The Great Lakes Science Center has the proper look and feel of a big city downtown science museum. It has a beautiful location in the heart of downtown Cleveland, right next to the Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame museum and the Lake Erie waterfront. The museum building has a modern open layout with plenty of natural light through the building's generous exterior glass.
Although the museum has many activities (both science and fun) for younger kids, it is predominately a great place to go for kids 8 and older. Older kids benefit from being able to read the displays in all the exhibits. The large hands-on science experiment area on the third floor and the NASA John Glenn Visitor Center on the second floor are two of the best spots in the museum. Kids love to spend time exploring both of these areas in depth.
Overall, the Great Lakes Science Center has a 3 story layout. The lower level contains the museum's special exhibition area. The museum's café and access to the waterfront and the William G. Mather steamship are located on this level. During the school year, the museum also hosts the MC^2 STEM High School on this level during daytime hours. Levels 1 and 2 (Floors 2 and 3) have the most to see. Level 1 contains two of the primary attractions at the museum including the NASA John Glenn Visitor Center and the Omnimax Theater. The first floor also is the location of the museum's main entrance, the BioMedTech exhibit and the science store, filled with books and toys related to science. Level 2 contains the Science Phenomena experiment area and the Polymer Funhouse play area. There are also two outdoor decks that offer more science learning opportunities and great views of the lake and city. The outdoor areas are only open when weather permits.
NASA John Glenn Visitor Center
There is plenty of science to see at the John Glenn Visitor Center
Level 1 of the museum includes the NASA John Glenn Visitor Center. As you may recall, John Glenn is one of the pioneering astronauts during the golden age of space travel. Mr. Glenn is most famous for being the first American to orbit the Earth and serving as a U.S. senator. John Glenn was born, grew up and graduated from engineering school in Ohio. The John Glenn NASA visitor's center is one of eight official NASA visitor centers in the United States.
The John GLenn Visitor Center has two main rooms. Both concentrate on space and the equipment developed for man to reach space. There are many different very cool demonstration stations and some great hands-on activities for kids (and their parents) to enjoy. In this area there is an actual moon rock, 1973 Skylab module, actually space suits and more items that not only help kids understand the science and history behind early space travel. You would need to travel to the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. or Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see a better display. This area also features information and interactive exhibits about fuel cells, block building area, simulators, rockets and more.
Science Phenomena Exhibit
The Science Phenomena Area is filled with over 100 hands-on science stations
The Science Phenomena area provides what we all expect in a science museum, hands-on science stations. This area has one of the best hands-on science areas of any museum I have visitied. There are over 100 hands-on stations. Many of these stations are major pieces that most science museums would showcase as a main attraction. Some of the highlights include a speed pitch area, a reaction timing game, a cool static electricity area and the science sound area. Kids can spend hours in this area exploring, playing and learning. Overall, this area is very impressive.
Science Sound and Music area in the Science Phenomena Area
The Polymer Funhouse
The Polymer Funhouse is a great area for younger kids to play and explore. There are building blocks, things to climb, things to explore with science sounds and more. Seasonally, the outdoor rooftop area, named Port Polymer, is open for guests. This area features an area to explore and play with water. The rooftop is a must visit location, even if you do not have younger children for the view of the city and Lake Erie.
Port Polymer Outdoor Water Play Area
The Polymer Funhouse Indoor Preschool Science Area
The BioMedTech area features science information about the body and medical breakthroughs. Visitors can learn about some of the medical machines that help doctors treat their patients and science behind each machine. This area is not a traditional human body exhibit that most science museums feature, it focuses more the the medical technology side of science, which is very interesting. This exhibit is very good for older kids, particularly if they are interested in pursuing a medical-related profession.
The BioMedTech Area at the Cleveland Science Center
Medical Equipment at BioMedTech
William G. Mather Steamship
While it is possible to visit the William G. Mather Steamship without visiting the Great Lakes Science Center, many visitors see both on the same day. The William G. Mather is a Lake Erie freighter. Visiting the Mather will allow you to understand how large the transportation vessel are that move goods across the Great Lakes. The tour requires an additional charge, but features a visitor center with hands-on activities and a self-guided tour through the steamship (it is huge!). If you have really small children or babies, you may want to skip the tour until the kids are a little older because you will need to climb some steep stairs to get around on the ship. A trip to the Mather with older kids is highly recommended. Besides the tour there are some great views of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, the Browns Stadium and Lake Erie from the top of the ship.
The William G. Mather Steamship Docked behind the Great Lakes Science Center
The On-board Information Center on the William G. Mather