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Science, Technology, Natural History Museums? 435

beadfulthings writes "An unexpected windfall has enabled my husband and me to plan a road trip next year. He's expressed a wish to visit some good science, technology, and natural history museums along the way. Of course it's easy to obtain a long list of them via Google, but I'd like some insight and input. What does your area or city in the US or Canada have in the way of science museums? Are they worth traveling to visit? Do you have any particular favorite exhibits or 'must see' recommendations? This man was brought up in Philadelphia and apparently spent most of his boyhood and adolescence at the Franklin Institute and its Fels Planetarium, so I guess that would be his 'gold standard.' I grew up going to the Smithsonian. Any area of science, math, technology, natural history, or even industrial stuff would be fair game. I think we'll probably want to miss out on the 'creation science' stuff."
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Science, Technology, Natural History Museums?

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  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:11PM (#29044641)

    Yes it's a "Kids" museum, but if you like anything hands on, it's awesome. Even to a 25 year old BSME.

    http://www.childrensmuseum.org/ [childrensmuseum.org]

    That and the museums in Chicago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I was just about to suggest the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

      Bachelors in science and math education, I think.

      • I was just about to suggest the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

        That, and the view of the city from Adler Planetarium is one of the two best views of Lake Michigan and Chicago (the other being from the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Tower). You can park in the Field's Museum Lot, and then stroll down to Adler Planetarium, where you can literally sit on the perch along Lake Michigan and see the entire coast and skyline of Chicago curving around the horizon. It's really beautiful; plus points for dawn and sunset.

      • by treeves ( 963993 )

        My guess would be Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

        If Portland, OR is on the route, you gotta go to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).
        I like planetariums (planetaria?) too.

    • by qubezz ( 520511 )

      It seems like ALL science museums are children's museums. Go to their websites and look at all the stock art pictures of six-year-olds. There is not much entertaining or educating to a scientifically trained adult except IMAX movies. The only thing I found interesting in the local museum was the sparse actual 'museum' part that had some early prototypes from Edison's lab. Otherwise everything is child-oriented, and not even that scientific, just a kindergarten with bubble wands and blocks, and if you are lu

    • I grew up in Indiana and I can wholeheartedly recommend the Indy Children's Museum as well as the Chicago ones (the Field Museum / Adler Planetarium / Shedd Aquarium / Museum of Science and Industry).

    • by EMB Numbers ( 934125 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @10:37PM (#29046959)

      The Indianapolis Children's museum is weak for both children and adults compared to either St. Louis or Toronto. Indianapolis is comparable to CoSci in Columbus OH.

      My family and I love zoos and museums. Our annual family vacations have included museums/zoos all over North America and the U.K. over 20+ years.

      The St. Louis Science Center is free and very good. The Ontario Science Centre in Toronto is the best science museum in the world; it takes 3 days to see everything. I particularly like the perpetual motion machines. They have exhibits of machines that inventors claim exhibit perpetual motion - it's a puzzle for you to figure out the trick to each one... where it gets its energy. I love to listen to the school kids on tours theorize how each machine works and debate with each other. It is great to hear 14 year olds talk about laws of thermodynamics or the Venturi effect. IIRC, one really tricky one works based on the surface tension of soap bubbles, but you eventually have to blow more bubbles ;)

      The Air Force museum in Dayton Ohio is bigger and better than the Smithsonian Air & Space museum. At the Smithsonian, the exhibits hang from the ceiling out of reach. At The AF museum, you can touch the airplane that bombed Nagasaki, stick your head in a Gemini capsule that orbited Earth, climb into the bomb bay of a B-29, hand turn a Nazi jet engine prototype, view the Red Baron's medals, kick the tiers of fighter jets, etc.

      The Field Museum in Chicago is fairly good, but the Natural History Museum in London U.K. is the best in the world. The London Transport Museum is also great.

      St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. paul, and San Diego have the best zoos, but Indianapolis has a nice zoo too. I have recently been to zoos in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Cincinnati, Toronto, Wheeling, and Des Moines. All were nice in their special ways but not great.

      I have never seen a planetarium that impressed me, but I'll keep looking.

