Monday, January 18, 2016

A Review of Liberty Science Center

Every kid should have a chance to visit a Science Museum.  Seriously, it's one of the coolest ways to learn without even realizing you're learning!  You might have seen my review of the DaVinci Science Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  We visited there on a field trip.  But New Jersey is actually home to one of the best science centers around, Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.  If you're wondering what it's like there, if it's worth the trip, or even what a science center is, then read on, my friends!  I've got ya covered.  And keep in mind that I was NOT compensated by Liberty Science Center for this trip, this is not a sponsored post.  It's just me, sharing my opinions with you because I'm cool like that.

What is the Liberty Science Center?

On their Twitter page, LSC (I'm just going to abbreviate from now on- you get it, right?) refers to themselves as a 'wonder factory,' and I swear that's the best way to describe them!  They are open year round.

The Jersey Momma's Boy was excited to begin his journey through the LSC!

It's almost like a giant hands-on learning experience.  There are four floors with exhibits that range from animals to communication, infections to energy - you name it, there's learning going on.  There are tunnels, rock walls, animals, movies, and just about anything you can think of.  You MUST visit their website for a complete list of current exhibits, because they're always changing.  We were fortunate enough to be there for their Rubix Cube exhibit, but in the past we've seen Curious George exhibits, Avatar exhibits, New York City exhibits and more.

A view of the different floors of the Liberty Science Center

What Will I See at The Liberty Science Center?

There's literally too much to name.  But each floor holds different experiences.  The Jersey Momma's Boy (and most of the kids there) was fascinated by the giant sneezing nose in the Infection Connection.

This nose 'sneezes' every few minutes!
Try your hand at solar power racing!
I, myself, adore the Eat or Be Eaten exhibit, where you can see a variety of different animals and insects (baby tamarin monkeys had just been born when we visited).

Hello, little tamarin!
I also love the 'Our Hudson Home,' where you can see some of the beauty that the Hudson River offers. The fish of the Hudson were particularly fascinating!  Who knew they could get so big??  There's even a touch tank here for the kids, too.

They seem unreal, don't they?
I also liked the observation deck, where you could walk outside and see the New York City skyline.

Ahoy, Jersey Momma Boys!
Another exhibit that The Jersey Momma's Boy loves is the Wonder Why area.  Here he was able to climb a mini rock wall, make giant bubbles, test his arm strength, and more.

'I can do it!' says The Jersey Momma's Boy.
The Jersey Momma's Boy loves the life size d blocks!
Skyscraper was a beautiful and touching exhibit, with artifacts from 9/11 on display.  Although The Jersey Momma's Boy was too young yet, older children can 'walk the steel' beams high above the displays.  They can experience a 'hurricane in a box' (which is actually pretty funny to watch from the outside!), build with colorful blocks and more.

Building a masterpiece...
Inside the Skyscraper exhibit.
There is also an outdoor wildlife challenge that we have yet to experience.  The first time we visited was after Hurrican Sandy and the exhibit was closed.  The second time we visited, it was raining (the exhibit is open weather permitting).

You can see the wildlife challenge after Hurricane Sandy below, and the Freedom Tower being built in the NY Skyline above.

The Touch Tunnel

LSC is home to another cool exhibit called The Touch Tunnel.  Designed to show you what it's like to rely on all of your senses (not just your sight!) for navigation, the touch tunnel is a dark (and I mean dark) crawlspace type of tunnel.  Adults must accompany children under 7 (and this is a low tunnel, so adults must crouch/crawl if they follow their little ones in).  If you have a bad back, bad knees or are particularly tall, this is not the exhibit for you.  If your child is afraid of the dark, of confined spaces or narrow tunnels, this is not the exhibit for you!  I journeyed through with the Jersey Momma's Boy on more than one occasion.  The tunnel is pitch black, and you pretty much use your hands to navigate through, touching the carpeted walls for guidance (it only takes a few minutes to navigate through, but seems much longer.  Their site says ten minutes, but I would say it took us five.  I suppose it depends on how crowded it gets)).  One year we cheated a bit because The Jersey Momma's Boy had light up shoes, so they helped guide our way.  I also saw someone using the light from their cell phone to help (but that does kind of defeat the purpose!).  There are employees monitoring what's going on inside the tunnel at all times, and they can help anyone who might be in distress or get upset during the exploration (I think they have an emergency 'light on' switch if needed).  If you make it to the other side you can see a photo of yourself in the tunnel on their computer screens, and even have it emailed to yourself!  I'm quite proud of these pictures, believe it or not.

