DISCOVERING THE JOYS OF MCWANE CENTER IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
Have you taken a child to Birmingham, Alabama to visit The McWane Center this summer?
If not; you are missing out on one of the greatest treats of summer!
This children’s museum was designed to inspire a life-long love for learning. There is so MUCH for a child to do, learn and explore here. I would highly recommend that every parent consider this a MUST-DO summer outing. We took our grandson. He loved everything about it.
This awesome place of science and wonder has been open in The Magic City of Birmingham, Alabama since 1998. It is a magical place where you can see, hear and touch all of the wonders of science. Adults will enjoy the exhibits just as much as kids! I caught myself feeling like a child again.
The focus is on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; but you will just think you are exploring and having fun.
Everything you learn will be through the experience of “doing.” You can try everything out by trial and error and come up with all of your own answers. McWane Center is a place of engagement and inspiration. A child can create along with other children.
One of the best parts of this fun hands-on learning is the fact there is absolutely NO HOMEWORK!
TWO GREAT PLACES COME TOGETHER AS ONE
So how did this special place come about?
Back in 1998 Birmingham’s Discovery Place and The Red Mountain Museum merged to create this stimulating and interactive new science museum. The merger has been very successful in every way.
The McWane Science Center came to be a state-of-the-art museum housed in the historic and refurbished old Loveman’s Department Store Building.
FOND LOCAL MEMORIES OF THE HISTORIC OLD LOVEMAN’S BUILDING
How many of you old-timers (like me) remember going to Loveman’s in Downtown Birmingham as a young child with your parents? I remember being in such a first-grader’s awe of its magnificent splendor! To visit the candy department there was to die and go to heaven; only better.
To ride the elevators and to take lunch with your Mother In the Mezzanine level cafe was a very special treat. We always dressed up in our best clothes just to go shopping at this store. It held an atmosphere of luxury and finery, and I still remember my little red wool coat that my Mother bought me at Loveman’s. Just wearing that little coat made me the envy of every first-grade girl in my little home town.
A NEW CONCEPT; A NEW WAY TO MAKE MEMORIES INSIDE AN OLD BUILDING
Those childhood memories of Loveman’s Department Store were good; but they are nothing at all compared to the new memories you will make with your own child or grandchild at the McWane Center.
The magic of this place lives on, and it just gets better!
A POSITIVE GROWTH IN LOCAL REDEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
McWane Center quickly became a brilliant focal point for Birmingham’s redevelopment movement. It might even be fair to say, while looking back from where we stand now; the McWane Science Center could truly be called the “cornerstone of Birmingham, Alabama’s downtown revitalization.”
Once McWane was completed, many other doors were opened for the growth and revitalization of this historic part of The Magic City.
HELPING CHILDREN FIND THEIR WAY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
What better way to start a movement to better a city than to start with something to inspire the children of the city toward a brighter and more beautiful future by teaching them the science they will need to know to make their own unique mark on the world?
It all begins with learning the basics of science; and teaching children the wonders of science, even beyond the basics, and all of this is where the McWane Science Center excels.
The McWane Science Center is located at 200 19th Street North, Birmingham, Alabama 35203. The phone number for the center is: 205-714-8300.
Admission prices for the Adventure Hall and the IMAX may be obtained separate or combined. Adventure Hall tickets are $13 for Adults, $12 for Seniors and $9 for Children aged 2 – 12. IMAX only tickets are $9 for Adults, $8 for Seniors, and $8 for Children aged 2 – 12. Combined tickets for both experiences cost $18 for Adults, $16 for Seniors and $14 for Children aged 2 – 12. Ticket prices could change after the posting of this article; it is always best to call and double-check for making your plans.
Special membership packages are available in several different combinations, according to your specific needs. If you are going to come more than once in the year; the membership would probably be to your advantage, especially if you are a grandparent or a large family.
The doors of the center are open on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m., and on Sundays from 12 noon till 6 p.m. They are only closed on major holidays. Covered parking is available on 2nd Avenue North. Parking will cost you $5 when you exit. There is also metered parking available on the street. Street parking is free on the weekends.
