Durham Life and Science Museum is THE undisputed family weekend gateway in RTP area

Rain or shine the fun is divine at the Life and Science Museum in Durham, NC. Cloud Machine When I lived in RTP that was our weekend Thing-To-Do. My little one learned about tornados, space shuttles and earthquakes before she did her ABCs. We spent hours outdoors exchanging funny faces with the lemurs, trying to spot the cute black bear cubs on the TV camera and getting wet from head to toes at the water pumps.

• See how it feels like inside a real Apollo space capsule
• Train ride on a scale replica of the historic 1863 Huntington locomotive
• Start up a 13-foot tornado
• Stare at the live Gigantic Fox 6 foot wingspan bat
• Wonder at the “Play to Learn” learning and interaction area for infants and toddlers.

Tips to Know Before You Go
1. Go visit Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday to avoid the big crowds. Playing drums The busiest day is Saturday followed by Wednesday when Durham county residents get in for free. Best to visit in the morning (museum opens at 10 AM) when it’s cooler, there are less people around and the kids will be less cranky. The animals are usually more active as well.

2. Start your visit outdoor with the Wild Animals exhibit or the Train Ride and work your way to the front. Leave the indoor exhibits last; the building is air-conditioned so you can go there anytime. Besides most visitors get stuck in there and rarely make it outside.

3. If you live in the Research Triangle Park get the membership; it pays for itself after few visits and you will not find a better entertainment in the area.

4. The Grayson’s café has great selection including plenty of healthy food choices. There is a covered patio if you prefer to eat outside (or you have rambunctious kids :-))

Example Day Schedule (worked well for my toddler girl):
1. First thing get on the train ride to get that out of the way

2. Tour the zoo then cool off at the duck pond and let kids chase around the fake tadpoles. If needed pit stop at the restroom.Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles...
3. Turn around and have lunch at the Grayson’s café. Visit the Butterfly House (never get tired to watch some skin-crawling worms!). Most people herd around the tropical exhibit showcasing butterflies and hummingbirds. That’s nice for the first few visits. The real action is in the giant cockroaches’ room.

4. Say Hi! to all the farm animals. My favorite was the cow listening to classical music and Lana loved “talking” to the wild turkey.

5. Spend half an hour at the Loblolly playground. You get to rest, maybe read something, while kids are busy making friends at the sandbox or trying their acoustical skills at the drums station.

6. Go home if kids are acting up; otherwise get indoors to checkout the interactive exhibits. Required stops at the bubbles station, cloud machine and the balls gravitation exhibit.

7. If an extra person is around go to the 2nd floor. Here we try unsuccessfully to build an earthquake-proof machine (my husband is convinced otherwise…but it got to last for at least 15 seconds!) and we snap sounds from outer space. Building an earthquake proof structure I always get mesmerized watching the giant ant colony at work with their intricate society, distribution of labor and astonishing teamwork.

8. By this time we are all at each other throats so is time to say goodbye. If you’re lucky you can avoid a trip to the museum store otherwise settle for some stuffed animal most likely the dog will end up playing with.

Best for infants and toddlers
“Play to Learn”, train ride, sandbox and drums, “Carolina Wildlife” and the outdoor “Explore the Wild” zoo.

Best for young kids
Apollo Space Capsule (this is the real thing), the 13-foot tornado and earthquake simulation exhibits, the Farmyard and the Magic Winds Butterfly House.

Best for older kids
All the interactive physics exhibits on the 2nd floor, like landing on the moon and outer space radio communication. The water pumps at the splashing zone and being a boat captain “Catch the Wind” a 5,000 sqft sail pond.

Durham Life and Science Museum Toddlers in the sandbox outside Admission fee is adults $10.85, seniors $8.85, children ages 3-12 $7.85 and for children under 3 is free. Military personnel $8.85. Train rides are an additional charge of $2 per person.

The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, except on Sunday when is from noon to 5 PM. After Labor Day, museum closes on Monday to the public (members can still get in).

Here are links to the museum exhibits, current events, an indoor map and the Google Map to the museum location.

Let your imagination run free at the Life and Science Museum in Durham!