I feel like this review requires a couple of caveats.
First of all, I was having a bad day before we went to the California Science Center (CSC). Prior to going, I had to go to urgent care (for a non-life-threatening issue) and since I don’t have health insurance, that means we had to pay out-of-pocket. Then, while we were crossing a parking lot to the pharmacy, I dropped my phone, breaking it beyond repair (had to get a new one). So I was already feeling pretty crummy, both health wise and pocket book wise, which means I may have approached the science center in a bad mood.
Second, I’m not big on science museums in general. I feel like they tend to be geared toward children and/or adults who don’t know a lot about science, and I do know quite a bit about science, so I find them a little boring.* However, my husband loves science, so I thought this would be a good activity for us to do together. Also, I was really looking forward to the special exhibits on the space shuttle Endeavour and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Note: I discovered later that my science-loving husband doesn’t like science museums either, for the same reason as me.
The nice thing about CSC, located at 700 Exposition Park Drive in LA, is that general admission is free (we paid $10 for parking, which I thought was reasonable). I genuinely appreciate that so many of the exhibits are open to the public. The museum has found a creative way to monetize, offering special attractions (a wind machine, a high rise bike ride, etc.) for a few dollars each. We joked with each other that it was like one of those cell phone games you download for free, but have to pay to get more levels.
The special exhibits cost money. With the purchase of combined ticket to an IMAX show and the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, we got in to see the Endeavour for free. I would tell you how much that cost but my husband bought the tickets, so I didn’t pay attention. I’m sure you can find that info on their website.
I don’t know if it was my mood in general, or my dislike of science museums, but I was underwhelmed. The museum is large and has a lot of exhibits on offer. I just didn’t find most of them all that interesting. I did like the IMAX theater. Housed in its own building, it’s quite nice. I was a little disappointed in the film we saw though. We chose the Hubble film because my husband loves space stuff, but I was expecting Hubble images and while there were some, most of the film was about the last repair that was done to it. It was kind of boring. I found myself wishing we’d chosen the Galapagos film.
As for the Endeavour, I thought we would get to go inside. Perhaps I was a bit naive about that? Anyway, you can’t go inside. All you can do is stand there and gawp at it. There’s also stuff you can read, but I feel like if I want to read about it and look at it, I can get a book. I wanted to see inside!
The museum was insanely packed. I know that’s to be expected on a weekend. I try to go to museums during the week, but if I want to go with my other half, we have to go on the weekend. The most packed thing was the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, even though they limit the tickets. There were so many people in there that it was difficult to move, and trying to get close enough to actually look at any of the artifacts was nearly impossible. There are only fragments of the scrolls. They’re difficult to see once you finally get to them (on dark parchment under dim lighting, for understandable reasons). We also both felt that the tone of the exhibit, put on by a Jewish federation, was too religious for a science center. I expected to see more about the excavation and translation of the scrolls, not endless paragraphs about how some scrap of paper “confirms” something that happened in the Bible. (But I'm a godless heathen, so what do I know.)
It’s safe to say that I was generally disappointed. The one exhibit I really enjoyed was their “kelp” zone, which was like an aquarium. I also loved the rose garden out back. Since I broke my phone on the way there, I don’t have any pictures to share. I’m self-aware enough to say that I could see how someone who loves science museums would like this one. It has a lot to offer. It just wasn’t for me. I could only see myself going back to enjoy another IMAX film.
*The only science museum I ever liked was the one in Chicago, which I went to as a kid. I have this vague recollection of going back as a young adult and not enjoying it so much, which only reinforces my belief that they’re for children. I was never fond of OMSI in Portland, nor did I like the Perot Museum in Dallas, although their current exhibit on Sherlock Holmes looks freaking awesome.