    • ASTC (Score:3, Informative)

      by j-beda ( 85386 )

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_Science-Technology_Centers [wikipedia.org]

      Get a membership at one of the science centers that is part of ASTC (most of them in NA seem to be) and you can get free admission in essentially all of the other ASTC member institutions via their "passport program". The ASTC also lists their members:

      http://www.astc.org/members/passlist_about.htm [astc.org]

  • Pirates!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sys.stdout.write ( 1551563 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:12PM (#29044649)
    The field museum in Chicago has an exhibit on Pirates (the old-fashioned kind). It's awesome. Go there.
  • Air & Space Museum (Score:2, Informative)

    by miowpurr ( 1004277 )
    The Saturn 5 exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum in DC is my fave exhibit, but the entire museum is not to be missed. The IMAX theater is great too, unless you get motion sick.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tekumel ( 1526803 )
      The Air & Space Museum is wonderful; almost equally so is the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center (http://www.cosmo.org/ [cosmo.org]) in Hutchinson, KS which is an hour and thirteen minutes away from Wichita as Google Maps calculates it. Other than the space race artifact exhibits, it has an entertaining (though childish) show about rocketry posed as Dr. Goddard's Lab, a couple of good planetarium shows, and an IMAX theater whose schedule rotates.
    • I live in Georgia, but visited Louisville a few times when I was little (early 90's). The museum there isn't big, but is (was?) very nice. My favorite room was the technology room, which had a bike with the pedals hooked up to a generator with a light bulb and fan; a telephone exhibit, complete with relay set; and the Whisper Dishes high up in opposite corners, which could be used to talk in a normal voice to someone across the (60-foot diagonal) room.

      It's probably very different now. I better find out wha
    • If you go to DC, head out to the airport -- Air & Space has another branch of the museum with the Enterprise, an F-35, and a half-dozen other prizes that you don't see scattered elsewhere around the country.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Aathos ( 1505939 )
      There is also the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. It has 4 hangers full of planes, along with several planes and rockets parked outside. Plus it's free. They also have a couple hangars behind the gate with presidential planes and experimental planes (X-Planes).
  • The Henry Ford (Score:5, Informative)

    by plnb ( 579253 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:17PM (#29044695)
    The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan has a large variety of automobile, historical, and industrial/manufacturing exhibits. http://www.thehenryford.org/ [thehenryford.org]
    • Miss read that as Henry Jones and was thinking how odd it is that there is a museum made after a fictional character...

    • Re:The Henry Ford (Score:5, Informative)

      by bfields ( 66644 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:53PM (#29045201) Homepage

      The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan

      Yep, agreed on that recommendation. It's a bit old-fashioned in places: some of it's just big collections of stuff without much explanation. But that can be fun too (and it's not all that way.)

      And the adjoining Greenfield Village has tons of technological history. Last time I was there I got a kick out of seeing a Jacquard Loom they were in the process of renovating. (And the guy there with it was knowledgeable and interesting.)

      Sounds like you probably already know the Smithsonian, but: I always take people to the National Building Museum. Neat, fun place, and easy for tourists to overlook.

  • Balboa Park in San Diego, CA is a fun destination with several museums.
  • RandomDude (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Washington DC: Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian

    Cambridge: MIT museum is really interesting. They have a 12 ft slide rule, and some other curiosities

    New York: Natural history museum is really good

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

      I don't think the Holocaust Museum counts as either science, technology, or natural history.

      However, to add another to this list which also doesn't strictly fit that requirement, I'd add the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Despite the name, it's really more of an anthropology museum, with some fantastic ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek exhibits and artifacts.

      I'd also add the Star Trek exhibit in Las Vegas, but they closed that and it's now on tour. :-)

    • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

      While you're in Cambridge, hit the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Boston Children's Museum, and Museum of Science.

  • Boston (Score:3, Informative)

    by MadUndergrad ( 950779 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:18PM (#29044727)

    I've always been a fan of the huge Van de Graaf generator in the Boston Science Museum. Also they may have a display of flayed people there - I don't remember.

  • I think we'll probably want to miss out on the 'creation science' stuff

    really? i'd think that would be most fun, besides being a wonderful exercise in critical thinking. i'm not an advocate of 'creation science' but to see what their view of the zoological world is would be very interesting.

    • You can read all about that crap online, without wasting lots of money, time, and fuel on a physical trip. Slashdot has already had articles on it, showing photos of their stupid exhibits showing humans and dinosaurs living together, etc.

