My blog series “Destinations” offers detailed descriptions of fun places for hands-on STEM learning for kids age 3 – 10, such as children’s museums, science museums and more. The majority are in the Pacific Northwest, as that’s where I live. But when we travel and visit fun destinations, I’ll write about those. Here’s a google map of many of these destinations, called “Science Museums of the Northwest.”
Click on the listing below to see a brief overview of that destination on this page. Click on the links in the overviews to be taken to the fully detailed reviews.
- Kids’ Discovery Museum on Bainbridge Island
- KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue
- Mindport in Bellingham
- Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett
- Hands-On Children’s Museum in Olympia
- Palouse Discovery Science Center in Pullman
- Mobius Children’s Museum in Spokane
- Mobius Science Center in Spokane
- Grand Coulee Dam in Grand Coulee
- ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, Ashland
- High Desert Museum, Bend
- Eugene Science Center, Eugene
- Evergreen Aviation and Space MuseumEvergreen Aviation and Space Museum, McMinnville
- Gilbert House Children’s Museum, Salem
California, Arizona, etc.
Kid’s Discovery Museum on Bainbridge Island, WA.
This museum and the town of Bainbridge make for a fun day trip on the ferry from downtown Seattle. A climber, a rock climbing wall, dress-up and pretend play in “the bank”, the “grocery store”, “doctor’s office” and “on the ferry.” Upstairs are big blocks, puppets, a train table and a physics zone full of ramps to roll balls down and launch balls off of.
KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue, WA
Located in a suburb of Seattle. Features: A climber that’s 25-30 feet tall, a water zone with a magnetic water wall, a vortex, and a stream to dam, a working conveyor belt system, a semi truck cab to climb into, a room for building with recyclables, a farm area and a mercantile from 100 years ago, a huge train table, a “story tree”, art studio with a kiln, and a toddler zone. (Pro Tip: If you’re choosing between a visit to the Seattle Children’s Musuem and KidsQuest, choose KidsQuest! It’s a better experience.)
Mindport in Bellingham, WA
Click on that link to find all the details, but here’s my intro: “It’s a little like an art gallery full of beautifully crafted exhibits… but you get to touch and interact with everything! It’s a little like a children’s museum where children are welcomed… but the exhibits are intriguing enough that all the adults in the room were as engaged as the kids. It’s like a science museum with exhibits that illustrate scientific concepts – and binders that explain the details… but it’s prettier, and somehow more soothing and meditative, than any science museum I’ve been in.” Bellingham is the home of Western Washington University, and is a couple hours north of Seattle, an hour or two south of Vancouver, BC.
Imagine is in Everett, which is around 45 minutes to an hour north of Seattle. Imagine has perhaps the best water play area I’ve seen. They also have a great train area, a plane to load cargo onto, fun farm play, and a big rooftop play area, which includes a dinosaur dig area.
This is an excellent children’s museum! In Olympia, which is the capital of Washington, and about 90 minutes south of Seattle (depending on traffic!) Features lots of maritime themed activities, including a full-size schooner, a beach with driftwood fort building, a lighthouse to climb, and water tables inside. Plus lots of emergency worker pretend play, an excellent free-play art studio, building activities, and a sensory room for kids who may overload with too much noise and activity.
Palouse is smaller than some of the other museums, but quite excellent. It’s in Pullman, home of Washington State University, in eastern Washington, near the Idaho border. Their primary exhibit is on the science of flight with lots of hands-on tinkering experiments to try. They also have a really excellent hospital pretend play area, which includes real medical equipment. And they have lots of building toys for kids’ construction projects.
This is a nice museum in Eastern Washington. They’ve got fun construction themed activities, a traffic safety exhibit, lots of pretend play and a really fabulous area for kids 3 and under.
You can visit Mobius Children’s and Mobius Science Center in one day, with a lunch break in the middle for a great day of hands-on STEM learning. The Science Center has an exhibit on Economics, lots of building materials, mind teasers, and currently an exhibit on astronomy.
The visitors’ centers at Dry Falls and Grand Coulee Dam, plus the laser light show on the dam after dark combine into a great day of learning about the geology of the region, hydropower, and one of the most impressive public works projects from the Depression area.
ScienceWorks in southern Oregon is a great way to spend some time if you’re in town for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They have a fun bubble room, tons of optical illusions, some hands-on physics experiments, and currently they’re developing a great space exhibit in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.
If you’re in central Oregon, be sure to check out the High Desert Museum. The indoor exhibits are an excellent museum about the history of the region both of Native tribes and European settlers. They also have lots of animals – otters, birds of prey, fish, turtles, reptiles. And a living history sawmill and homestead to experience.
This museum, in the hometown of the University of Oregon has an excellent, recently upgraded planetarium, lots of hands-on activities for kids, some engineering challenges, and currently an exhibit on astronomy.
If you’re an aviation buff, interested in the history of the space program, you’ll find lots to see at Evergreen, which is the home of the Spruce Goose – a massive wooden airplane from the 1940’s.
A children’s museum housed in historic buildings, and with a huge outdoor area for play. Build forts, climb in a giant Erector set, take on engineering challenges, or test out your skills at Operation. Salem is the state capitol, about an hour south of Portland.
Outside the Pacific NW
This science museum has a planetarium, a cool water feature / kinetic sculpture, a fun room full of experiments in motion, a room about buildings, and a large exhibit on the brain and the body. Lots of good stuff here, but in need of some updates and repairs.
A three story, well maintained museum with lots of great experiences! Activities included big motor play: the Climber, riding trikes in Pedal Power, catching scarves at Whoosh, playing outdoors at Move It, playing Hide and Seek in the Noodle Forest imaginative play in The Market and Texture Cafe building in Block Mania, constructing forts and more.
Note: A few of these reviews are on my other blog, Good Days with Kids, which primarily talks about parenting skills. The rest are here on Inventors of Tomorrow, which is all about hands-on STEM learning for ages 3 – 6, and is filled with ideas for art projects, crafts, recommended songs, games, books, science experiments, sensory play, building projects, snacks, free printable worksheets and more, all grouped by themes.