Is My Child the Right Age for Liberty Science Center?

I feel like LSC is right for any age.  Honestly, there's really something for everyone.  The I Explore area is designed specifically for ages 2-5 and contains mini animal exhibits, hands-on learning and fun climbing opportunities for little learners.

Older children can learn a lot from every exhibit.  The Energy Quest exhibit specifically has a lot of opportunities for higher level thinking.  Some of the exhibits were over my little one's head.  By that I mean that he was too little to understand them yet (he was 4 during our first visit and 6 during our second visit). But he still enjoyed experimenting and playing, so I think it kid of balances out.  When he gets older and we return again, he'll be better able to read more of the displays and understand the concepts.

IMAX Movies

For an added fee you can view LSC's current IMAX movies.  If you've never seen an IMAX movie before, they're truly incredible, with an amazing, wrap around screen and tiered level seating.  We did not take The Jersey Momma's Boy to the IMAX movies yet because I think he's a little too young (at age 6) to sit through them.  There was enough for us to see in the center itself that we didn't feel he needed to add in the movie experience, too.  Keep in mind that infants under 2 are not permitted in the IMAX theater.  The IMAX theater is situated inside the dome that you see from the outside of the building.  It's one of the first things you notice about the LSC!

Where Can I Eat at Liberty Science Center?

I actually really like the food at LSC.  It's basically a cafeteria but I really like their wood fired pizza.  They also have sandwiches and other hot meals available, as well as desserts, drinks and snacks.  Plenty of choices for picky eaters!  There's a lot to choose from and the eating area can get kind of crowded, so arrive before or after the lunch rush for best seating.  Prices were reasonable for a type of place such as this.

How Much Does Liberty Science Center Cost?

As always, be sure to check the LSC website for the latest ticket prices and cost (as of the publication date of this entry, children 2-12 were $17.75 each and adults were $21.75 each).  We tend to visit places like this during the week in the morning, so crowds are at their lowest.  But if you come during a busier time or on the weekends, the line for ticket purchase can be super long.  You might want to order tickets online in advance for that reason.  IMAX movies are an added fee.  You might be able to find coupons online or in the KidStuff coupon books that are sold in some schools.  Groupon and Living Social also have deals at times, so always search around on the internet for your best price.

There is ample parking at LSC and an overflow lot if necessary.  It states on their website that they charge a $7.00 parking fee, but the last time we went (during the week) there was no parking cost.  I'm not sure why that was.  Their website also offers extensive directions from all areas.

Souvenir Shop

This is one of my favorite souvenir shops to visit.  But if you've read my entries before, then you know The Jersey Momma's Boy and Mr. Jersey Momma are not big fans of souvenir shops.  So I always leave them in the Skyscraper! exhibit when I want to shop here (the shop is across from it).  The Jersey Momma's Boy builds his super structures out of blocks with Mr. Jersey Momma and I run off to look at all of the cool shirts, rocks, science books, exotic candy and other cool things that this funky shop has to offer.  They don't know what they're missing!!

Jersey Momma Tips

*strollers are permitted and there is a lot of walking, since this is a large place, so be sure to take along what you need for your little ones!

*LSC also hosts birthday parties, camps and special events, so keep that in mind if you're looking for a fun place to party!

*LSC is a popular place for camps, schools and various groups to visit.  Arrive early and pre-purchase tickets online if you can.  I recommend weekdays over weekends (pretty much anywhere, actually).  If you arrive at the same time as large groups, consider starting on a different floor than them (go from the top to the bottom)

*the bathrooms we visited were clean and family friendly, also plenty of them located on each floor, as well as water fountains.  There is even a nursing room available if you inquire at the front desk.

*the entire building is handicapped accessible and has elevators and stairs throughout

*LSC offers Teacher Appreciation Days and Special Needs Days, amongst other things.  Check out their website for more info!

*also to note here, the fabulous Liberty Humane Society is located right beyond the parking lot of the LSC.  Why not bring them a donation (here's a link to their wishlist) or stop in to find a furry friend after visiting the science center?