Some of the exhibits are traveling exhibits or temporarily designed educational exhibits laid out for special subjects, occasions and reasons. For instance; the day we took our grandson there was an old classic toy exhibit which was truly wonderful.
It is always icing on the cake when you catch these special traveling exhibits. To me It was unbelievable how many classic old toys and games could be gathered together in one place with their history and details recorded and with interactive stations. You could look back on all of your old favorite toys and games. You could explain to your children and grandchildren how they were used and why you loved playing with them so much.
Just check the website or call ahead to see if any extra traveling exhibits are in town on the day you decide to go. If so; enjoy them! If not; I promise you will have PLENTY of fun things to do anyway.
LEVEL 1 – SCIENCE QUEST EXHIBITS
What a great way to learn all about science!
In this section of McWane you can experience the effects of the anti-gravity mirror. Here you will see some pretty cool stuff pertaining to the symmetry in mirror reflections.
You can progress to the basketball goals next and learn the mysteries of the “swish.” Did you know there is a science behind shooting hoops? Basketball players take note!
Have you ever laid on a bed of nails? You can do it here without even noticing any pain– is that odd or what?
Be sure to check out the Caternary Arch exhibit. It is pretty amazing.
When you come to the Chaotic Pendulum, I’ll give you a hint. DO NOT DEPEND ON YOUR OWN INTUITIONS! They simply will not work. You will see the Combination Safes that can only be opened by certain sequences of numbers. Can you guess which ones?
You can also enjoy the Giant Lever, the Height Checker and the Light and Lazar Exhibit in this venue. You can play Mind Ball. You might learn a lot about how electrical signals of the brain work; especially while you are sleeping.
Did you know your brain never stops working?
LEVEL ONE – JUST MICE SIZED
Designed for preschoolers from one to five, this section is one of those experiences that a toddling child can enjoy over and over again!
Everything here is larger than life. Little ones can climb in the Mouse House or splash around at a water table.
There is a place for costume play or sitting to read a book.
Everything is displayed at eye-level for smaller children.
LEVEL 1 – BUBBLE ROOM
Here you will learn the science of suds! You can make all kinds of bubbles, even odd shaped ones, like squares!
LEVEL 1 – RUSHTON THEATRE
This room is full of lightning and fire! You will learn many facts about physical science and life science; but you might not realize that you are learning so much so fast. This is a huge theatre that explores such amazing things. There is a telsa coil and a Van De Graaff generator on display.
LEVEL 2 – ITTY BITTY MAGIC CITY
The Itty Bitty Magic City is an exhibit designed for kindergarten and younger aged children. This is the newest feature of McWane Center and it has been very popular.
The Itty Bitty exhibits are adorable and very interactive on a toddler’s level. Here your child can experience physical play, exploratory play, constructive play and imaginary play.
On Main Street you will get the look and feel of an imaginary town. Toddlers can explore and play at the “Tot Spot.” There is an awesome water play area where your toddler will begin to learn the basics of H2O. There is a climb station where toddlers can engage in their favorite activity – climbing to their heart’s content.
Everything is safe, carefully thought out and imaginative.
LEVEL 2 – EXPLORE! MUSEUM’S COLLECTION CENTER
On the day that we were visiting McWane, our grandson announced that he was going to be a butterfly catcher when he grew up! A lofty goal for any child to aspire too.
This section is all about geology, paleontology, anthropology,and zoology.
Is your child a collector of rocks, bugs, butterflies or shells?
They will be in heaven here.
The collections are extensive and amazing and artfully displayed. They can learn about the scientific methods and develop their microscope skills here. You can actually touch and see fossils, skeletons and rare minerals.
LEVEL 2 – ALABAMA DINOSAURS
Were you aware of the fact that Alabama is the best place east of the Mississippi to find the remains of dinosaurs?
It is true! Lots of dinosaur relics are here at McWane for you to see and touch. Find out their names and where they lived and what they did in Alabama so many years ago.
LEVEL 2 – SCIENCE ON A SPHERE (SOS)
This section of McWane contains NOAA’s exhibit of planetary data.
The use of projectors and computers here make for amazing discoveries. It allows you to explore a giant animated globe of the earth and see the earth science that goes on all the time when we are not noticing it taking place.
