At the Napa Valley Museum, regional history and art collide in an idyllic setting with rotating exhibits of artwork, photography, and a permanent history gallery. Membership unlocks access to the museum and openings of various exhibits such as the currently running Wanderlust: Journeys with Napa Valley Photographers, a collection of stunning images from exotic happenings in Burma, Cuba, and local Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. Joanne Youngberg and Nina Antze's A Year in Flowers demonstrates phalange-crafted artwork with paintings and sketches of botanical wonders found throughout nature. Relive the horticultural and wine-soaked history of the Napa Valley with Land and People of the Napa Valley, an exhibit displaying artifacts from the region alongside a huge collection of period-specific advertisements and Internet memes.
Playland-Not-at-the-Beach is a 9000-square foot building chock-full of amazing things to see and do. There are 30+ pinball machines set on Free Play, arcade games, videogames, carnival games of skills where you can win prizes, penny arcades full of antique amusement devices, live magic shows. We are truly The Museum of Fun!
Established in 1968 in honor of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, UC-Berkeley's first Nobel laureate, The Lawrence Hall of Science aims to inspire the scientists and innovators of the future. Their hands-on exhibits allow children and adults to see and touch a fascinating variety of displays and projects. The animated, interactive Science On a Sphere globe, for example, uses actual scientific data to depict the expanding wave patterns of tsunamis and the massive storms triggered by thoughtless butterflies. To learn more about seismic activity, guests head to the Forces That Shape the Bay outdoor park to ride an earthquake simulator. Kids can climb atop a life-size model whale or through the double helix of a huge DNA sculpture, or work with students from the Berkeley Engineers and Mentors program to design and build a prototype in the Ingenuity Lab.
The museum also sparks imaginations with an interactive planetarium and 3-D theater. Its affiliation with the university makes it an ideal spot for educational camps and classes, as well as community events, including robotics competitions.
A ball python, bearded dragons, and three types of cockroaches have made their homes at Explorit Science Center, educating guests in an exhibit dubbed the Animal Alcove. Since 1982, the center has fostered curiosity about science and nature with hands-on exhibits like this, rather than by feeding children dry textbooks or encouraging them merely to imagine how loud the sound is when trees walk. About 55,000 people visit the center each year, enhancing their intellectual development at the miniature zoo and rotating exhibits that explore the role of science in both commonplace and whimsical natural phenomena. One popular exhibit, for example, took visitors through the local agricultural process, the interconnections between agriculture and weather, and each meal’s journey from the farm to the plate. Visitors can discover further factoids at Explorit's science lecture series, and youngsters can enroll in the center’s science-themed summer camps.
A group of teachers and parents founded Habitot Children's Museum in 1998 with one specific mission in mind: to foster children up to 6 years old by encouraging their creativity and natural curiosity. Today, the 4,000-square-foot museum backs up this mission with research—gleaned from studies by scientists, psychologists, and educators—positing that healthy play spurs social skills, creative thinking, and problem solving, laying the foundation for kids to succeed later in life and imprison boogeymen in their booby-trapped closet tomorrow.
At Habitot, kids find such opportunities at small-scale exhibits and themed play areas throughout the museum. Aspiring firefighters steer a small-scale truck, race through a pretend burning building, and maneuver the hose and nozzle from a fire hydrant, all while donning coats, boots, and helmets. Young explorers press buttons, turn dials, and issue commands for pretend space launches inside a 13-foot model rocket ship or navigate a vertical floor-to-ceiling maze designed to mimic worm tunnels. At the waterworks table and pumping station, young engineers manipulate water using buckets, funnels, waterwheels, and pitchers to help them understand H2O’s unique properties, such as how it keeps boats afloat on the arms of a thousand mermen. (At different times throughout the year, the staff transforms this area with a different theme; at times it’s been a car wash, a marine-science lab, or the racing grounds for a rubber-ducky regatta.) Visitors can tap into their inner Van Goghs at the art studio, where they play with soft clays and go nuts on a paintable wall. Habitot also hosts year-round children's camps with themes such as beaches, transportation, space, castles, and science.
The Golden State Model Railroad Museum brings the nation’s bygone steam-powered days back to life in miniature form, recreating the trails run by the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads. Trains snake through three huge model layouts, which depict the varied terrain of Northern and Central California lovingly recreated and operated by the East Bay Model Engineers Society. Sundays in April–December from noon to 5 p.m., some of the 70 behind-the-scenes conductors imbue the tracks with energy, transforming the 10,000-square-foot facility into a locomotive wonderland alight with the sounds of bells and whistles not heard since the days when phone numbers only had three digits. The museum is also open on Wednesdays and Saturdays for viewings or on select days for themed events such as Amtrak Day or Steam/Transition Era Day.