By Ron Sparkman | @UpportunityU
For those as infatuated with space and science as I am, it’s not a big secret that Colorado is a HUGE hot-spot for the industry on all fronts. Boeing, Lockheed Martin , ULA, and most of the other major aerospace companies do big business in the state. That’s not mentioning the many nationally respected astronomical societies, huge events such as Space Symposium and the Aspen Ideas Festival, and so on. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Denver and its surrounding areas are host to quite a few space and science museums, the biggest of all being the Denver Museum of Nature and Science located in downtown Denver.
The first thing you may notice when pulling into the almost-always-packed parking lot is that the building is huge. The three-story museum is home to an IMAX theater, a planetarium, traveling exhibitions, a well-stocked museum shop, restaurants, a first-aid station, and a library. Oh, and then there’s the actual museum exhibits (and apparently a Pokemon or two). I think it’s safe to say that even a quick trip through the museum will take the majority of the afternoon.
On the first floor, you’ll pass the ticket desk, restaurant,and gift shop on your way to the first exhibits. Space nerd? Don’t worry. After securing your tickets, you’re only steps away from both the planetarium and the Space Odyssey exhibits. Home to one of NOAA‘s many Science on a Spheres, it’s one of the two places I’ve seen use the technology as an educational tool–the other being the Space Foundation about 90 minutes south. The walls are adorned with quotes inspired by the cosmic perspective from names like Isaac Asimov and late Astronaut Don Williams. Their exploration of the solar system is expertly laid out with a spotlight on the Red Planet. A well-crafted Martian landscape is the backdrop for a plethora of information on why Mars should be our next great space destination. A glass case holds meteorites launched to our planet from Mars millions of years ago, proving that our cosmic neighbor isn’t as far away as we might think, and that a bit of elbow grease from humankind is all we need to become a multi-planet species. Water, life, and all the other big questions are put on display, asking you to answer them for yourself.
Also on the first floor, is something for the geology buffs, the Coors Hall of Gems and Minerals. While many of the stunning gems on display seem otherworldly–and I’m certain that some are–it’s amazing to see the diversity of our Earth on display. A special focus is given for the Colorado mountains and the treasure trove of elements available to any scientist that puts the effort in to look.
And all of the above is just a part of the first floor. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science gives you the chance to dive into the history of our world on a much deeper level with exhibits like Prehistoric Journey, a showcase of everyone’s favorite museum fodder, DINOSAURS; Edge Of The Wild, which shares a history of the more recent animal kingdom; Expedition Health, an interactive, “edutainment” experience that gets kids of all ages an inside look into how important your health is, as well as a few fun ways to show you how to improve it (rock climbing wall anyone?!); and Explore Colorado, an ode to the rich history of the state that has given this museum a proper home.
The IMAX theater is focused on science-based documentaries shot specifically for a screen of such magnitude. With films like “A Beautiful Planet” (now showing!), you get a real sense of how science is not just changing our world, but showing it to us in ways we simply couldn’t imagine before this time in history. After a show here or at the planetarium, you need to make sure to visit the Sky Terrace to get a look through the telescopes or just gaze out at the beautiful mountain ranges in the distance.
Special events are always coming through the museum, a couple a year in fact. There’s always something new and amazing going on at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature. If you’re in the Denver area, you owe it to yourself and your family to spend the day here and be immersed in the wonders of the natural world!