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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Guest Post: Greensboro Science Center & SciQuarium - part 1 of 2

This post is the first of a two part series, submitted by Leslie Wannamaker, a Greensboro mom of two boys. Please view the second part of this post, with additional information on the Greensboro Science Center here: http://www.gsofamilies.com/2013/07/guest-post-greensboro-science-center_7.html

The Greensboro Science Center has finally opened the new SciQuarium building. Since we have a membership, I have already taken the kids several times. The new exhibits are wonderful and the new entrance layout is much smoother. I will caution you that it is probably going to be crowded for a while. Parking can be difficult at peak times but there are now two large lots. The ticket line may look rather daunting as well but it moves fairly quickly with four ticket windows. If you have a membership, there is a separate expedited line.

The cost for admission is $12.50 for adults, $11.50 for seniors and children, and free for children under 2. Remember that Greensboro residents, military personnel, City of Greensboro employees, and college students all receive $1 off admission. If you have a membership to the NC Zoo, an NC Aquarium, or SciWorks, you can also receive 50% off admission. For those without a discount, it sounds expensive, but it really is worth the price when you consider all that is included in the ticket. General admission covers the Sciquarium, Museum, kids’ play areas, Animal Discovery, Health Exhibit, and several shows. The only thing not covered by general admission would be any traveling exhibits, the photo booth, and the OmniSphere Theatre ($3-$5 per ticket). You could easily spend all day at the Greensboro Science Center. They only close two or three days out of the entire year so it’s always open. If the weather is bad, there is still plenty to see inside.

That’s enough of the nitty gritty for now. The new exhibits are better than I was anticipating. They have a fishing cat, penguin, otters, a large Amazon exhibit with fish and snakes, the stingray touch tank, the large reef tank, and many other educational areas interspersed between the animal exhibits. My son loved the touch screen exhibits spread around the SciQuarium as well.

Be sure to check out the viewing bubble tucked inside the otter exhibit. There is a passageway under the back of the exhibit that leads to a special bubble inside. The otters are friendly and like to stand right next to the bubble. I think some of the kids had more fun just climbing in and out. It’s certainly large enough for an adult to stand in but you will have to duck down to get to it.

There is a great place for pictures beside the penguin exhibit. If your kids like rides, there is a short ride behind the penguin exhibit for $1. It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re swimming with the penguins. I haven’t tried it myself because one of my boys is terrified of that type of ride, but there were plenty of kids who seemed to enjoy it.

The stingray touch tank is a lot of fun! The kids aren’t supposed to splash, but of course it happens. If you really want to touch one, I’ve learned a few tricks. On the left side of the tank beside the pier, there are some shallow areas where it’s easier to reach the stingrays. Avoid anyone splashing because it scares the animals away. Put your hand in the water and move as slowly as possible. They will rub against your fingers like a cat. There is a hand washing station across from the touch tank beside the Amazon exhibit. A word of caution, the tank is deeper than other similar exhibits I’ve seen. Make sure your little one isn’t climbing the rocks and/or leaning too far over. I haven’t heard of any incidents but the school teacher in me can see it happening.

The animal quarantine area and the main reef tank are also great exhibits. There are several different sharks, a few large stingrays and tons of fish. I believe they are getting ready to add more fish to the main tank as well. If you are traveling with grandparents, there are plenty of places to sit in the SciQuarium. It’s larger than I was expecting. Even with the crowds, I was able to maneuver the double stroller without any trouble.

As you exit the SciQuarium, there is a photo booth. You can see the pictures before you buy them and you don’t have to buy them at all. The pictures are taken against a green screen. They add in about six different backgrounds like a shark eating the surfboard you’re standing on, riding a giant stingray, and standing inside some of the exhibits. It’s cute but a little more than I wanted to spend (starts at $20).

If the crowds are inhibiting your enjoyment of the SciQuarium, you might want to come back to it last. It is right at the main entrance so most people go there first. I have noticed that after 4:00 it is almost empty. If you have a sensitive little one or just hate the crowds, I would recommend strolling the museum, followed by Animal Discovery, and save the SciQuarium for last.

The only disappointment I had with the new wing was the bathrooms. I’m sure only a mom would find them troublesome. They are nice and clean, but small. If you are traveling with newly potty-trained little ones, allow extra time when you can. You can fit an adult and child into the stall but it’s a tight squeeze. Only the largest stall can hold a stroller (which is typical). Unfortunately, this is where they choose to put the changing station. If you have a stroller, you may want to park it outside the bathroom (there is an information desk there with museum staff so no worries about theft). If you have little ones who will need to be changed, you may want to take them to another restroom. The restroom around the corner from the kids play area has a changing table outside of the stalls. Downstairs across from the elevator there is a larger restroom (same number of stalls but they are bigger). There is also a restroom outside near the little house in Animal Discovery.

This post is the first of a two part series, submitted by Leslie Wannamaker, a Greensboro mom of two boys. Please view the second part of this post, with additional information on the Greensboro Science Center here: http://www.gsofamilies.com/2013/07/guest-post-greensboro-science-center_7.html

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