Tips for a Family Fun Day at the Science Center of Iowa -

Tips 4 a Family Fun Day at the Science Center of Iowa

Updated September 20, 2018

After the holiday rush, January is the perfect time to slow down and visit the Science Center of Iowa.  You can get the kids out of the house, keep them active and entertained and give their brain a workout all in one place. 

Know Before You Go

Science Center of Iowa • 401 W Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 274-6868

  • Hours of Operation: Mondays: CLOSED (Labor Day – Memorial Day) Open (Memorial Day – Labor Day); Tuesday thru Saturday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; and Sundays: 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
  • Cost of General Admission: Children under 2 are free; Child (2-12) $8; Adult (13-64) $12; and Senior (65+) $8.
  • $5 Family Night: The second Friday of the month is family night with $5 general admission (per person) from 5:00 to 8:00 pm.
  • Parking: Covered garage parking is available just across the street from the main entrance. Hourly rate is $3 first hour, $1 each additional hour.
  • Food Chain Café provides full-service meals on-site for lunch and snacks throughout the day.
  • Prior to your visit check out where you’ll find everything you need to know about the center.

 While You’re There

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After you’ve paid to get in, grab a map and an event listing and review them both.  This is a good time to ask the cashier about an activity location or event.  If there is an event that you are interested in attending, make note, so you’ll know what time to head to its location.  We usually attend at least one program per trip and are never disappointed.  The presentations are always educational and entertaining.

Tips 4 a Family Fun Day at the Science Center of Iowa -

If you have toddlers and preschoolers, no worries, they will have a great time exploring in Small Discoveries.  When my daughter was little, she especially loved the puppets and giant bubbles.  This room is specifically designed for the younger kiddos, but there is lots for them to enjoy throughout the center.

Since, we’ve been to the Science Center a number of times now, we have our visits down pat.  So, I thought I would share our “itinerary” with you.  No matter what path you take when visiting, encourage your kids to engage, interact and take their time with the exhibits.  Either read or explain what is happening, so they can understand the science behind the fun.

Tips 4 a Family Fun Day at the Science Center of Iowa -

We start our tour of the Science Center of Iowa on the lower level behind admissions.  We generally start off by completing circuits, making paper “whirly gigs” to try out on the Wind Table and chop something up in the One Block Challenge in the Makers Studio.  New as of Fall of 2018, is the permanent Brick by Brick exhibit.  This exhibit pairs giant LEGO®-built structures with hands-on building challenges to showcase how architects and engineers push the limits of design to make the seemingly impossible possible.  If you have a LEGO® fanaticyou need to check it out!


Next, we make our way to the second floor.  To the left of the escalator is the What on Earth? exhibit.  (We call it the animal room.)  In here you will see animals and habitats native to Iowa.  This is also where the WHO Weather Studio is at.  All kids love getting in front of the green screen and disappearing.  Bonus – if you’re at the Science Center at noon on a weekday, you just might find yourself on the news.

The next stop on our tour is the Why the Sky? Exhibit.  We touch the plasma globe, learn about space, punch our selections into the Cosmic Jukebox and watch it in the Star Theater.  It’s really dark in the theater, so allow your eyes to adjust before finding your seat.

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Our last stop is always the When Things Get Moving exhibit.  If we started here, we wouldn’t see anything else.  My kids love every activity in this room.  We spend a fair amount of time; creating and launching rockets, maneuvering balls through a giant wall of levers and gears, building Lego cars, wrapping and dropping eggs….  Once we’re all worn out, it’s time to go.

After Your Visit


Don’t forget to check out A-Ha! Gift Shop before you leave.  It’s a great place to find fun, educational and unique gifts for kids.  The Science Center is located downtown just south of Court Avenue, making it convenient to extend your day of fun. The area offers several options for shopping and dining. Once you do head home, have a family discussion about everyone’s favorite exhibit and what they learned.


What are your tips for a family fun day at the Science Center of Iowa?