You will experience a few atmospheric storms and some climate changes. Also, you will learn how ocean temperatures affect our environment. Earth Science, Space Science and Environmental Science abound and sink into the brain as you explore the interesting area; but to most children this will just be a fun adventure. The facts they learn are a natural occurrence simply spiked by curiosity.
LEVEL 2 – SEA MONSTERS
See what creatures swam in Alabama’s waters 80 million years ago!
Come face to face with a 15 foot sea turtle and a 17 foot fish!
Peer into the jaws of the Mosasaur, the most dangerous sea monster of its time.
This exhibit is loaded with facts about life-science and earth-science, and it is great fun to explore them up close and personal.
LEVEL 2 – NATURE SCOPE
At Nature Scope you can explore the great outdoors while you are actually inside a building. Cool; huh?
Nothing seems to be impossible here at McWane Center. They have brought the wonderful world of outdoor nature inside the center for you to enjoy.
You won’t have to worry about the weather!
Go to the Audubon Cabin and find out about birds. Find out which birds live in Alabama. You can watch for them later when you are on a hiking trip or simply playing in your back yard.
Your child will be delighted to know which birds are which.
Watch a nature show or see a demonstration of the way nature works.
Explore Wildlife Alabama programs on a virtual tour with Alabama’s own Doug Philips.
Learn what noises different animals make and record yourself imitating their sounds! So funny!
Go into the decompression chamber and find out how insects affect our ecosystem. Meet every type of bug you ever wanted to see. Some of them are pretty scary though. Watch out for that tarantula!
LEVEL 2 – HIGH CYCLE
You can take a high cycle ride across the expanse of the museum’s lobby.!
This adventure is always popular, fun and exciting.
In this section of the museum you can experience different stations that teach you all about the forces of gravity.
LEVEL 3 – ART SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
This is a great way to learn how science and technology can merge to create art!
Experience surrealism with the crazy weird mirror technologies that are available. Merge your face with a friends and see what the two of you look like combined!
Stand in front of an interactive screen covered with digital butterflies and merge them into creative art patterns.
This is such a fun part of the exhibit. It allows your creativity to mix with your intellect. Art and science shake hands here and introduce themselves to each other.
LOWER LEVEL – WORLD OF WATER AQUARIUM
What do you know about the ocean?
You will learn so many fascinating facts at this part of the museum. There is a section to teach about ocean water, a section to teach about river water, and a section that teaches about lake water.
One whole section of this exhibit teaches about Alabama’s local habitat which can be found mostly in the Cahaba River.
After you leave McWane Center you can take your child to the river and enforce their learning by having a conversation about the same things all over again in the actual spot where the information came about.
A coral tank features corals from the Indo-Pacific region.
In these exhibit sections you get up close and personal with the best of all earth’s locations of water; both here and there, fresh and salt.
LOWER LEVEL-SHARK AND RAY TOUCH TANK
This exhibit has large tanks and aquariums that teach about the ocean creatures. These waters are full of sharks and rays (all different types.) Some of them you can see; some of them you can touch!
Your child will be fascinated with the interaction. All of it is very interesting.
JOHN W. WOODS IMAX DOME THEATER
The IMAX experience alone is worth the trip to McWane.
A 5 story 79 foot tilted domed screen theatre makes you feel like you are actually a part of the scenery around you.
This huge screen has 15,000 watts of digital surround sound and you won’t be able to tell you are not actually under the bright blue sky hearing the call of the birds as they fly across the roaring waves of the ocean.
Each IMAX show is different and unique; but you will love them all. If you have already been to the exhibits several times this year; why not just take an outing to the IMAX? There is always something new and exciting to grab your attention and give you another thrilling adventure.
THE SMART CAFE
After a fun morning at McWane; you may need a lunch break. No problem. The Smart Cafe offers a wide variety of food options and even displays the food option’s nutritional values for you so you can make all the wisest of choices.
What are you waiting on?
The McWane Center is open and available for summer fun and memory making. Grab a car load of kids and get over there!
Who would have ever thought spending a whole day learning science could be so much fun!