Last week we had the opportunity to visit the science focused children’s museum Discovery Cube Los Angeles (which is actually in the Valley). The few posts I had read on it made it sound amazing, so I went with high expectations. This might have been my problem, but overall I was a bit underwhelmed. However, the kids absolutely loved it, and I guess that’s what really matters right?
We are so blessed in Los Angeles to have an abundance of great educational museums geared specifically to children that I wasn’t totally blown away by the Discovery Cube. I didn’t feel that it quite lived up to what I had mentally prepared myself for (think exploratorium in San Francisco – yeah I know, high expectations!). That said, their use of technology was far above other museums in the area which was impressive and fun for everyone.
My expectations aside, I would recommend the Discovery Cube LA for a good day out with the kids. It feels like a smaller version of the California Science Center and KidSpace (Pasadena) combined. The space is open and nicely spread out, so that even when it starts getting crowded you don’t feel like you are constantly bumping into people. We went with kids aged 4-5 and they loved it. Even though some of the science principles were above their heads, they still enjoyed the hands on nature of the activities. I would say kids from 4-10 would have a great time, with the older kids being able to get a bit more education from the activities and presentations.
The preschoolers in our group loved almost all of the activities downstairs with the favorite being the helicopter simulation tour. There are two movies on rotation – an aerial tour of how Los Angeles gets it’s water supply from 300 miles away and a movie showing the sewer systems at work. The kids did not seem to have any dizziness issues, but the adults in our group had a few queasy moments. I am not one to usually get motion sick, but I was queasy for a good hour after our first viewing. The attendant on duty said it’s better for the adults to sit further back, rather than right up front (where the kids obviously will want to sit!). Visit this exhibit early if you think it will get crowded. Our first viewing had no line, but the second viewing had a more than 30 minute wait.
Another hit was the Race to Zero Waste exhibit that mimics the fairground horse racing games. The kids liked the concept of this, the mechanics and the hands on nature of it. However, to make it a bit more user friendly for all ages, it would be nice to have pictures in addition to text when the categories of trash change. Without the help of adults, younger children or even new readers would have a more difficult time playing.
My son’s dream came true in the Discovery Market. He had his own shopping cart and his own personal scanner! There are several different ‘games’ that kids can choose in this area which makes it fun to return again and again. However, as mentioned above, it would be nice to have picture options for younger children as there was a lot of reading involved in this activity. Make sure to check out your photo on the shoppers wall at the end. This was a big hit with the kids.
The chair lift seemed to be one of the favorites of all the kids visiting the center, as there was almost always a line. My son loved it and went back 3 times to try each chair. There are three different chairs where the kids can sit and pull themselves up using a pulley system. The weight ratio is different on each chair. The easiest being 4:1 and the most difficult being 2:1. My son was very proud of himself for being able to do all three!
The Cube’s Early Learners Zone was another favorite with the kids in our group. This ended up being where our kids spent a good portion of their time at the museum. Here they could run around freely, up walkways, down slides and through little caves. The kids were also able to dress up as dinosaurs, while running around looking for dinosaur eggs to ‘guard’ in their caves. A separate area in this section was full of large foamy shapes/cylinders for building interesting projects.
There were plenty of other activities such as the home inspection area. Each child had their own iPad to explore the ‘house’ learning about resource efficiency. The novelty of the iPad was probably the biggest draw for our young crowd, but older kids really seemed to be into it. Another big hit with other kids at the museum was the Park Science area with the Santa Ana wind tunnel. Our kids were too nervous to check it out and it was broken when the adults wanted to give it a go!
Even with some great exhibits, there were a few duds if I were being honest. The biggest disappointment was the planetarium area which did not seem to be very interactive nor hands on. My son who normally would stare at a globe for ages, was barely engaged in this area. It looks to be a cool set up, so I have hopes that they will bring in more activities or presentations for this area in the future.
Location: The Discovery Cube is located right off the 210 freeway which is great for those of us on the Eastside. The address is: 11800 Foothill Blvd, Sylmar 91342. There seems to be little traffic on the 210 which makes the museum feel closer than it actually is. Parking is plentiful and free. Drive past the Cube and the local library to enter the parking area behind the playground.
Cost: Currently the museum has an introductory offer for $10 entry for children and adults. This special offer lasts until the end of June, so make sure to visit before then to see what you think. There is also a pretty good individual membership option, which includes one permanent member (your child) and one guest pass for each visit (you) for $60. We thought about getting it after our visit, but weren’t sure how often we would return. Thinking about it more, one visit at the $10 price tag (x2) and then one visit to their Orange County facility ($16.95 x 2) would put you at around $54, so it might be worth doing the membership just for that alone, knowing you can go back any time during the year as well.
Food: Their website says no outside food or drink is allowed inside, but we did not see anyone enforcing this. However we did follow the rules and didn’t bring food, so we were able to test out the on-site Bean Sprouts cafe. The food was good with healthy kid friendly options. Next time I would bring our own snacks and perhaps even pack a lunch to have a late picnic out by the playground.
Give it a try and let us know what you think!