      A trip to Roswell, NM, to the UFO Museum would be more fun and interesting, and probably more realistic and probable too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I agree with you; even if you don't agree with it, there is nothing wrong with viewing the other side. In fact, a true scientist would rationally consider all viewpoints equally, rather than excluding one because it doesn't agree with common beliefs.
      Worst case scenario, you get a barrel of laughs.
    • Re:Kansas (Score:5, Insightful)

      by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:53PM (#29045205) Homepage Journal

      to see what their view of the zoological world is would be very interesting.

      Answer: God made it.

      It's not all that interesting a viewpoint. My grandpa sent me a few books recently on evolution (after I stopped attending church last year), and the ways in which creationists try to use science to prove their points would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing. In a couple of the books people who clearly don't understand the difference between open/closed systems try to use the laws of thermodynamics to disprove evolution. It's pathetic. Life exists and evolves in a kind of battle against entropy sure, but it doesn't defy the laws of thermodynamics because the earth is getting new energy from Sol all the time. They also claim that evolution via random mutation is simply impossible, even though a scientist last year demonstrated that bacteria can evolve new traits from a series of presumably random mutations [newscientist.com]. I hope more people do as I have done and learn to just accept the truth (even if it means admitting a lot of their life thus far was based on a lie) rather than fighting a worthless battle against it.

    • The World War One museum in Kansas City is first rate. They make the causes of the war, and the technology used very interesting and easy to understand, and with a depth that will give you hours of stuff to read about. Even if you have little to no interest in history, you will like this place for an hour or two visit. Their interactive trench exhibits really do make you feel like you're there. Liberty Memorial Museum [libertymem...museum.org]
  • The Geek Atlas (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:22PM (#29044767)

    Check out The Geek Atlas [geekatlas.com] by John Graham-Cumming.

  • Udvar-Hazy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yoda2 ( 522522 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:22PM (#29044779)
    If you make it to the DC area and like the Air & Space museum on the National Mall, take a day to visit the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space museum where they have everything they couldn't fit into the National Mall site. http://www.nasm.si.edu/UdvarHazy/ [si.edu]
  • by pertinax18 ( 569045 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:23PM (#29044785) Homepage
    The American Museum of Natural History (with the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium) in NYC is always a reliable bet. I would definitely put it on a must see list of museums in this country. There is also the Museum of Sex, which you might find interesting.
  • The Udvar-Hazy Center (Smithsonian Air & Space Annex) is a must see if you're near DC. http://www.nasm.si.edu/UdvarHazy/ [si.edu]

    Attractions include a space shuttle, a Concorde, an SR-71 Blackbird and hundreds of other aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, engines and so on. Also has a 6-story IMAX.

    SciTrek in Atlanta used to be a winner but I hear they closed.

    The U of Hawaii telescope at the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii is a neat thing to go see, but it is only rarely open to the public so schedule carefully. Plus how m

    • If you're into aviation, and on the West Coast, don't miss the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It also sports an SR-71 Blackbird, various fighters and bombers (mostly US, but a few Russian) including the entire "Century Series" (F-100 - F-110 I think), JFK's Air Force One plane, and lots of other unique and interesting airplanes.

      You might want to wait until the fall or winter though, because it's mostly an outdoor museum, and it's really hot in AZ right now.

  • Best museums to see (Score:5, Informative)

    by ForexCoder ( 1208982 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:24PM (#29044807)
    Exploratorium [exploratorium.edu] in San Francisco
    Balboa Park [balboapark.org] in San Diego
    Museum of Science and Industry [msichicago.org] in Chicago
    Kennedy Space Center [kennedyspacecenter.com] in Florida
    • I would recommend against going to the Kennedy Space Centre. It was very expensive to get in. The queues tended to be long, and exhibits were disappointing. The bus drivers were interesting to talk to though.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Griffith Observatory (Los Angeles).

