There comes a time during the summer when going outside just isn’t an option anymore because of the heat and/or humidity. Or vice versa in the winter with the cold and wind chills.
And after hearing the 1000th sigh of the day and those annoying three little words, "I’m soooooo bored", you have to figure out something for your children to do. And apparently, dropping the toddler and four-year-old off at Chuck-E-Cheese with some money won’t win you the mother-of-the-year award either. But hey, it might land you some jail time!
I was starting to lose my cool last week when all of a sudden a commercial came on for The Exploration Place. Nestled on the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita, Ks sits a premier and modern science center with hands-on exhibits for kids of all ages. Not only do they have an awesome Tot Spot for my toddler to get his wiggles out, but the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" traveling exhibit was also there for my nerdy and obsessed children (husband included in that statement) to experience.
When we arrived we were given a map – because the place is big and artsy and cool and I could totally see someone getting a little turned around in it and encouraged to leisure at our own pace. We chose to go to the first exhibit we saw which was the Exploring Flight and Design exhibit. Wichita is the air capital of the world. Or at least we use to be. I still like to think we are. I should probably Google that. But anyhoo … my four-year-old particularly loved turning the giant airplane propeller on a wall of metal discs that made the 40-foot wall shimmer with it’s wind pattern. The toddler was more fascinated in the live beehive and telling me how "yucky" it was than anything but he did enjoy sitting in the flight simulator with his brother. You may have heard them screaming "Whoa" and "Weeee" a few hundred times?
Just a skip and a hop away from the Flight exhibit was AgMagination: Farming the Future. Did you honestly think that a KANSAS museum would sans a farming exhibit? Come on now. While we live in a suburb of Kansas’ largest city, my boys are still country boys at heart. They’re rough and they’re tough. And they also like to attempt to eat the fake corn. But that’s besides to point. The AgMagination has a vet clinic with dress-up attire (I’m told by my four-year-old that that was "for girls"). And it also has a real pint-sized combine that let’s you pretend you’re harvesting as a video takes you through a Kansas field. This was a busy attraction so we didn’t get to experience it for long. But what we did get to see of it was really awesome!
Next up was the Kansas Explorer exhibit. Here is where I literally lost my toddler. He is animal CRAZY and so when he saw turtles and prairie dogs and snakes and spiders … he took off. Not to mention the sand stream where you can build damns to break the flow of the river. I was never a leash kind of mom until having that kid. Now I’m considering the purchase. In the Kansas Explorer exhibit not only do you get to see some of Kansas’ creepy and cool critters, but you also get to touch a real mammoth tusk. Oh the look on my four-year-olds face when the thought of Ice Age (the movie) crossed his mind. The only thing breaking his stare was a tornado simulator that lets you stand in a cage and experience an EF1 tornado. Can you say giggle galore?!
Next stop was Kansas in Miniature. Probably my most favorite exhibit out of everything. In the theatre time exhibit you see intricate and animated displays of a 1950s Kansas – a time of optimism and innovation as Kansans looked to the future. The collage of the state includes detailed models of actual structures, geologic features and industries as well as more than 51 animations, 125 buildings, 200 period vehicles, 1,000 people, more than 3,000 trees, shrubs and other plantings, and a train that if you follow around – takes you right past a bum camp. I could’ve stood in that room for hours. But I have a toddler. And I’m lucky I was able to see everything I did see. But the EP was smart – they built a tot spot right across the hall.
The tot spot would’ve been a great place to contain my wiggle worm, but he saw his big brother making his way to something WAY cooler and funner. Enter: Where Kids Rule (don’t they always? At least in my house they’re "the boss"). In front us stood a three-story medieval castle that had my boys (husband included) fully immersed in a world with ornate archways and spiral staircases. They made their way through the town center, encountering tents, a kitchen, and a corral. They built a bridge to cross the treacherous moat. They "shoed" a horse in the Black Smith Shoppe, pulled levers and turned gears, became king for the day with the dress-up clothes, went to time-out (I’m still trying to convince my husband to make one of these), and also aimed and shot a catapult across the kingdom. It is here, in the Where Kids Rule exhibit that we spent most of our time. There are benches for the tired parents and grandparents. Which I thank them for … from the bottom of my heart.
The next (and final) exhibit was the Star Wars exhibit. However this post was wrapping up to be 1,500 words so I’m cutting it into two parts. I don’t even remember writing college papers with 1,500 words. But that was many … MANY years ago.
You’ll have to read part II of my Exploration Place experience to find out more about Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination - an awesome, not to miss, traveling exhibit!
Check out their website for hours, prices, and days of operation.
Disclaimer: This was not a paid post. My family was provided the Galaxy Pass from Exploration Place. However, all opinions expressed in this article are my own.
Amanda is a freelance writer and blog owner of "The Procrastinating Mommy" - a PR friendly family blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @Amanda_aka_Mom