See the World, Visit Exotic Science Centers

Checking out my Twitter stream this morning, I saw a conversation about EVA-dot's write up of a recent trip to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. I've never had a chance to go to that Museum--sadly, my only Chicago museum experience is seeing the Brachiosaurus skeleton in O'Hare Airport--which got me thinking: what other great Science Centers and Museums have I missed out on?

Sounded like a perfect question to ask our online community. The suggestions that resulted form a perfect travel itinerary for geeks!

The Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA. This one received the most nominations. I've only had the chance to go there once, and that was quite some time ago, but it left an impression. Absolutely worth a visit. They really pioneered the hands-on style for Science Centers.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Hunstville, AL. It's no surprise to find this museum here. If your museum is also the home to Space Camp, you are pretty much a lock to make this list.

The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI. Don't worry! You haven't accidentally surfed over to the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE blog. The Ford Museum is about more than just cars and mass production, although those things do indeed get top billing.

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA. A nice new building right in Golden Gate Park plays home to an active research center and a place for members of the public to learn and be inspired.

The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose, CA. I think the idea of having a Science Museum that is just called "The Tech" is pretty awesome in an of itself. In other news, I can tell that I need to add a few days to my next visit up to Google just to see all of these cool museums.

The American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY. Specifically, the Hayden Planetarium--and Director Neil deGrasse Tyson--gets high marks.

Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago, IL. I like that Adler is currently featuring an exhibit about IBEX, a not terribly well known--but still quite important--NASA mission.

California Science Center. The CalSciCen (okay, I just made that nickname up) is actually in an "Exposition Park," which is home to four or five other museums.

Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana, CA. This "Science Cube" seems to still be known colloquially as the "Taco Bell Discovery Center." Kudos to the folks at Taco Bell for making what is both an positive contribution to society and, evidently, a good marketing ploy.

McWane Science Center, Birmingham, AL. McWane has a space science lover's trifecta: an IMAX, Science on a Sphere, and a Challenger Center.

St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis, MO. X PRIZE Trustee Gregg Maryniak, the Vice President, Aerospace Sciences and Astronomy at the SLCSS and the Director of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, will be very glad to hear from one of our community members that "the St. Louis Science Center was a major factor in why I entered the Aerospace Industry. ... I grew up on IMAX films at the SLSC's 'Omnimax' (domed IMAX)".

The National Museum of the US Air Force, Dayton, OH. Where better place that the birthplace of Orville Wright to have a museum dedicated to aircraft? The Museum features more than 400 aerospace vehicles, many of which are the sole remaining examples of their kind.

Sciencenter, Ithaca, NY. Also known as the Museum I keep thinking I've spelled wrong. Impressively, this Science center grew out of the hands-on educational programs created by two volunteer teachers.

San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego, CA. This is, I promise, the final Californian museum on the list. Interesting question: why does California have so many good science museums?

Museum of Science, Boston, MA. I like to think that the recent "One Giant Leap" panel
is the reason Boston's simply-named Museum of Science made the list. Things like their giant Tesla coil probably had more to do with it, though.

Virginia Air & Space Center, Hampton, VA. This facility also serves as the visitors' center for both NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base.

The Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum (both branches) and Natural History Museum, Washington, DC and Dulles, VA. One word for you: SpaceShipOne. Another set of letters and numbers: SR-71. Also, a protip: don't be one of the suckers who waits in line to see the Hope diamond and ignores the absolutely stunning meteorite collection in the same exhibit.

Finally, I'll note that time of day of my informal survey probably prevented international community members from chiming in. I hope you all will make up for this glaring lack in the comments.

Whew. We'll, I'm exhausted by the list--but at the same time, I'm ready to start planning some trips to some fantastic museums.

I tell you what: I'll send a special Google Lunar X PRIZE care package to the first person to submit a complete Google Earth tour that shows each of these science centers!

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