Dinosaurs, Minecraft® and Giant Legos® at Discovery Center

Discovery Center 438 E. St. Louis Springfield MO

Looking for a fun and educational weekend hangout?  Look no further than Discovery Center in downtown Springfield MO (   https://www.discoverycenter.org/  ).  Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and for a reasonable fee, your kiddos can enjoy hours of hands on electrical, engineering, natural science stations and that’s just the beginning.

Minecraft play area

In February, I spent two hours with both grandkids building bridges, hanging out with dinosaurs, and exploring 3 floors of activities.  It wasn’t enough time.  I had to pull them away from the Minecraft® room to meet my granddaughter’s other grandparents to ensure she got home on time.  Minecraft® is an exhibit that has taken over the 5 year old and under room and involves building structures with sturdy blocks and other activities in an enclosed space.   This is a great place to take a break from the more open areas, especially with younger children who keep their parents hopping.

This new to me Dinosaur exhibit was pretty cool.

Discovery Center is relatively small for a children’s science museum in comparison to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry or other large city museums.  But for the price:  adults $12 and children $8 with discounts for seniors and veterans, I believe it’s worth it.  The staff is friendly, helpful and takes an active role in showing off the various experiments, helping children’s excitement about science grow.  Some exhibits require staff to be present, like the giant hamster wheel that generates electricity to power a Jacob ’s ladder electrical arc, and the Tesla experiment. 

One of their favorite areas!

My grandkids are hands on building types, so the water table, giant Legos®, and bridge building area were their favorites.  They were less interested in the space and chromosome exhibits, though we learned fun facts about planets and the Star Chamber was a hit as well.  Sage always has fun with the magnetic car racing and Olivia did not want to leave the water table. 

Older children may be more interested in the high wire bicycle, weather, mechanical and engineering stations throughout the building.  The high wire bicycle costs a little extra, takes some bravery and will be saved for another day for my grandkids.  There is also a mini golf course that was not open on the day I visited in February, but would definitely be worth a look in the future when the 2 kids have a little more patience.

Sage obviously has an electric personality!

I do recommend that you bring a snack or two as this place burns some energy.  Everyone should wear clothes that can get dirty as some experiments and exhibits required being on the floor to build, dig and get a little wet.  Parents, be prepared to get involved and have fun!

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!

Follow Me to The Dickerson Park Zoo

Peacocks strut all around the zoo

I love zoos!  I have always been an animal lover and from Racine Wisconsin to Chicago Illinois to Springfield Missouri I try hard to visit zoos wherever I vacation or live. Though fairly small and requiring some serious upgrades to their older bathrooms, Dickerson Park Zoo https://dickersonparkzoo.org/ is a top Springfield destination.  I’ve been taking my kids and grandkids to this entrenched Springfield attraction for 30 years.  DPZ falls under the jurisdiction of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board of Springfield MO.  Quite a few years back the citizens voted for a small tax to help the park system with various projects and expanding and upgrading parts of the zoo were on the agenda.  They did a wonderful job with an elephant enclosure and play area, wolf den, expanded the Animals of Missouri exhibit and other fun projects.  The playground near The Bush Country Café is lots of fun and a great respite area for tired parents and grandparents to relax in the shade while watching their offspring play.

Mountain Lions are scarce in the Ozark region, but lots of people have claimed to have spotted them.

When I was a child growing up in San Francisco, visiting the zoo, especially the seal enclosure where we were able to feed the seals, was one of the highlights of every year.  Dickerson Park Zoo has something similar from March through October with their giraffe exhibit, making getting close to such large animals a fun experience. The newer giraffe deck where giraffe crackers are available from an attendant is so much fun and worth the extra cash for the photos you can get with your kids.  The petting zoo is also a fun area especially for young children.  Having a donkey or goat lip food from your outstretched hand tickles and gives parents an opportunity to teach good animal manners like holding your hand flat, petting nicely, and conquering fear.  Giraffe crackers are $4 and the petting zoo food is $1, so remember to bring cash.  Tokens are available at the gift shop as well as zoo food if you need to use your debit card.  The Dickerson Park Zoo is hilly so get your critter snacks before you head into the park.

Baby giraffe, circa 2018

Zoos bring us close to animals in a way we can’t experience in everyday life and can help establish a lifelong love for animals of all shapes and sizes. DPZ is an accredited zoo which means it meets certain standards set by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Bottom line-they do the best they can with the space and funds they have available.  I believe they’ve done a great job improving over the last 30 years. Personally I love the snake house and the otter enclosure.  I recommend getting online and checking out their website, letting the kids navigate around to the animals and areas they are most interested in.  Though I loved the snake house, one of my daughters did not and refused to EVER step foot in it.  I had to make sure another adult or older sibling went along with me to sit outside with her while the others checked out the boas, rattlesnakes and hissing cockroaches!

Anyone ready for a dip in the pool? The river otters are usually ready to put on a show.

One last idea!  If your kids love the zoo, ask family for a Friend of the Zoo membership as a gift.  My sister-in-law did this one year and my children were over the moon over the opportunity to go check out their adopted animal, visit whenever they wanted (when I had time), and in general wear themselves out walking around the zoo using their zoo key.  We will never forget that special gift and I pass that tip along whenever possible.  Giving experiences trumps giving stuff any day!  Now get out there!

Check out the Facebook page How to do the Ozarks and Instagram htdto2020 for more pictures and places to visit!