Sunny beaches, beautiful people, hard-hitting D.J.’s and some of the best nightclubs in the world. That’s what most think about when they think of South Florida. At least, that’s how I’ve always enjoyed the city! So for my first trip to the beaches not indulging in the nightlife, I figured I’d do a little research and find something sciencey to indulge myself in. I was surprised to find out there’s not one or two, but three science museums throughout the area. I asked my friends to recommend the best of the lot and they recommended The Museum of Discovery and Science. I was able to make a second trip recently and got to stop by the one in Miami, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, and you can read about that soon! Now onto the adventure!
I caught the train down to Fort Lauderdale from West Palm Beach and after a quick bus ride, I was at the museum. It’s very easily located through public transportation which is always a plus. The outside had a bit of pop to let you know what it was, but nothing too eye catching. Upon walking through the doors, I noticed the expansive two-level building. The lady at the front desk was pleasant and helpful. So far, South Florida has the only science museums that I’ve come across that have live animals. An indoor zoo of sorts, the first area showcases everything from sea turtles and exotic fish on one side to tarantulas and bats on the other. I was caught off guard seeing this, but the exhibits were handled well. The animals all seemed to have decent space to explore and there were more than a few surprises. For example, they have tarantulas and snakes, both of which terrify me, so I decided to take the chance to learn something about them. Knowledge conquers fear, right?
Going green…for the kids!
Outside of the mini zoo, I walked almost directly into the “Go Green” area. Kid-friendly without pandering, this well-made exhibit is a great way to introduce and educate children on the changing environment around us. There’s a lot of information, pleasantly displayed, in a small area. A main goal of Upportunity is to share anything educational on climate change and this exhibit is firmly on that list. I love that they’ve put this in such a visible place which helped it to be one of the busiest exhibits I saw all day. Also on the first level was an exhibit on the weather of Florida, featuring an interactive sphere for studying the planets of the solar system, as well as some of their respective weather systems. I was short on time and this was one piece I could’ve played with all day. The final part of the first floor that I got to explore was the ancient animal exhibit, which showcased a life-sized Carcharodon Megalodon, a 60 ft. long behemoth shark that didn’t have any natural predators to speak of. One of my all-time favorite dinosaurs, I was stoked to see a life-size model like you see at the top of the page! Absolutely stunning. There’s still more to be seen on the first floor, but I couldn’t wait any longer to see the “To Fly” exhibit–the reason I picked this museum– and its special focus on Mars and space!
I came back around front to catch the escalator I’d seen earlier. As I taxied up, I saw a sign that simply said “To Fly” in giant yellow letters. The classic feel of the sign face gave me hope I was in for something special (hint-I was). Immediately off the escalator, I came face-to-face with the Mars Rover. As much as I wanted to jump on this ride first thing, I had a couple of my close friends on the way and figured we would enjoy the experience together. As previously mentioned, the banner does say “To Fly”, so there’s a large area on airplanes as well. I was overwhelmed upon finally seeing a commercial airplane’s landing gear up close. Seeing its gargantuan size allowed me to fully understood why it makes so much noise when being deployed. About that time, my phone rang and two of my friends, Joe and Josie, joined me at the museum. We’d not seen each other in quite a while so it was awesome to share my new passion for space science–all science really–with them, especially with Josie finishing school herself. We were ready to nerd out, so I didn’t waste any time dragging them over to the Mars rover!
As we strapped ourselves in for our “Trip to Mars”, our helpful guide gave us the instructions on how the simulation would work. Most kids and adults should be fine with this ride, but it can jerk a little hard from time to time, so you may want to be careful with either small children or the elderly. For us, it was perfect. It was a great presentation, funny and amusing. I’d love to see a more modernized version of this setup, though. Still it was a great ride with a lot of great information for folks on what a trip to Mars could be like someday soon. As you exit on the other side, you find yourself surrounded by a plethora of Mars and space knowledge. I don’t think it’s a surprise to say that this was my favorite part of the whole museum. Definitely worth the time stopping in just for this. But there was definitely much more.
One of the final areas we were able to see was the “Powerful You” exhibit, which was especially fascinating to my friend Josie who’d been studying the human body in school. This area went into full detail on the human body, it’s functions, how to fuel it and much, much more. Human biology can be hard to study, so I love the accessibility to hands-on experiences here. There’s an interactive video display that lets you slide a touch screen pad across the human body and look at all its inner workings. An impressive, visual learning tool since some learn better seeing than hearing information. And there is a LOT of information to absorb in this area. There’s even some great explanations on how your body stores fat, the foods we should use for fuels. This is truly a place for learning in a fun atmosphere.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the great work done here. The best thing this museum has going for it is its ability to do many things well. If you’re an air and space fanatic like me, there’s plenty to explore here, including some great Mars info. There’s more than a few exhibits I missed entirely, so keep in mind this two-story hotspot can easily be a multi-day affair and plan accordingly. Having too much to see in one visit is always a win for me. I love having a reason to come back! Til next time, thanks for reading!