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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™

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California Science Center Review

The California Science Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The IMAX Theater is open daily. Please check their website at for movie times.

Admission to Science Center permanent exhibition galleries is free. Admission prices for the IMAX Theater are based on age group. Ticket prices also apply to three Science Center attractions: the High Wire Bicycle, the Motion-Based Simulator and the Cave Climb. Parking is $8 per car. To reach the parking structure, turn west into Exposition Park on 39th Street from Figueroa and follow the signs. The exact address is: 700 State Dr in Los Angeles.

Here are the highlights of our trip:

Ecosystems, the museum's newest permanent exhibit, was phenomenal.  It cost $165 million to produce and feels that it is LA's newest cultural destination for all ages. We were blown away and cannot believe this treasure is here, in our backyard, and costs nothing to go and experience! The exhibit has 11 habitats, 2,200 live animals and covers 2 stories and 45,000 square feet. Since going we have told everyone we know that they need to see this exhibit!

The first place you'll likely start is the outside, upstairs part of the Kelp Forest. This aquarium is gigantic and filled with beautiful fish, coral, sharks, kelp (which can grow up to a foot each day), and my favorite: the scuba divers! We have been to many aquariums and have never seen 3 divers in at once, cleaning the tank and most notably, interacting with the guests! One of them was kind enough to point out the sharks to my kids. So cool! Next to the aquarium is a touch tank with the same creatures that we would continue to see throughout this zone of the exhibit. Inside the room next to the large tank there are a lot of smaller tanks to explore and we also got to look at a slide of teeny tiny sea monkeys. We spent a lot of time in this room checking out the lobsters and other sea creatures.

Next we headed downstairs to see walk through the aquarium tunnel and to check out more of the habitats. The tunnel is similar to other aquarium tunnels and the kids were of course in awe. I can’t believe this is here at this museum and that it is free to come and see whenever we want! There is also a room with stadium seating and a gigantic window to sit in front of to get right next to all of the fish and other sea life. My kids did not want to leave this window and would get excited each time a shark swam by.

After the Kelp Forest exhibit we wandered into the Poles zone to see what life is like in the extremely cold North and South poles. The kids loved looking at the thick whale blubber, sitting on a real snowmobile and counting the tree rings to put together a timeline. We also loved the Desert Zone with the tortoises, iguanas, bugs and flash flood simulation. Every ten minutes there is a desert storm with lightning, thunder and a torrent of water that shoots out so that the kids got to see what life is like for desert animals when a storm is approaching.

In addition to the many exhibit rooms there is also an Ecosystems Discovery area for younger kids with an outdoor nature area to do art projects, learn about gardening and pretend to plant and harvest fruit and vegetables. We spent a long time outside letting our kids explore this area. Inside there are three rooms for playing puzzles, creating wooden birds and enjoying time in the pretend kitchen.  

After the Discovery Room we went into the Rot Zone to see the organisms that depend on decomposing animals and rotting trees to sustain there lives. There were all kinds of bugs here and we got a kick out of seeing them eating away. Two other habitats we liked in particular were the River Zone and the LA Zone. The River Zone had a tank filled with trout and a wall where we could use various items to see the effects of wind on a river and create wind ourselves. The LA Zone was enormous and so many unique characteristics. One whole half of the room was covered in an aerial map of Los Angeles so we spent a long time trying to locate points of interest. There were several telescopes set up for the kids to look around at the rose garden, USC and surrounding areas up close. We also loved the landfill and recycling exhibits to teach kids about waste, conserving and reusing. There was trash taken from a landfill on display that was in remarkably good condition considering it was 16 years old. Lastly we spent time at an amazing touch screen computer table where the kids could look at LA landmarks up close, turn them around, make them bigger and smaller and then choose new ones to examine.

This Ecosystems exhibit was truly amazing and offers countless learning opportunities for the residents of LA. We cannot wait to explore it again and again. In addition to the Discovery Room in the Ecosystems exhibit, we also explored the Discovery Room in the World of Life exhibit. This room is designed for kids ages seven and under.

There are rules: only kids ages four and up can climb up an adorable house structure and help build the walls and roof. There is no eating or drinking allowed. And of course your time in the rooms is limited. There were lots of rooms to explore, including a Construction Zone, a Hardware Store where children can build structures and other gadgets, and a child-sized TV studio complete with camera. Visitors can also check out the Discovery Boxes for more hands-on learning.the biggest being one where the kids could make an art project with a volunteer staffer (in our case, color an astronaut drawing and glue the astronaut on to a wooden stick). They could also play with magnetic and wooden puzzles, explore art on several computers and play with stuffed air craft and books.

As for lunch, you can of course bring your own and sit inside the museum or outside with a view of the beautiful rose garden. Or you could choose from  McDonald's, Taco Bell, or items from the Garden Cafe.

Another part of the museum that we had planned to see but didn't because our kids were wiped out were the air and space exhibits. They are mostly housed in a separate building next to the Science Center and again, admission is free. My kids are very interested in rockets, spaceships and our solar system so I know we will be back to see everything there.

This museum is wonderful way to spend the day with your kids and we can’t wait to return!