    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      I'm Australian and I second the vote for the Kennedy Space Center. I went in 1998 as part of a coder's boot camp type arrangement after I joined a major consultancy as a graduate. We didn't get much time off. Everyone else in the team went to Epcot, Disney World, and NYC but I am so incredibly glad I took the opportunity to go. For my trouble I got to see a Saturn V rocket on it's side in stages (huge!) and a lunar lander module (tiny!). I don't know if they still have those displays or what it's like since

    • Scienceworks [museumvictoria.com.au] in Melbourne, Australia. Come to think of it, just come to Australia. Don't bother with Sydney though, they've only got that rather overpolished steampunk exo over at the Powerhouse Museum [powerhousemuseum.com]. But if you are really into natural history, just take a 4WD excursion through Kakadu [environment.gov.au] in the Deep North. You'll see birds that'll reduce you to tears. The wildlife ain't so bad either. But stay away from the pools, they're a croc. Just sayin'.
    • It's been many years since I was at the Exploratorium in SF, but I've since boycotted it, they had a human skeleton (you had to open a door to see it, to protect children's eyes from the sight of bones!) there was a typewritten card next to it, which mentioned that it was a male skeleton, given that female skeletons have one less pair of ribs. That's enough for me NOT to recommend a science museum.

      The new California Academy of Sciences [calacademy.org] On the other hand, is awesome, my kids love it.
    • I have not done the Exploratorium, but have done the others. And yes, I would say that they are the best. As such, next time I am in SF, I will have to hit Exploratorium.
  • by bezenek ( 958723 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:25PM (#29044825) Journal
    The Computer History Museum is free and has an unbelievable collection of computer artifacts. It is in the Bay Area, so there are lots of other things you can see in San Francisco, San Jose, etc. I will leave recommendation of those up to others who will certainly chime in.

    Here is a link to the museum: http://www.computerhistory.org/ [computerhistory.org]

    Enjoy your trip!

    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:41PM (#29045045)
      (These are a few of my favorite things :)

      I second the Computer History Museum [computerhistory.org], Mountain View, California.

      Everything from a working Difference Engine to the Crays and Connection Machines that we kids dreamed about in the 80s. A fully-functional PDP-1; it still plays Slug Russel's "Space War". Within an hour's drive of anywhere in the Bay Area.

      I'll see your computers and raise you some nukes. Next time you're in Vegas for some trade show or conference, take a day and see the Atomic Testing Museum [atomictestingmuseum.org], Las Vegas, Nevada.

      Thankfully, there's nothing fully-functional here, but there lots of fascinating artifacts nonetheless. Everything from Einstein's letter to Roosevelt, to bits and pieces of a NERVA nuclear rocket prototype, to engineers' notebooks filled with humorous mementos of projects they'd worked on, to Doc Edgerton's impossibly-fast cameras. Within a 10 minute cab ride from the Strip.

      Although both museums have material suitable for laypeople and/or children, they're targeted primarily at adults with engineering backgrounds. Expect to spend at least 3 hours at each of 'em.

      Nukes are pretty cool, but you can have a lot more fun with a bunch of used pinball machine parts. And everything is fully functional in the Pinball Hall of Fame [pinballmuseum.org]. Hey, you're already in Vegas -- flashing lights and wacky sounds are what it's all about. You won't need a DeLorean to go back in time, and it'll cost a lot less per hour than the blackjack tables.

  • New York Hall of Science

    http://www.nyscience.org/exhibitions/explore_exhibitions [nyscience.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Hall_of_Science [wikipedia.org]

    its on the old world's fair grounds seen in Men in Black. It is one of the few remaining structures from the worlds fair that is still in good repair.

  • Two places in Southeast Michiagan are definately worth a visit. Caranbrook Institute of Science in Birmingham, small but well put together scinece museum and the magnificent Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The Henry Ford has the best car collection anywhere as well as a great history of technolgy collection. If you like you can do the Greenfiled Village next door and see what daily life and technolgy were like at the turn of the 20th century. The Detroit Science center is just OK but the nearby Detroit A
  • The ROM (in Toronto) is quite good for natural history/anthropology. Some nice dinosaurs, etc., good exhibits on various world cultures, and right now they have the Dead Sea Scrolls on loan. Plus, the Ontario Science Centre isn't far and is also fun.
  • I have found some benefit to going to the place where the technology was created. For instance, if I was more interested in history I would certainly have been to Philadelphia.

    As I am ore interested in technology, I have visited NASA Houston and Cape Canaveral. Though the displays are often very kiddie centered, seeing the original mission control is worth the trip. As long one is in Houston, the Museum of Health is worth a trip, as well as the other 5-10 museums in the area. One of the best is the Me

  • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <speter&tedata,net,eg> on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @06:29PM (#29044873) Journal

    Then go see the Science Museum of Minnesota in Minneapolis [smm.org]. I've been there numerous times ever since I was a kid, all the way through adulthood. Loved it every time.

