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I’ve been a work-at-home mom for the past year and a half. It’s been an interesting journey. And challenging at times. One thing I’ve found that helps all of us is when we can get out of the house. As much as I love Target, it can’t always be Target… right? One of our favorite things to do is Visit the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, AL. If you live in the area or are planning a trip, I’m going to share a bit about this amazing place.
We are local and we go at least every couple of weeks and at a minimum at least once a month so we keep a membership. It has been one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. Since we are members, I don’t feel guilty if we only spend an hour there but there is so much to see and do that every time we go, we find something new. This is a long post with lots of pictures.
They also have a whole floor that is like visiting an aquarium. You can pet sharks and sting rays.
See turtles and fish swimming.
Explore various species that live in different areas of the world.
Our favorite thing to do is see if the big eel is out of its rock hiding spot. It is a very long, green, slimy looking thing. Sometimes we can see its face hiding in the rock but usually it’s just dark. A time or two we have seen it completely out of the rock and it is massive.
The main floor has massive bubbles, various science experimenting stations, arch building, the McWane store, a food court, the main lobby and the entry to the IMAX theater. We didn’t do anything on the main floor during this visit but there is always a ton to do. I will say that a lot of stuff on the main level is a bit above my kids age range but they enjoy walking around and trying things out.
The 3rd floor is a rotating exhibit. They do different things throughout the year and sometimes it is closed to set up for the next thing. This time of year it is their train exhibit. They have a small train that you can ride on and if you are members it is free. Then they have model trains set up all around. They also have a small zip line, block building, ice fishing and much more. Some of the exhibit stuff on this floor is too advanced for my little ones but they love the train.
It might be a little obvious that my son is into dinosaurs. Our life revolves around them and my daughter is starting to get into them as well. Their 2nd floor has a lot of fossils on display as well as a faux fossil dig area. There are little foam pebbles and brushes that the kids can climb in and brush off the fossils. The surround of the space is rocks that the kids can climb on. Both my kids love it.
The newest area that opened this year is called the Itty Bitty Magic City. This is where it is at if your kids are kindergarten age or younger. This place is amazing. It is full of all sorts of sensory exploration. There is a diner where kids can play cook and serve patrons.
Train tables. Legos. A farm where you can milk cows, garden vegetables.
A grocery store with mini shopping carts.
A vets office, my daughter loves to put the X-rays up to the light while my son bathes the stuffed dogs.
An auto shop.
A play area with slides – my kids haven’t even been up there yet!
A firehouse with a fire truck, dispatch station.
A play area for kids under 2 years old with lots of soft play and closed in for safety. And then the water area. My kids are obsessed with the water tables and balls. They could play in there for hours. The original kindergarten area, called the Just Mice Size, had a little play area and a water table and my kids thought they were in heaven with that. This just blows that idea out of the water… (see what I did there?). Seriously, this place is amazing.
The whole area is gated and there is always someone at the gate. It makes it less scary when I have two littles running in opposite directions and knowing that they can’t get completely lost if I lose sight of them for a second. They have a stroller parking area that keeps the craziness down and again with someone manning the gate, you aren’t uncomfortable leaving it out. It does get crowded and overwhelming at times so we don’t go every time, but they do try to stagger the crowds by giving you an entry time when you get your tickets in the lobby, if it’s busy that helps.
There are so many other things there that we haven’t done yet and like I said before we see something new every time we visit. There is a slide that goes next to the stairs so people can slide down to the next level. It’s only usually open on the weekends or busier times (like the holiday season). It makes me nervous since my kids would probably get off and run so we haven’t done it yet but older kids would LOVE it!
If you live near Birmingham and haven’t been or it has been a while, I really encourage you to check it out. It is a magical place and it is full of learning opportunities and exploration for kids and adults of all ages. The membership is a steal if you plan to go more than a couple times in the year.
Since it is the holiday season and you are probably thinking about gift ideas for loved ones, might I suggest an experience gift. It doesn’t have to be McWane but memberships are so valuable and appreciated for my family. Friends I have spoken with seem to agree. Toys are fantastic and lovely but experiences just can’t be beat and are usually where memories are made. I don’t remember specific gifts I got as a kid but I do remember visiting certain places and the feeling I had when we had quality family time. If you have someone on your list who has kids, really young even up to teens, look around places in their area and see if there is something they might like to do as a family. Zoos, science centers, aquariums, etc. Plus those memberships are usually part of networks so there are other places across the country to visit and explore.