Pacific Science Center reopens with the distinctive arches that have welcomed our family and others for decades.
They even graciously opened their doors during an epic snowstorm. I still remember trekking downtown on a chain-clad bus at eight months pregnant to relieve a serious case of cabin fever. And then those doors closed. For two very long years (except for a brief but lovely hockey exhibit last fall). While a few buildings remain closed, we were thrilled to hear about the center’s reopening. I headed down with my 6-year-old to make some new memories.
It’s showtime: Live Science, Laser Dome and Planetarium
Shows are back in full force at the science center, and we made sure to experience one in each free category.
In the Live Science Combustion show, our host, Troy, taught the audience about the ingredients needed for combustion (fuel, heat and oxygen). Troy talked to us about these components through a fun demonstration of different fuel types. Our favorite part was when he ignited elements like strontium and copper, while explaining that their bright red and green colors make them excellent components for fireworks. At about 15 minutes, this is the shortest show and is great for the younger crowd.
Laser shows are now included with daytime admission and worth adding to your itinerary. Reclining on the floor (for the best view, of course) in a dark room with trippy lighting felt rather restful after a busy morning. My art-loving daughter was fascinated by an after-show peek at the booth. A dazzling array of buttons controls different effects. Amazingly, laser artists create many of the complex laser designs on the fly, similar to a DJ on turntables.
The planetarium’s small capacity gave us an intimate look at the night sky. Our host spun Greek and Oneida tales about several of the constellations, as we watched them twirl across the domed ceiling.
New and new-to-us: Tinker Tank and IMAX Dome
We spent the most time in the Tinker Tank space. One of the daily activities (many of them rotate) was a circuit-building station. There weren’t many instructions, but we made some educated guesses based on left-behind creations. My daughter was so proud when she built a chain of 10 light bulbs, powered by one battery. She’s still talking about it days later!
Hidden on the other side of the IMAX dome is the new Water’s Extreme Journey maze. Visitors pretend to be raindrops en route to the ocean. Spinners along the way decide your fate — will you become dirty storm runoff or be saved by eco-friendly human choices? You’d be hard-pressed to read all the signs in the tight spaces, but don’t miss the mini zip line and rope passageway along the journey.
A couple of the buildings are still closed as the center recovers from the pandemic. We’re keeping our eyes out for what’s next in buildings three and four, but there was plenty to fill our visit and we easily spent five hours on campus.
Tips for a visit to refreshed Pacific Science Center
- Book in advance to save 20%. Certain shows have limited capacity (the planetarium can hold only 40 people), so if your heart is set on a specific time for a show, you can also reserve your free timed tickets in advance.
- If you missed out on an advance show reservation, try arriving a few minutes before the start time to see if there are any no-shows. We lucked out with this approach for our planetarium show.
- Mix in some classic exhibits. Visitors, young and old, still loved the magic of blue morpho butterflies flitting about in the tropical butterfly house. Also watch the dinosaurs roar and wag their tails at another exhibit. The Water Works area outside makes for a perfect photo opp with the Science Center arches and Space Needle.
- Have multiple ages to consider? The Science Center is a great fit, but try to bring a spare pair of hands, if you can. The Just for Tots area is perfect for little ones, but is not visible from exhibits like the Tinker Tank space. Tinker Tank is more suitable for school-aged kids.
- Ask questions. Staff rotate through exhibits regularly and are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Don’t be afraid to ask your wildest science questions (or check on the closest bathroom).
- If you visit on a weekend, try picking a Sunday, when street parking is free (unless there’s an event).
Fires and scientists need fuel, so don’t forget your own. There’s an outdoor eating area and you can re-enter as many times as needed if you choose to visit the Armory for lunch. Pack a change of clothes on a sunny day. The International Fountain is a short walk away and will help cool off after a fun day at the museum.
My 6-year-old has grown a lot in the two years since our last visit to the Pacific Science Center (that’s a third of her lifetime, after all) and I wasn’t sure how she would feel about our return. It turns out that, like my daughter, I found new things to love, favorite memories to revisit, and future experiences to which I’ll look forward.
Where: The Pacific Science Center’s official address is 200 2nd Ave N in Seattle on the Seattle Center campus. Enter via the North Entrance (near the Mural amphitheater).
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (last admission at 4 p.m.)
Cost: $27.95 per adult and $19.95 per child (ages 3-12). Children 2 and under are free. Save 20% (and pre-reserve showtimes) by booking online at least 24 hours in advance.
Parking and transit: Limited street parking is available, or budget around $13-15 for nearby garages. Multiple buses serve Seattle Center, but we love to take the Monorail from downtown where it connects to Link light rail and Metro buses.
Nearby: You could easily spend a day on the Seattle Center Campus. Pick up lunch in the Armory, visit the Seattle Children’s Museum and push bedtime by ending the evening with Movies at the Mural on Saturdays throughout the summer.
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