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The Great Indoors

What to do if spring break doesn’t cooperate...

Kids learn all about space exploration at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center.

Kids learn all about space exploration at the Space Foundation’s Discovery Center.

pring break often brings snowy, blustery weather to the Pikes Peak region. So if Padre Island, Disney World or Cancun are not in your spring break plans, think about finding some fun indoor entertainment at home. 

There are the usual arcades and trampoline parks, movies and malls. But what if you want to expose your kids to something new and possibly even (gasp!) educational while letting them have a good time?

Sky’s the limit

All kids are fascinated by outer space. So take them there – virtually, at least.

The Space Foundation’s Discovery Center will mesmerize young and old with its amazing and sometimes unique collection of space suits, vehicles, memorabilia and stories from the space program. They have the only lunar module in the Western hemisphere (Russia has one). The other two are still on the moon. 

Docents who give tours often are retired scientists and others who worked in various aspects of the space program. One fellow actually helped create the iconic white space suit you see when you walk into the museum. 

A child-sized space suit shows other applications of space technology – the tiny yellow suit was created for a boy who had a severe immune deficiency disease. 

A classroom behind the museum proper serves the many school groups who come through each year, and a new stage will be the setting for performances (like live science experiments, a la Mr. Wizard). 

Next door, kids (and their parents) get a chance to drive a remote control Mars rover over a replica of a Martian landscape. It’s very cool. 

The star of this extraterrestrial galaxy, however, may be the Science on a Sphere theater, where about 50 or so visitors can sit around a huge sphere suspended from the ceiling. It has 450 different possible “shows” – from watching the weather of the world to seeing how the planets of our solar system stack up to the size of the sun. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder has supplied the center with images that allow visitors to see Hurricane Sandy hit America’s east coast or the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan a few years ago. 

Videos from the early days of the space race to the latest findings and images also can be shown on the sphere. It’s a surreal experience. 

“I could literally sit here for hours,” says Bryan DeBates, director of education for the center. “It’s just fascinating. It never gets old.”

He changes the visual display or tilts the sphere with the touch of an iPad. 

“I get to control the world,” he says, laughing. “Who else can say that?”

Travis Schenck, director of the museum, says they’re prepared to make spring break a special week at the center. There will be plenty of docents on hand to give tours, and there will be fun hands-on activities and crafts every day. 

It’s not a camp situation where parents drop kids off, though. Parents need to accompany their kids and enjoy the displays and activities too.

 This is a place families could visit often, and have a different experience each time, Schenck says. 

The center keeps acquiring new exhibits too.

NASA just donated a scale model of SkyLab. 

“They know this is a good home for it,” Schenck says.

The museum is located on Arrowswest Drive, on the corner of West Garden of the Gods Road. Admission is $4.50 for kids ages 4-17 and $10 for adults, with senior and military discounts available. They’re open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Call 576-8000 for information.

On the money

Can’t take the family to the beach? Take them under the sea. 

That’s what’s on display at the American Numismatic Association’s Money Museum. 

This special exhibit, “Treasures of the Deep,” is a collection of coins and artifacts excavated from the ocean’s floor.

Besides seeing some very cool ancient coins and other treasures, kids will learn about pirates and pirate ships and, perhaps most interesting of all, how those treasures are recovered. Learn why so many ships sunk during the 1600s and 1700s, and much more.

“This really is an exhibit that fascinates all ages,” says Jake Sherlock, communications director for the museum. 

In addition, check out the standing core exhibit about the history of money and how money is made, and don’t miss the world’s greatest collection of gold coins. 

The museum is located at 818 N. Cascade Ave. and is open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for kids and seniors. It’s free the third Saturday of each month. Call 482-9834 for information.