Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cheapskates' Paradise, part the 4th

If you've been following along at home, you may recall that my satisfaction at learning that Kipplinger's online had named my hometown the top pick for cheapskates has lead to the only real ongoing series of posts I've ever done, unless you count droning on endlessly about my booth at Kenrick Antique Mall or bragging on my thrifty finds as series, but since that's pretty much all I do most of the time. I don't think that counts.  Anyway, you can find previous Cheapskate Paradise posts, in which I wax poetic on the topic, here:
Part 1: Didja Hear About the 'Lou?  Reaction to the news, plus the St Louis Zoo.
Part 2: Cheapskates' Paradise, Part Deux!  The St Louis Art Museum, aka SLAM.
Part 3: Cheapskates' Paradise Junior-Junior A trip to the county: Laumeier Sculpture Park/Poweder Valley.

And now we arrive at part 4 of my cheapskate love affair with my home town.  Today's topic? 

The St Louis Science Center!

Now, like the Zoo and the Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center is also situated in Forest Park and is also - and you can sing along if you know it by now - Free To The Public (dun-DUN!).  It started out as a single, spectacular building on the South side of Forest Park - the McDonnell Planetarium.  An architectural gem on par with our gorgeous Gateway Arch, if you ask me (I love the crispness of the sweep of white against the sky), it was designed by Gyo Obata, who was later, not coincidentally, chosen to design the National Air and Space museum in DC (also free admission, by the way, but we got the better design for ours!):

The James S McDonnell (yes,of McDonnell-Douglas) Planetarium - sleek!
Other buildings were later added on the South side of highway 40, on Oakland Avenue, with an enclosed bridge linking the two (where you can look down on cars racing by, and even clock their speeds). 
The main building.  Image borrowed, oddly enough, from, here.

There are over 300,000 square feet of exhibit space, and much-to-most of it offers hands-on experiences to engage the visitor.  You can, for example, learn building/engineering principles in the Structures gallery, including building a replica of the Gateway Arch from soft blocks (an exhibit that's helpful for kids who are afraid of a trip to the top of our tallest national monument - they'll learn what makes it so strong!).  You can also marvel at the cheesiness of the giant animatronic dinosaurs, check out fossils and watch lab types perform science-y goodness for your enjoyment.  Also, you can design your own fish, which is kind of adorable, try out flight simulators, and play around with dozens of other cool exhibits all for free! And if you are lazy, tired, easily amused or probably also if you're one drugs, you could just watch the giant rube goldbergian Energizer ball machine for an hour or so:
One section of the enormous contraption, from the 2nd floor after hours.

Parking in the main lot does cost, but there is free parking available.  And if you simply must spend your hard-earned pennies, you can spend them on:

Planetarium or Omnimax shows, the Discovery Room (great for the smaller kiddies), or Lego MindStorms.  You can also fork over some dough to ride a Segway around the joint, enjoy whatever big travelling exhibition is on at the moment, or to raise a fork at the concessions.  But I've been going to the Science Center for years, and have yet to shell out for any of that, and it's still fun every time!

It's especially nice this time of year, when kiddos are off school and temperatures are outdoorsiness-limiting.  Tons of activities to keep the kids entertained for hours without making a dent in the pocketbook - nice! 

And beyond that, I wanted to get a post on the Science Center out around now because of two big bonuses currently in place to bless your cheapskate soul:

If the temp outside is over 95, tickets to the main exhibit, and to any Omnimax show go for only $5.00 a pop - what a fun way to beat the heat!

A great one for grownups who want to get their awe on.  On the first Friday of the month, the Science Center gets jiggy after hours, with discounts to the exhibits, free music, cheap Omnimax shows and Segway rides, free Planetarium shows and public telescope viewings, and at 10:00 PM, a free viewing on the Omnimiax screen.  August's First Friday freebie will be Batman:

The campy 1989 version - 40% less angst!

That's the main reason I wanted to get this post out now - First Fridays is a blast.  I went last month, which is why the above picture of the Energizer ball machine seems empty and dark.  I had to work until 9:00 pm, so I missed most of the festivities but I got there in time for the most important thing.  Last month's free Omnimax showing was of my very favorite 2-parter of Doctor Who: The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances.  

The only thing better than The Doctor is The Doctor, Omnimax sized.  See how happy it made my friends?
There's apparently a Doctor Who fan club in the 'Lou who turned out complete with Doctors 10 and 11!  I was way too shy to speak to them, but plenty creeper enough to snap a photo or two from afar:

11th Doctor had the look down pat.
10 was less convincing to look at,
but you should've seen him do the walk!
They cleverly chose this 2-parter as a tie-in, as the story features prominently some sub-atomic critters.  Fits nicely with the current summer exhibit: Amazing Nano Worlds, about nanotechnology.

I had a wonderful time last First Friday.  Check it out for yourself next weekend.  If you do, let me know what you think!

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