  • My two favorites are the American Museum of Natural History [amnh.org] in NYC and the Mutter Museum [collphyphil.org] in Philadelphia.

    The AMNH is enormous; you could easily spend an entire day there, and you'd be hard-pressed to see everything in detail. It has the best dinosaur and primate sections I've ever seen.

    The Mutter is just plain cool: a museum devoted to medical oddities, like the skeleton(s) of Cheng & Eng, the 'Siamese twins'. As a PhD-wielding developmental biologist and geneticist I was happy to see some medical infor

  • Washington D.C. = Smithsonian Institution - Natural History Museum

    NewYork = Can't remember, but good museums

    San Diego = Balboa Park

    Baltimore = Baltimore Aquarium

  • Liberty Science Center in Jersey is pretty decent, and has the advantage of being right near the Statue so you can do that too.
    If you're aviation/space types, I recommend the Air Force Museum in Ohio.
    http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/exhibits/ [af.mil]

    There's also the NASA sites - Houston and Canaveral both have extensive places to walk around and see things.

  • by ink ( 4325 ) *

    The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry [omsi.org] is incredible. I go there every time I visit Portland. I put it ahead of any technology museums in the surrounding states, including my native California.

  • Maybe it's because I grew up there, but I've always had a soft spot for Cincinnati's Union Terminal. It's a collection of museums: they have a Children's Museum in the basement (lots of fun with balls, water, and a nice big tree-like playground thingy), a Cincinnati Historical Society Museum (starts with a giant miniature recreation of Cincinnati, lots of WWII history, and includes a full-size recreation of Cincinnati's steamboat days), and a Natural History Museum (some very excellent versions of pretty st

  • If you pass San Antonio, visit the Witte Museum. They tend to get the major touring exhibits (the plastinated Human Body exhibits, animatronic dinosaurs, Egyptian artifacts/mummies).

    If you pass Denver, stop by their natural history museum (and their zoo too, if you have the time). I was only there for a week on business once, but made it a point to visit both. It was well worth it.

  • I used to work at the Franklin Institute, so my recommendations are based on that. I'd like to say that while I love the American Museum of Natural History in New York, it doesn't have the same kind of interactivity. The Exploratorium in San Francisco does, although I don't remember it being as large at the Franklin Institute. It did have some very cool unique exhibits I hadn't seen elsewhere. I quite liked the Boston Museum of Science - very similar to the Franklin Institute in many ways, so your husba
  • I have no idea if its still there, but the American History Museum in DC had an Information Age exhibit that was there for at least 8 years... started with an exhibit where you could speak over the actual wire Bell used for his first phone, through pieces of eniac, other huge bohemoth computers, an Enigma (cipher machine from WWII), A TRS-80 Model 1, An Apple I, through modern computers, and ending ith HDTV exhibit (before HDTV was commonly available). I loved that exhibit.

  • National Air Force Museum [af.mil], Dayton, Ohio. Everything from a Wright Flyer to a Mach 3 XB-70 Valkyre and all in between.
  • Sam Noble Museum of Natural History [ou.edu] in Norman (OU Campus)

    The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum [cowboyhalloffame.org]

    The Oklahoma City National Memorial [slashdot.org] and museum about bombing

    45th Infantry Division Museum [slashdot.org] - lots of good WWII stuff

    Oklahoma Railway Museum [slashdot.org] if you like old trains, and

    The Red Earth Museum [slashdot.org] with Native American traditional and contemporary culture and arts

    There's more, just use google maps!

    Come on by! Bring money and spend it!

  • Many science and technology museums belong to an organization that allows for discounts on admissions for all the museums. Frequently making entry free.

  • I too grew up at the Franklin Institute, but it went downhill. They took out the cool mechanics room and replaced it with the dumb sports exhibit. I've heard they also took out the math exhibit and replaced it was god knows what. At least the giant heart is still there. Here's my experience with other museums (not really organized) : The Franklin Institute used to rank above the other US science museums I've seen (San Francisco, Cleveland, and Boston), which are all good too (although I'm not sure how I'd
    • If the Franklin has gone downhill, then either it used to be darned good or maybe it was just recently. I was at the Franklin not too many years ago... well... time does seem to zip by.... I suppose it must have been on the order of 5 years though it still seems recent. I recall being quite impressed by it. Before reading the above post, I was going to post and say that the Franklin sets a pretty high standard.

