The Science Museum in Richmond is a place that my family has loved for a long time. I have watched this museum grow over the past seventeen years, and am excited to say that it equals some of the top ones I have found within a day's driving distance from my home in Charlottesville-and it just keeps getting better. Some people have been intimidated with Richmond, but let me reassure you that a day in our capital city can be safe, beautiful, navigable and fun.
Richmond is an easy drive from most areas of Virginia, and a lot of its museums are clustered around the Boulevard which is easily accessed from Interstate 64 (exit #78). Here you will find the Science Museum, Children's Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Historical Society, Maymont Park and a beautiful neighborhood (along Monument Ave.) for riding through the alleys and experiencing big city backyards. The Visitors Center is easy to find and full of information about fun things to do all over the city. Another attraction that is close to Belle Isle is the Money Museum in the Federal Reserve Bank. Go there for a free and complete history of money. Ask at Security for a complimentary sample of shredded money-kids love it! The Hollywood Cemetery has many historical gravesites including two US presidents and Jefferson Davis.
There is something special about a museum close to home that you can visit so often that you really get to know the place. We go to the Science Museum six times a year and learn a little more each time. When we get there, we secure our IMAX passes and ask when the demonstrations for the day are scheduled. You can take in demonstrations that include: Air Pressure, Illusion/Magic, Static Electricity, Force and Motion, Liquid Nitrogen, Tesla Coil, and Lights/Camera/Science and more.
The Science Museum regularly hosts traveling exhibits, so it offers enough that's new to keep you interested. In addition, there are plenty of familiar exhibits that are wonderfully hands on and educational. Calendars are provided for special events such as Surf-N-Turf, Earth Day, National Science and Technology Week, and more. The new, state-of-the-art Bioscape exhibit is a "must see."
There is even a homeschool volunteer program at the museum. A variety of learning opportunities-from working with museum guests to helping in the gift shop to behind the scenes planning-are now available to homeschooling teenagers. This program actively involves each volunteer's parents and meets at least four times a year to evaluate progress and make sure the program is serving each volunteer's needs. For more information or to register as a homeschool volunteer, call (804) 864-1511.
Admission to the Science Museum is free, if you have an Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) pass. Members pay extra ($6.00) for the IMAX films-they are always worth it. Admission without the pass depends on age. For kids 3 and under admission is free. For 4 to 12 year olds, $6.00 for exhibits and $11.50 to include an IMAX film. For 13 to 59 year olds, $7.00 for exhibits and $12.50 to include an IMAX film. The best deal is to become a member. They offer a homeschooling deal that can't be beat. It is called the "Teacher/Family" membership level and costs $50 a year. Not only does this give your family unlimited free exhibit admission for the year and the ASTC reciprocal benefits (which gets you into over 200 museums worldwide) but you also receive six IMAX passes for the films!
There are indoor and outdoor picnic areas. Parking is easy and free. During school days, it is best to go after lunch or call ahead at (800) 659-1727 to Group Sales. They can tell you how many school groups are scheduled, and can give current exhibit information as well. Future plans include the addition of a fitness trail with the hope of including a renovated 1918-vintage streetcar that will carry visitors on a loop around the park.