Monday, December 7, 2015

A Review of the Planetarium at RVCC: The Alien Who Stole Christmas

Last year I purchased a Groupon for the Planetarium at Raritan Valley Community College.  This is literally a stone's throw away from where I live, and after reading about it online, I figured it might be fun to try.

What is the Planetarium at RVCC?

Raritan Valley Community College is located in Branchburg, not far off of Rt. 78, 287 and 22.  It's very easy to get to.  The planetarium offers star shows, laser light shows and an observatory open on select days for viewing.  My review is based on one of their public star shows, The Alien Who Stole Christmas, which is offered throughout the month of December.

What is the Planetarium Like?

The Jersey Momma's Boy was four when we took him to the planetarium.  He loved the idea that he was going to a college campus, and it was exciting for him to see the college buildings, the planetarium, and the dome of the observatory.  Upon entering the planetarium, you'll see what looks almost like the tunnel of a spaceship.  My son was in awe of this!


You'll check in at the lobby, get your tickets, shop if you like (there is a very small case of souvenir goodies you can buy if you're so inclined).  The Jersey Momma's boy was fascinated by the coin drop- one of those giant contraptions where you throw your coins in and watch them spiral to the bottom:


Once you venture into the "space tunnel," you can view some space displays and glowing windows of space facts.  The lights are pretty dim once you get through that tunnel, preparing your eyes for the planetarium itself.  I don't have any pictures for you from here on in, because the lighting was not really suitable for photos.

The Alien Who Stole Christmas

The planetarium doors open a few minutes before show time.  It is important to note that once the doors of the planetarium are closed, they cannot let you in, so don't be late to your show (they suggest you arrive 20-30 minutes before show time).  Also, if you need to leave to use the restroom, they cannot open the doors to the planetarium to let you re-enter, by order of the fire marshall.  So do your business before you head in there!  The show itself is cute, but a little hokey.  Don't expect superb graphics and computer animation. These are just cartoon images projected onto the ceiling, narrated by your host of the show, who is in the room with you, reading into a microphone.  The story revolves around some aliens kidnapping Santa, but it's nothing scary and recommended for ages 6-10.  My son was only 4 and he was okay with the show, but not all little ones are the same!  Think ahead to what your child will like best.  The seats are comfy enough, and they are tilted back so you can look up at the giant pseudo-sky without hurting your neck.  The whole show runs about 40 minutes.

What You Need to Know
  • This is a planetarium, so it will be dark.  Sometimes, very dark, as you need to be able to see the night "sky" above you.  If your little one has issues with the dark, just keep in mind that this might not be the right event for them.  If you have to leave during the show, just remember that they won't let you back in.
  • As of the publication date of this entry, tickets are $8 each, or you can watch two shows for $14 on the same day
  • They recommend that you call ahead to reserve a seat, although there are no assigned seats once you enter the theater
  • This was a great learning experience for my son.  He was able to experience a real planetarium at a low cost and learn a little bit about the solar system in the process.
  • We once attended a different show in the summer and it was a nice change on a hot day, perhaps an alternative to a movie?

Jersey Momma Tips
  • Be on time!
  • This is a small planetarium on a college campus, so as I usually say, don't expect it to compare to larger, more costly planetariums in museums.
  • If you think the Alien Who Stole Christmas might not be right for your child, check out what else they have to offer.  There are other star shows and music laser light shows, too, all of which look like a lot of fun.
  • The planetarium also offers events for children with autism.  Check their event listings page for more details.
  • Head over to their Facebook page or sign up for their email list for more information.



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