      Lots of good recommendations elsewhere in the thread. All I can do is second some of them, includi

  • As an airplane nut I really enjoyed the Air Force Museum (http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/ [af.mil]). We had originally planned to stay one day but ended up staying two. And make sure to sign up to see and tour the retired Air Force Ones that they have in a separate hangar (along with experimental prototype planes like the X-1).

    Also while in Dayton, check out the Wright Brother's Bicycle Shop!
    • ***Also while in Dayton, check out the Wright Brother's Bicycle Shop!***

      There were about six Wright bicycle shops over the years. The final one where they built their aircraft prototypes was moved to Greenfield Village near Detroit sometime in the 1930s.

  • The Boingboing discussion of "Geek Atlas: 128 nerdy must-sees and an education in science, technology and geek history" [boingboing.net] describes a good reference.

    I can recommend the The American Museum of Radio and Electricity [www.amre.us] in Bellingham, Washington. My daughter and I dropped by for an hour and found ourselves staying until closing time.

  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:07PM (#29045335)

    You didn't specify continent, so:

    http://www.deutsches-museum.de/ [deutsches-museum.de]

    • You didn't specify continent, so:

      http://www.deutsches-museum.de/ [deutsches-museum.de]

      Great choice of museum. Does it have a geography section? If so, try looking up if the specified locations of "US and Canada" might imply a continent in some way.

      Oh wait, maybe you mean Munich, North Dakota?

  • Chicago (Score:3, Informative)

    by gnetwerker ( 526997 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:08PM (#29045345) Journal
    While others have mentioned both the Field Museum [fieldmuseum.org] and the Museum of Science and Industry [msichicago.org], it should be noted that they are co-located with the (also excellent) Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium [sheddaquarium.org]. Not far away is the world-class Art Institute of Chicago [artic.edu]. Much of this is the legacy of the 1893 Chicago World Fair [wikipedia.org], and in terms of density of world-class museums, is more bang for your time and dollar that you'll get anywhere outside of Washington DC (Smithsonian, etc) and perhaps London. You can get a multi-day pass to all of these museums for anywhere from about $70/person, and it is well worth it.
  • If your trip brings you out to the West Coast, be sure and spend a day at Exposition Park. [wikipedia.org] The Museum of Natural History there has, among other things, some great dinosaur exhibits. And, of course, there's the California Science Center, the best hands-on science museum in the West.
  • If you can find your way to Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, we have:

    - 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii - first planetarium in the world to have full-dome 3D projection. It's a bit of an unusual place as the exhibit space deals both with astronomy and Hawaiian culture (yes, the signage is bilingual.)

    - Mauna Kea Observatories and the Ellison Onizuka Center for International Astronomy's visitor station - rent a 4WD and catch a free tour of something extremely large and shiny. Weekends, it's the 10-meter

  • The Toronto Museum of Science and Technology had a 40 foot long CO2 laser and a lens made of NaCl back around 1977 or so. Their demonstration of focused laser light to write the name of the presenter in a sheet of glass (it was vaporized instantly!) and burn through a firebrick in about 3 seconds was almost topped by the Argon laser that could pop a red balloon inside of a clear balloon in the same way eye surgery could be done with an argon laser. I remember the floor space of the museum was huge (I was ab
  • The submitter didn't tell us what the intended route for the road trip was, so that makes it kind of hard to suggest what might be along the way.

    For example, if you are going to go through Idaho, you should see EBR-1 [wikipedia.org], the first breeder reactor and the first reactor to make electrical power.

    If you are passing through Oklahoma City, you'd likely want to stop off at the Omniplex [omniplex.org].

    If you are passing through Socorro, NM, you'd need to see The Very Large Array [nrao.edu].

    How about you give us a bit of an idea of the route yo

  • In Arizona... (Score:2, Informative)

    Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona is excellent for local geology (Grand Canyon vicinity, dinosaurs) and Native American archaeology, arts and crafts, etc www.musnaz.org Phoenix: The Heard museum (Native American stuff) is absolutely top notch! www.heard.org And Tucson's Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum if fantastic! www.desertmuseum.org If I were doing your trip, I'd also catch some caves along the way. In Arizona, that would be Karchner Caverns (you might want to make an advance reservation, howeve
  • by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @07:42PM (#29045705)

    wear flowers in your hair, and visit:

    Exploratorium. This is the original hands on museum.
    The Golden Gate Park: Strybing Arboretum, Beautiful, stunning diversity, reminder of what that giant ball in the sky is for... oh and, ummm.... Biological Studies.
    California Academy of Science is nice too, as is the DeYoung.

