Science Museum Oklahoma is a consistent winner of our Family Favorites “best of” contest that honors family-friendly businesses and services voted on by you, our readers. Even though the museum is an annual favorite, there are a few things you might not know about this OKC family-fun staple since 1958!
- The Gardens at SMO have always been a serene escape from the energizing excitement of a day spent at the museum, which makes it a popular destination for a picnic lunch or for a moment of calm. Recently, the Gardens’ Kyoto Garden got a makeover! The Kyoto Garden was first dedicated in 1985 and features a 300-year-old Japanese lantern and rock bridge representing the friendship between Kyoto, Japan and Oklahoma. A team of Master Gardeners from Oklahoma’s sister prefecture in Kyoto spent a month working with museum staff and community volunteers to renovate the garden. Over 60,000 pounds of rock, dirt and statuary were shipped by the Kyoto government to the United States as part of the restoration project. In October, a team of gardeners from Kyoto, including one of the original gardeners, returned to restore the Kyoto Garden to its original condition. Kyoto, meaning capital city, is revered worldwide for its beautiful temples and gardens and was the capital of Japan for over a millennium.
- Science is literally all around you at SMO! The breathtaking suspended kinetic sculpture by Geoffrey Hicks is a recent addition, greeting visitors as they enter the museum lobby. The piece entitled Dichroic Waves appears to float freely in the air and is designed to fully harness the abundant natural light in the lobby entrance cultivating a unique understanding of physical movement and changing light. “The acrylic louvers are covered with a 3M dichroic film, which shifts the color of both transmitted and reflected light as they rotate,” shared Linda Maisch, the museum’s vice president of community engagement.
- Science Museum Oklahoma has programming for all ages, from the youngest in the family all the way up to moms and dads. Storytime Science engages kids with a science-themed story every Tuesday and Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. followed by a fun, hands-on activity related to the book. The featured books are usually available for purchase in The Science Shop. When school is out, the learning doesn’t stop. SMO offers enriching all-day camp sessions for kids in pre-K to 6th grade during school breaks — winter, spring, summer and fall. Several times a year, SMO21 invites only grownups to enjoy a night at the museum. Cocktails, music and exciting experiments make for an unforgettable date night, girls’ night out or group get-together.
- Museum memberships are a smart way to enjoy Science Museum Oklahoma all year and save money on admission, but members also get early registration to museum events, exclusive discounts on programs and parties, and discounts to The Science Shop and Pavlov’s Café! Memberships make great gifts for parents, grandparents and kids, alike. Did you know you could shop The Science Shop online? It’s true! You can find everything from unique stocking stuffers to telescopes at smo.org/shop. You can shop local, support the museum, and get your shopping done without leaving the house.
- If your family has sensory sensitivities or simply prefers smaller crowds, Maisch recommends visiting on weekday mornings when attendance is typically lower. She also recommends calling ahead since museum staff can let you know if there are large groups scheduled for a particular day. The museum also has sensory sensitivity kits for families at the box office. Kits include earmuffs, a timer, gloves, fidget toys and a sensory-focused map designed to make your museum visit more enjoyable. Reservations for the kits are available 48 hours prior to your visit but not required. The museum also has nursing rooms for moms who prefer a private location and changing stations strategically located throughout the museum.
- SMO’s planetarium is getting an impressive upgrade, one of a few like it in the world! The new theater, astronomy exhibits and a hi-tech optical and digital projector that recreates the Milky Way in striking detail will allow for innovative programming and more interactivity. The new system will create a realistic sky of 9,500 bright stars, 56 nebulae and clusters and approximately 8 million detailed stars with high-intensity LEDs and fiber optics. Addionally, the equipment will project 88 constellations, plus the Sun, Moon and planets. The project, which has been 40 years in the making, is estimated to be completed in Fall 2024. Fundraising is underway for the $8 million budget needed to complete the new planetarium. Those who wish to contribute can donate at smo.org/donate. The Kirkpatrick Planetarium is expected to remain open until the new planetarium opens.