Thursday, August 4, 2011

Traveling with kids in Vancouver: visiting the dinosaurs at Science World

Vancouver's Science World has been one of my favorite go-to destinations with my kids for years. It's a great place for hands-on exploration where the kids can play with weird inventions, science experiments, and explore various toys, play equipment, and scientific concepts all at the same time. And best of all: everything is meant to be touched, grabbed, and handled by kids. No need for the dreaded "Noooo, don't touch that!"

View from Science World towards downtown Vancouver.

However, since last year when Science World began some very extensive renovations (read: re-build), I have avoided the place. I brought the kids there once last fall, but there was so little to do, and so many exhibits and areas were closed that it was basically a complete waste of time. Considering the price of admission (we do have an annual pass, but still...), that was just not good enough.

Extreme Dinosaurs: extremely fun
Today we finally went back again and it was a hit: the kids had a blast, mainly due to the brand new feature exhibit: Extreme Dinosaurs. How could it not be a hit when it features 19 life-size and life-like animatronic dinosaurs, complete with roars, blinking eyes, moving jaws and swinging tails?

My kids (8 and 4 years old, boy and girl) were completely blown away. The first time we walked through the exhibit it was almost too much for them. The dinos are activated by movement, so as we and other visitors walked through, there were roars and swinging dinosaur limbs everywhere in the huge gallery.

My 8year old son, who has some trouble handling loud noises and too much sensory input, was pretty much freaking out. But after playing in a different area for a bit, both of the kids wanted to go back to the dinosaurs, and this time they were more excited and less freaked out.

In all, we walked through the exhibit about 5 times and the kids were just in dino-heaven. The main attraction is definitely the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex, big and loud enough to unsettle even adult visitor, but the other dinosaurs are fantastic as well. One part of the exhibit showcases a large group of various feathered dinosaurs, and it was spectacular. I never even knew there were so many feathery dinos.

And it's educational too!
The Extreme Dinosaur exhibit features many interactive displays like a place to play paleontologist and look for dino foot prints, there are also games, quizzes, as well as dino eggs to touch, and dino poop to look at. Some of the animatronic dinos can also be controlled by visitors by pushing buttons to make them roar, blink, swing their tail and more. This also helped reassure my kids that the dinos were in fact not real...

I'd highly recommend this exhibit to anyone with kids aged 2 and up. It might be a little scary depending on your child's age and disposition, but it is spectacular (as well as educational, if you get the time to read the informative signs!).

My family obviously has a thing for T-Rexes...
The low-down on Science World during renos
Renovations at Science World are still very much on-going and the place looks and feels like a construction site. Still, compared to last fall, I felt that are now enough exhibits and displays  that a visit is worth our while again, especially with the addition of these dinosaurs.

Right next to the dinosaur gallery is the so-called Living Lab, a room where many of the toys from the old play area at Science World have been set up. There's gigantic Lego, a slide, a UFO to climb in to, lots of toys for babies and toddlers... in short, enough stuff to keep my kids' interest for quite a while.

In the main areas on the ground floor and second floor there are also lots of interactive science displays, experiments, puzzles and brain-teasers to keep children of all ages occupied for some time. 

Facilities
You can bring your own snacks or food and eat them at the tables provided on the ground floor, or you can buy something to eat at the White Spot restaurant. I generally love the White Spot chain, but at this particular location I've never been impressed with the food, so I usually bring something to eat for my kids.

There are lots of washrooms (all newly renovated!) on the ground floor and the second floor. There's also a private area for breastfeeding provided in the back of the "Living Lab".

I really hope that renovations will be finished soon, but after seeing the state of the place right now, I don't think it will be completely done until next year. However, those roaring, moving, swinging dinosaurs are definitely worth a look.

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