With over 40,000 square feet of exhibit space and dozens of interactive activities for kids of all ages, it’s no wonder the Connecticut Science Center welcomed it’s three millionth visitor in October of 2018, less than ten years after opening! The museum is located in the heart of Hartford, two hours from both New York City and Boston and is easily accessible from major highways.
Traveling with Kids:
There is a large parking lot attached to the museum. Rates are hourly. There is direct access to the Science Center from the parking lot.
The garage level also included classrooms and birthday party areas. Take the escalator or elevator to the first floor to check in.
The Science Center is fully handicap and stroller accessible. The exhibits have wide spaces to maneuver strollers and wheelchairs.
I would expect to spend at least three hours to fully explore. You are able to leave and return the same day- great for nap time!
Restrooms are located on every level and several areas have family restrooms.
Lockers and open coat racks to store personal items are located to the right of the gift shop.
Every exhibit is staffed with knowledgeable team members who can answer questions and might even challenge you to scheduled experiments. Each exhibit also has benches for people who need to rest their feet.
There is outdoor space located on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors (the 2nd and 3rd floor are reserved for center staff offices).
The Science Center offers a great membership program with many perks, like discounts on parking, special exhibits, birthday parties, and gift shop purchases; previews on special events; and select reciprocity benefits at other Connecticut institutes like the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. Check here for the full list of benefits.
The Science Center also offers special programming like “Sensory Days” each month when special care it taken to limit noise. Quiet Zones are also available. The Center put together a full sensory guide with tips.
My favorite part of the Science Center is the amount of natural light in practically every exhibit (the Exploring Space exhibit is interior and dimly lit, but appropriate for the exhibit). There are floor to ceiling windows and the sunlight just spills into the rooms. I definitely plan on bringing my family back several times in the winter, when it’s too cold to be outside; we’ll be able to feel like we’re outside and feel the warmth of the sun inside.
25 Things You Must DO at the Connecticut Science Center:
1. The toddler set will LOVE the Kidspace exhibit with water features on the first floor. Its’ reserved for children under age seven. The center does a great job reserving space in almost every exhibit for younger children. There are smaller climbing structures, tables and chairs for table games, reading nooks, and stages for shows. Check for the full list of Kidspace here.
2. Make a new stream pattern in Geologic Connecticut (6th floor)
3. Dig for fossils (6th floor)
4. Pretend to use Smart Appliances in the Energy Efficient House (6th floor)
5. Participate in a live science show in the Science Theater (6th floor)
6. Harvest seeds in Michaela’s Rooftop Garden and deposit them in the collection box (6th floor)
7. Compete against a partner in Mindball and Cycling to Wellness in Picture of Health and Sports Gallery (5th floor)
8. Assemble a full skeleton in the Health Lab (5th floor)
9. Pretend to be a paramedic in a replica ambulance (5th floor)
10. Test Rube Goldberg machines in Invention Dimension (5th floor)
11. Design your own creation with legos (The under five crowd will prefer the Duplo table) (5th floor)
12. Solve tangrams (create letters and puzzles using geometric tiles) (5th floor)
13. Compare how heavy a soup can would weight on each of the nine planets. (5th floor)
14. Lie inside a Mars pod and watch a journey to Mars video (5th floor)
15. Play a harp using lasers instead of strings (4th floor)
16. Test your hearing in Bionic Me (4th floor)
17. Race against a electronic runner in a sprint (4th floor)
18. Pretend to drive a helicopter in a simulator. (4th floor)
19. Get a feel for what it would be like to wear an exoskeleton, a device that assists people with spinal cord injuries. (4th floor)
20. Get up and close with 40-50 different butterflies in the Butterfly Encounter Room. If you hold really still, a butterfly might just land on your shoulder. Additional fee applies. (4th floor)
21. Race cars down a ramp in Forces in Motion (4th floor)
22. Answer engineering trivia questions. Complete physical challenges to find out if you’re correct. (4th floor)
23. Make a massive hot air balloon rise with the heat from your hand. (4th floor)
24. Catch bubbles in one of the bubble shows offered throughout the day. (4th floor)
25. Shoot hoops using an air gun and inflatable ball. (4th floor)
Bonus: If you have extra time, take the outdoor path that overlooks the Connecticut River down to the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza. Check here for paths, plazas, and outdoor events.
Eating Nearby: There are several options inside the center, including a coffee truck, frozen yogurt stand, and Subway which makes sandwiches and pizzas. Tip: If there is a long time, order on the Subway app and the food will be ready for easy pick up. There are plenty of indoor tables and great outdoor space for picnicking in warm weather. If you want to further explore Hartford, there are dozens of restaurants within one mile of the Center. We chose to go to City Steam Brewery and Cafe. They have a massive menu with great children’s options.
For more fun in Connecticut, check out our list of 30 places we love, 32 places to eat in Connecticut and our index of posts on family friendly spots in Connecticut and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Full disclosure: I was given a media pass to visit the Connecticut Science Center. All opinions expressed are my own.