I have my favorite regular haunts I must visit everytime I go home to Minnesota. The majority of them are restaurants unavailable to me in Colorado, but there are a few touristy locations I enjoy frequenting. The Science Museum of Minnesota is not one of them. But I found myself there, nonetheless, one afternoon over my Christmas beak, since it is a favorite stop for my sister and her family.
We began the day at one of their favorite downtown St. Paul restaurants – Cossetta’s Italian Market and Pizzeria. They have some top notch Italian eats, one of which – the beef ravioli – I devoured in mere moments. That’s not unusual for me, but I’m normally not an Italian food-lover – other than with pizza – so it does come as a slight surprise.
Growing up on the west side of the Mississippi River, finding my way around St. Paul has never been an easy task. It has a totally different feeling and layout than the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities. So I followed my sister over to the Science Museum from the restaurant. As it turns out, she has the same issue as me after living on the west side for so long, so we got a bit turned around in just a few blocks and accidentally ended up on the Wabasha Bridge crossing the Mississippi. But, after the enjoyable scenic route, we finally made it to the museum.
There were no big special exhibitions – Real Pirates opens in February – but the place was jam packed due to holiday vacations. This created an electric atmosphere that buzzed throughout the visit. It also meant lines forming at so many of the more interesting hands-on exhibits. Thankfully none of the lines were too discouragingly long. It was usually only a moment or two before my nephews – generally calm and patient kids as it is – were able to get to playing and learning.
I tend to roll my eyes at science museums in general – the stuffed animals and biology sections always turn my stomach – but I opened up enough to learn a thing or two on this trip, my first in over five years. I particularly enjoyed the fossil exhibition in the basement, a special fire demonstration, and even the Amazon omnitheater presentation – although the massive screen, blurry in parts, disorientated me and gave me a queasy feeling much of the rest of the day.
A soda and an ice cream cone in the cafeteria while listening to the Seismofon helped the situation. What’s a Seismofon? Well, it is a giant xylophone of sorts connected to the U.S. Geological Survey. And everytime there is an earthquake in the world, the Seismofon plays a tune. The 150 large, red bars hung from the 45-foot-tall atrium are constantly going, creating a pleasant, yet curiosity-provoking, atmosphere throughout. And had a man not been yelling about how he was going to light money on fire during a demonstration, I probably would have looked at it a little more closely.
Instead, I found myself enraptured – as most men are when it comes to fire – by a college-aged guy explaining some of the properties of fire. I can’t say I learned anything new in his demonstration, but it was interesting nonetheless since he did light money on fire – without burning it up, either – and had a nice explosion to end the program. I know my sister’s kids were entertained, too, since they both stood still to watch the entire show.
The dinosaur fossil display was right next to the demonstration stage. So, once we were done learning about fire, we sauntered over to the exhibits to see some dino bones. This is always a favorite time for me at any museum, since I still hold me love of all things dinos from my youth. And I doubt I’ll ever get over it. I no longer play with my plastic dinosaur toys, nor do I think I even have any – I believe my mother sold them on a garage sale decades ago, likely along with my most valuable baseball cards and Star Wars toys.
We had walked through all of the halls, seeing Nature Unleashed, the creepy biology exhibits, and an odd collections gallery that is highlighted by a mummy on display. And somehow in all of that craziness, the whole afternoon had disappeared. We didn’t spend too much time doing any one thing or reading all of the posted signs, but time flew by and it was quickly time to leave for dinner.
I had a great visit at the Science Museum of Minnesota with my family and am glad I went to see the place again. It had been years. I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my regular rotation anytime soon, but it certainly is worth an infrequent and occasional stop when I return to Minnesota for the holidays. It just has a lot with which to compete for my attention.