Los Angeles: California Science Center
Almost three years after the space shuttle Endeavour was moved to the science center, I finally made it a point to go and visit. I wanted to see for myself this thing that was in space and the journey it took from here to there and back. In any case, I'll take any reason to go to The California Science Center.
The California Science Center in Exposition Park is a great place to visit and discover. Aside from the fact that it's next to/part of USC's campus #BruinPride (haha JUST KIDDING rival USC folks – it's only semi-personal), it's a really great place to go on any afternoon and learn about science in an interactive and fun way. Plus, it's free to the public which is always a plus.
Some things you might have to pay for:
- Parking – $10 (unless you take the metro which is lots cheaper and a short walk from the station to the entrance)
- IMAX movie – around $8.25 (for 18 years and older) this is an experience worth getting tickets for though. The IMAX movies aren't like the 3D movies you see in a theater; they really make you feel like you're part of the ocean or in Jersualem (depending on what movie you choose to see). Right now you have three different films to choose from: Hubble 3D, Jerusalem 3D, or Humpback Whales 3D. We chose Jerusalem in lieu of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.
- The Endeavour – this can actually be "free" too if you buy a ticket to one of the other exhibits or IMAX movie, otherwise it's a $2 processing fee when you make an online reservation (a reservation is required through September 7)
- Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit – you can get a combo deal with the IMAX movie purchase – $26 (for 18 years and older), but the exhibit alone is about $20 (for 18 year old and older). This is one thing I didn't get to do when we recently went, but Yelp gives it a four out of five star rating.
- There's also attractions like the high wire bicycle (where you're riding a bicycle on a wire at the top level), a small rock wall, and a motion-based simulator which you can buy an "attraction pack" for all at $7.
Basically you can really choose how much or not at all you want to spend. The point is that this is one of the coolest museums for all ages in LA and is right next to a rose garden,
The Science Center was surprisingly not as crowded as I imagined it might be on a Saturday afternoon. I love the center's structure and even the interaction from the parking lot — there's a giant see-saw with a truck on one side and ropes on the other that teach you about force.
We first went to the Ecosystems exhibit on the second floor (first floor is mainly the food area and an exit to the Rose Garden). After watching the really cool three minute intro video, we went into the L.A. Zone to learn more about the city we're in and how much waste we produce...I mean, look above to see the amount of paper alone we throw out a year — per person!
This isn't completely in sequence, but after the Endeavour experience, I lost my friends for a good thirty minutes. Cell phone signal isn't the best in the exhibits, so I wandered around the Kelp Forest before meandering through the River and Island Zones. The Rot Room (still all part of the "Ecosystems" exhibit) was the grossest — showing beetles, cockroaches, and maggots are part of the cycle of life. I've seen enough episodes CSI: Las Vegas to understand the importance of maggots in a crime scene, but it was hard to stomach in real life.
Still disconnected from friends, I went to the Desert area which ended up being my favorite. Just for that bird alone (pictured above). But it also included some other animals like a turtle — wins me over every time. And then the flash flood happened and some kids got legitimately soaked.
And then there was THE ENDEAVOUR. I went to Astrocamp for a couple days in middle school but that didn't cover a lot about what it's like to be an astronaught.
Luckily, there's an informational exhibit about the Endeavour and also what astronaughts have to go through in general when they're in a space shuttle — like how they go to the bathroom and eat in zero gravity, both of which I've surprisingly never questioned before and don't know if I'm better off knowing that there's actually a suction cup kind of mechanism for when they go to the bathroom.
But the point: It was really cool to see the timelapse video of how the Endeavour got to the Science Center. For me especially, being from Los Angeles and seeing the neighborhoods they went through and how they had to take down stoplights. It was impressive. The description from their website:
Moving space shuttle Endeavour across the United States was a massive undertaking. Endeavourfirst flew on the back of a Boeing 747 from Cape Canaveral, Florida to Edwards Air Force Base in California, while making several stops along the way. After arrival, Endeavour honored many California landmarks as it flew over the State from Sacramento to Southern California while onlookers marveled at the sight all along the way. After landing at Los Angeles International Airport, the biggest adventure was yet to come, transporting Endeavour through the heart of urban Los Angeles to its new home at the California Science Center. At 78 feet wide, 57 feet high and 122 feet long — longer than two school buses — navigating the streets of Los Angeles and Inglewood required the guidance and skill of over 100 people. Police controlled traffic; engineers and technicians lifted power lines and took down traffic lights while approximately 1.5 million people lined the sidewalks to celebrate the event... [The Endeavour went on a] 12-mile, 68-hour journey.
And if you can't go to the Science Center, you can see another version of a timelapse done by the LA Times here.
So then it's the big reveal: you go down the stairs and through some doors to the very extra large garage where the Endeavour is kept. It was just cool to walk around it and see this massive thing and imagine how they propelled this up out of the Earth. And that people lived on this for a very long time.
After the Endeavour, and my wandering through the rest of the Ecosystems exhibit, I was still not able to find my friends so I went to check out the World of Life exhibit. Unfortunately, Tess, my favorite part of that exhibit — a 50-foot body simulator — had some energy problems that day and was out of commission.
Eventually — after a long time of my friends also wandering through kelp forests and other ecosystems — we found each other and got some much-needed food.
We lined up for the IMAX movie Jerusalem. It started raining. Slowly. And then pouring. People just wrapped around this entry/exit area shown above — it's actually one of my favorite parts of the Science Center with all the hanging orbs.
The movie was great. Focusing on three girls to represent the three religious meanings for the city, and also an archaeologist to highlight more of it's past was a good way to deliver the information. I took a class on Jerusalem in college which was ten weeks long and we still would have had more to cover and learn, so trying to condense the layers of meaning and information Jerusalem has embedded in it's rich history is a definite feat. It gave me a better sense of how the city would feel if I visited. And, if we had gone to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition, it would be a good companion movie.
After the movie, it was time to go home. We ran through the rain and they danced in it. I got a churro from a street vendor and decided not to think about the World of Life exhibit and the digestive system that churro was going to go through.
700 Exposition Park Driver, Los Angeles, CA 90037
Open daily 10:00am — 5:00pm
Check website for special closure days, and the IMAX theater schedule or call 213‑744‑7400 for show information.