@Susan, this is absolutely a gem! I lived in the Bay Area for almost 10 years, and I never knew about this place! Besides the story about the city of Oakland used keep their own time is such an interesting piece of history! Next time when I come back to the area, I am definitely going there!
Chicago's Adler Planetarium has undergone a massive renewal, and is now one of the kid-friendliest places around. All the cool old stuff is still there, but the new interactive exhibits are wonderful. My husband and I went there very early one day, before all the kids arrived, and we had a blast!
There can be no on great museum! Individually and collectively, it is wonderful that there have never been so many excellent showcases for the magic, wonder and real-world applicability of science and technology as we enjoy today. Notable examples are the Boston Science Museum, The Ontario Science Center, The NY Hall of Science (at the site of the Old NY World's Fair), Brooklyn Children's Museum, Long Island's Cradle of Aviation Museum, The NY Museum of Natural History (a century-old education palace!), the Chicago Museum of Science, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, the new Detroit Science Center, The Smithsonians in D.C., San Diego Science Museum, San Jose's Children's Discovery Museum and The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Computer History Museum, San Francisco's Exploratorium, Seattle's Pacific Science Center, The Seattle Aviation Museum at Boeing Field.
And in Shanghai, PRC, The Shanghai Science and technology Museum perhaps offers the finest balanced mix of Western and emergining eastern Science & Technology, with more exhibits encouraging kids to enjoy a place in the parade of progress that all other science museum directors would do well to take note!
The good news is that almost everyone in North America is within driving range of the finest children - and family - science centers in the world!
I confess, whenever I visit one of these museums, with my own (grown) daughters, or other children in tow, I feel like a kid again! Freshly reminded of the wonders and discovery that lay before me as a child, and still beckon to me as an adult.
I was in fact very impressed when I talked to the director of Madison Children's Museum. I had been to the museum before but in preparing for this story, I wanted to double check on a few things. The museum director came out for the interview, and she told me, in a brief sentence, what I consider the essence of science and engineering: "experiments, patience and persistence." Since none of the objects on display at this museum comes with an instruction set, you need to figure it out by tinkering and fooling around with it -- as with anything "in real life," she said. Well put.
@sheepdoll, you wrote:
"This place was made for kids, without them it's nothing."
True, unless adults get into the spirit of diving into things, like kids, and trying out everything with their own hands!
Quite agree these kids museums are just so engaging for kids as well as adults. In Canada, the nature musem in Ottawa is just so wonderful. No matter how many times you go, you would not mind if have to another time. Science musems are also equally exciting in SanJose, SFO and so on. The science muesems or museums as such must be encouraged. But it should be maintained well. In US and Canada they are so well maintained.
I loved the Explorotorium in the early 1970s. They had a show with a bunch of early space stuff like Goddard's rocket, just stuffed into an alcove. I think one of the mercury capsules was there. I am told that the old man who ran the place back then was Frank Oppenheimer. There were lots of laser and holographic exhibits.
Went there as an adult to a corporate party. Found it lacking. Went back a month later when the kids were there. This place was made for kids, without them it is nothing.
Also visited Lawrence Hall of science a few times. Went there for an eclipse viewing that was out over the pacific. Again the place was full of kids. Also had a corporate party there for a company I was working for. They had the meat hors d'oeuvres in the "wolf" room which was a collection of carnivores. I did manage to find some stuff I recognized from an old textbook on programming, regarding atomic simulation. Was fun that I knew what it was.
We also locally had the "aquarium." Have not been there since they disneyfied it. This museum had endowed to it one of the finest collections of clocks and watches, not on public display. These items are now on permanent loan to the National clock and watch museum in Pennsylvania. It is sad when industrial engineering has no place in a "Natural History" Museum. That no one cares about the history of watch design and the "successful failures" that lasted generations.