Hawaii Mom Blog: Visit Portland: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)




April 11, 2014

Visit Portland: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), a facility that serves over a million visitors a year, engages the minds of both the young and young at heart through numerous hands-on exhibits and labs through which visitors learn all about the wonders of science.

Highlights of Our Hosted Visit
The first exhibit we visited was the Tony Hawk / Rad Science exhibit (continues through May 4).

Tony Hawk / Rad Science
With more than 25 interactive experiences, visitors could test their balance on skateboards, learn all about skateboards and gear, and even play some video games.

One of my kids' favorite experiences was Friction Hill, where on one side of the hill kids could race up different surfaces to see which surface was easiest to climb, and on another side of the hill kids could slide different materials down various surfaces to see which combination would be the fastest.

In the Earth Hall, we learned about energy, weather, the environment, geology, and more.  There was a fun recycling game, a cool pinball machine with eco-friendly tips, and a human power display complete with a mini treadmill to emphasize the benefits of walking when it comes to the environment.

Earth Hall Exhibit
In Life Hall, we learned all about our bodies, our development, our growth, and how to live a longer, healthier life. My oldest son enjoyed What Can We Do About Aging?, which allowed him to take a peek at various stations to see what can be done to live healthier lives, such as floss your teeth and protect yourself from the sun.  My younger sons really enjoyed the puppet theater and the exhibits that involved food, such as the Eat a Rainbow puzzle.
Life Hall Exhibit
Turbine Hall, which focuses on technology, was one of my kids' favorite places.  They had a lot of fun shaking around in the Earthquake House, building an Arch Bridge, and transporting blocks in the Port of Portland. 
Building an Arch Bridge
Transporting Cargo in the Port of Portland

The biggest draw was the Inventor's Ball Room, where kids could get creative with materials to send balls flying in the air.

Inventor's Ball Room
By far their favorite exhibit at OMSI was the Science Playground (the area is specifically for kids 6 and under, but those older than 6 may enter if a sibling 6 or under and an adult accompanies him/her).

In the Science Playground is a Water Area, Sandland, a Kids Market, and so much more!
Water play
Building blocks
My kids repeatedly asked to go back to this area so they could build, play, and pretend.

Throughout OMSI there are also many Science Labs where kids can learn about chemistry, get a closer look at fossils, or even build things.

My husband's favorite exhibits were the brain teaser stations. He wished he had more time at each station, but my kids kept wanting to explore other areas.

There really is something for everyone at OMSI!

On site is Galileo's Snack Bar and Theory.  We ended up dining at Theory for lunch.
Side Penne and Cheese

Grilled Cheese - Provolone, Swiss, American, and Havarti on Brioche

Cubano - Roasted Carlton Farms pork loin, shaved ham, pickled zucchini, provolone cheese with Dijon aioli on ciabatta
The food was reasonably-priced, delicious, and satisfying.

I thought the ambience was very fresh and inviting, and I also thought the booth benches were really neat (they slide out, which is great if the person on the inside needs to get up for whatever reason, and the other diners can simply stay seated).

There was also a cool science experiment going on at the eatery where kids could learn about the acidity of different foods.

Our Experience Visiting with a Special-Needs Child
My oldest son has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and although I know kids on the spectrum all behave and react differently in various environments, I always try to share our personal experience when visiting attractions.

Upon arrival we asked for a map since my son loves maps and looking at one gives him a sense of calm so he can familiarize himself with a new place.

However, it was evident that my son felt a bit overwhelmed by all of the exhibits.  Initially he did not want to participate in any experiments, but after a while he started to get comfortable, and he started to interact with more and more exhibits.

It wasn't until we went into the Science Playground, where he saw the water play stations, did he really feel at ease.  He stayed in the water play area for a very long time, and he did the same at the water play area in Turbine Hall.

More water play
Other exhibits he really enjoyed were the Inventor's Ball Room (he enjoys exhibits that involve balls), as well as the building blocks area in the Science Playground and the Port of Portland area in the Turbine Hall because of the huge maps on the floor.

There were times he did seem to get overstimulated, especially because of the number of people at the museum, or because of interacting with an exhibit that was out of his comfort zone, and during those times we'd tell him he could go back to one of his favorite areas, or we could take a break somewhere.

There are several places to sit within OMSI for rest breaks, and even some areas that were quieter than others (e.g. the Discovery Lab in the Science Playground or upstairs in the Turbine Hall).  We also went outside a couple of times for a break - there's a beautiful view of the Willamette River and a couple of bridges (he loves bridges).

Overall he really enjoyed himself at OMSI, and it was great to see him interact with so many exhibits.

Final Thoughts
OMSI is definitely a must-see for any visitor to the Porland, Oregon area, and I'm quite envious of those who have annual memberships.  I could see our family going to OSMI very often, learning something new each time.  We were there for about 5 hours, and there was still so much more we could've done and learned.

I was very impressed with the clever and fun ways that the various exhibits taught us about science, and the OMSI staff and volunteers were very friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic.

It's no wonder that OMSI serves over a million visitors a year.  It's an amazing facility that keeps visitors engaged with exhibits showcasing the wonders of science.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
1945 SE Water Ave
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 797-4000

Click here for admission prices, hours, and parking information.

Thank you to OMSI for hosting our visit.  Meals were paid on our own.

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