying to move all the water from one area to another using a cup with holes in the bottom.ScienceCenter2

There are lots of other cool things to see on the third floor but we were getting dangerously close to nap time, so we headed down to the second floor because James is a big fan of space. At the SpaceLink exhibit, he marveled at the larger than life spinning planets, real astronaut suit and touchable moonscape replicas. The hallway leading to the restrooms was even a thrill because it's lit by black lights so our clothes and shoes glowed.

As the kids were running out of patience and steam, we quickly perused the Your Body exhibit where we watched as a child lay flat on a bed of nails, and James had his height measured by a robot with a sense of humor.

We ended up spending about four hours at the center and probably only saw half the exhibits. As we were walking towards the parking garage, we made a detour for Luke to see a large ship that was docked nearby. We also stumbled across a really cool spot called the Walter Sondheim Fountain where kids can splash in the water jets that shoot up out of the ground. Good to know for next time.

It was really fun to see my kids so amazed and excited about science at such a young age. We are looking forward to many more trips there!

Currently the Science Center is open Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m-8 p.m. Admission ranges from $16.95-$24.95 per person over the age of 3 years old, with special discounted rates for Friday evenings in the summer. IMAX movie tickets are extra. For details visit the Maryland Science Center website.

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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.

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