Science City review, Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri is home to a science center once named one of the nation’s 25 best by Parents Magazine. Science City, housed in Union Station, offers learning experiences in a hand-on environment so well designed, the kids will never catch on that it’s educational.

science-city review

Science City review:

As with most science centers, exhibits may change periodically, but perennial favorites and rotating displays alike are home runs, engaging kids at a hands-on level. Some of the highlights of our visit were:

  • Two chlorinated water tables. The smaller one challenges kids to build channels for racing rubber ducks. The larger table contains a number of experiments, including creating a water spout as well as a manual auger that lifts the water to power a water wheel and other fun gizmos.
  • A space shuttle landing simulator, part of a larger exhibit about physics and space travel.
  • A wacky “hotel” full of optical illusions.
  • A real helicopter that kids can climb inside.
  • The “Skybike,” which is counterbalanced by a load of bricks to keep it on track as it follows a tight-rope 30 feet above the floor (this experience has height/weight restrictions, and although it’s clearly safe, it also feels like a real adventure!).
  • Excavating dinosaur bones from a shredded-tire-mulch resting place.
  • The renewable energy exhibit, where we powered light bulbs by running in a human-sized hamster wheel and by riding bicycles.

Science-City

This is only a sampling of the major exhibits at Science City. You’ll find smaller gems tucked into every nook and cranny, from shadow and kinetic walls to a slide built out of a city water pipe, and a music area in which the floor itself becomes an instrument.

For the little ones, Science City has a small indoor playground and a room dedicated just to them. Older kids can participate in staff-led guided activities every day; on Saturdays there are demonstrations and make-it-yourself opportunities in the Maker Studio. They even offer lock-ins and camp-ins for groups.

One thing you’ll find here that you won’t see at most other science centers is the Kansas City Rail Experience. Union Station, home of Science City, is not only a tourist destination but a working Amtrak station. In the KC Rail Experience, you can climb up in a retired diesel engine and walk through a caboose removed from its wheels to make it wheelchair/stroller accessible. A small theater inside a converted Pullman car plays a video about the history of Union Station—a welcome chance to sit down and rest your feet.

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Science City is spacious and airy, with lots of natural light. Visitors enter from the concourse level of Union Station and make their way to the ground level. This is a destination you won’t want to rush; give yourself time to spend most of a day there. Purchase tickets at the ground level ticket booth (down an escalator from the soaring ceilings of the main terminal) and present them at the Science City entrance, where staff will give you a wristband that allows you to come and go all day.

Science-City-review

Where to eat:

Food and drink is not permitted inside, but for a memorable meal, take a short walk across The Link, an indoor elevated walkway, to Fritz’s, at Crown Center. Fritz’s offers burgers and all the usual accompaniments, delivered to the table by miniature trains. (There’s no good way to describe how this works. You just have to experience it.) You can eat dessert at Fritz’s or step next door to Sheridan’s Custard, which offers all the usual flavors and mix-ins as well as specialty items. We tried and loved the Grant’s Grasshopper, the Dirt & Worms, and the Mexican Chocolate concretes.

Planning your Science City-Union Station trip:

Science City is located at Union Station, 30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City. It is open 10-5 Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. Tickets are $13.50 for adults and $11.50 for kids ages 3-12. Admission is free for Union Station members. See the Union Station website for details about parking and holiday schedules. While you’re on site, take a few minutes to explore the 8,000 square foot model train room at the end of the concourse that houses Science City. It’s free, and with model trains of all sizes, including Thomas and LEGO displays, you’ll probably have to pry the kids away. Union Station also houses a large planetarium and major traveling exhibits (fees separate), so plan ahead to make sure you have time to do everything you want.

Our family visited Science City as guests of VisitKC in return for an impartial review.

About the author

Kathleen Basi Freelance writer Kathleen Basi has lived her entire life in "flyover country," but she's an old pro at road trips, having taken the first of many extended driving vacations at the tender age of five. She's a huge proponent of letting kids see and experience the space between "here" and "there." Find her at http://kathleenbasi.com/blog/.

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