    Over the bridge in Berkley is the Lawrence Hall of Science. I remember spending a little time with Liza there on a Pdp-11!
    Chabot Space and Science Observatory is a great little place to study the stars.
    Shockly's Semiconductor Labratory is also nearby: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shockley_Semiconductor_Laboratory [wikipedia.org]. Not much to see, but Palo Alto is a mecca of technology.

    and of course, the Computer History Museum.

    http://www.computerhistory.org/about/ [computerhistory.org]

  • Wright-Patterson air force base museum in Dayton OH is great!

    Growing up we used to visit the museum 2 or 3 times a year. There is lots and lots of information. There is everything from the history of flight to the latest fighters. You can see the planes, read the history, touch and walk around the planes and jets. There are explanations of the technology from the wright brothers through the stealth planes.

    Did you know that we refuel helocopters mid flight?! Have you see an atomic bomb? A B-52? A retir

  • In no particular order:

    Chicago, IL

    Museum of Science and Industry - U505, captured by Dan Gallery's jeep carrier on the high seas in the Atlantic during WWII. A full size Boeing aircraft (727?), coal mine, and more. Plus it's free on Thursdays (or was in 98. A number of Chicago museums have a free day each week) Take time to walk around teh U of C next door - birthplace of the atom bomb, and a few good free museums on campus. Plus the Robie House (Frank Loyd Wright - if you really liek architecture

  • The New Mexico Museum of Space History http://www.nmspacemuseum.org/ [nmspacemuseum.org] is near White Sands http://www.nps.gov/whsa/ [nps.gov] and has some interesting bits and pieces.

    Plan your drive around the missile test schedule http://www.wsmr.army.mil/wsmr.asp?pg=y&page=202 [army.mil]

    The drive out to the VLA is worth it to see the telescopes, though there's not much in the way of a museum there. http://www.vla.nrao.edu/ [nrao.edu]

    I've also heard good things about lanl's Bradbury Museum, but I've never been there. http://www.lanl.gov/mu [lanl.gov]

  • by absurdist ( 758409 ) on Wednesday August 12, 2009 @11:05PM (#29047149)

    ...and I've been building exhibits for science museums for the past 25 years. In my experience, the following are the best in the U.S.:

    Liberty Science Center, Newark, NJ
    Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
    Indianapolis Children's Museum, Indianapolis, IN
    Science Center of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN (don't miss the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices!)
    St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis, MO
    OMSI, Portland, OR
    Reuben H. Fleet Center, San Diego, CA
    California ScienCenter, Los Angeles, CA

    And when you're in L.A., don't miss the Museum Of Jurassic Technology. Absolutely fascinating.

  • by HungSoLow ( 809760 ) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @08:43AM (#29050325)
    At one time the Museum of Nature (Ottawa, Canada) was the most surreal experience you could imagine. The building is literally a massive castle. Beautifully built with an atmosphere without comparison. They had the most fantastic paleontology section where you would start at the bottom of a ramp, very dark and foreboding and see fossils from a billion years ago. As you walk up the ramp you see newer and newer fossils - they did an excellent job showing transitional fossils. The ramp would wind around, showing the incredible assortment of life our planet has seen in the past. Finally, it would open up into a large chamber with dinosaur skeletons as far as the eye could see. You would begin with Triassic, Jurassic then Cretaceous. The chamber would then lead to the rise of mammals, ice age, etc... I swear the designer was a genius.

    After renovating (I kid you not) they've lumped everything together in a horrible assortment of ice age animals, dinosaurs, mammals, etc... in a set of adjoining open ceiling rooms. There's no atmosphere (everything is bright white with phosphorescent lighting) and the science is certainly gone. I've tried to look into what idiot designed the new layout and I was certain I would find some slack-jawed creationist being responsible but no luck.

    Anyway, this is just me venting and telling people not to waste their time on this travesty. However, the three museums of war, aviation and civilization in the Ottawa area are fantastic!

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik