Reuben Fleet Science Center
Located in Balboa Park, the Reuben H Fleet Science Center is the place to go for interactive fun for kids that is also educational. It's a place where children can learn, explore, create, and be entertained for $10!
The displays and exhibits change so you're in for a surprise as to what you will experience at the Reuben Fleet Science Center. Below is a random selection of things found within over the years. Exhibits move, exhibits change, so you may see some of the same exhibits as below, or you can find something even more exciting.
- Lower Gallery
- Upper Gallery
- Kid City: for ages 5 and under
- Gift Shop, Cafe & Imax
- Price, Hours of Operation, Parking
The lower gallery is the floor upon which you enter. Here you will find many hands-on activities which children ages 5 and above will enjoy. The museum can get crowded, so keep an eye on your kids and know that your turn will come. Alternatively, come early so you beat the crowds.
If you have children under 5 years old, you may want to go upstairs to the Kid City gallery which is dedicated to children under 5.
Left: Whole body geometry: a large structure made from stellated rhombic dodecahdra. Children can climb on, over, and in through the structure to get a different perspective of this geometric shape.
Right: Smaller space-filling models are available on the side so you can stack and build your own "tessellated" structures.
Kugelbahn is an example of kinetic art: artwork that moves. In this case, you turn the crank and balls will roll down different tracks to cause different events to occur (hitting bells and causing them to ding; landing in a frying pan; etc)
A Giant Spiral Art display where kids can draw geometric designs using gear-like circles and templates. Have fun and then take your picture home. You can also buy a similar small-scale Spiral Art Kit here.
A giant kaleidoscope made with 3 intersecting mirrors. Place shapes in front of the glass and see multiple images combine and retract from one another. Right: How it looks in the dark. You can make your own kaleidoscope with these kits.
PinBell Machine is like a pinball machine. Place the ball infront of the plunger and with a quick release, shoot the ball up and around the side of the table. Then, listen to the sounds as the ball strikes different sized jars and bottles.
Large blocks of wood have sliced shapes cut out from them, each slice is a few degrees off from the previous one to give a corkscrew tunnel. Great fun, and the slices of cut wood are stacked on the side for you to see.
Pendulums are great devices to learn about gravity, motion, and equilibrium. They make great patterns too! Some are fitted with magnets so the weight darts around erratically.
Left: Pedulight Writer, where the weight is a pen fitted with a light.
Right: Sand Pendulum where the weight is a bucket of sand with a hole in the bottom. You can buy one here.
Left: BlockBusters: construct building, bridges, & structures with simple pieces of wood. You can make them straight like a house or you can make them spiral like DNA. Buy KEVA planks here.
Right: Spinning Blackboard: The platform is covered with sand and it spins. You can make spirals, circles and shapes using your fingers and simple devices.
Sikus are large tubes similar to panpipes. What can you hear if you put your ear to the ends?
Learn how to sail by experimenting with fans and a toy sailboat. The key is to angle your sail so you can go in the direction you want.
Experiment with separating white light into it's component colors. White light to rainbow colors using prisms or filters. You can make your own rainbow with a small prism.
If you have young children 5 and under, be sure to check out the Kid City up in the second level. Here, children can pretend play elements of daily life including: Grocery Store, Fire Station, Factory, Power Plant, and Little Learners computer lab. It's also a great place for parents to sit and rest.
Study gears, ramps, tubes using plastic balls. Free flowing air in tubes will allow you to see your ball travel up the transparent tube and pop out the top.
Play a little music with the giant xylophones, or play a little computer with kid appropriate games. Even the keyboards are color coded.
Learn about the food pyramid, or learn counting with beads.
Turn the wheel to get the conveyor belt to move, or turn the wheel and pretend to drive a firetruck.
Grocery store is filled with plastic fruits and vegetables whereas Factory is filled with soft and spongy rectangular, triangular, and conical shapes. Buy plastics foods here or foam bulding blocks here.
The upper level of the Reuben H Fleet science Center has many work stations where you can sit and discover. These often require more reading, perhaps the use of a computer, and each station takes more time to complete. Appropriate for older children who can read by themselves and have the patience to work through each station. The exhibits upstairs are less flashy but have educational value.
Oscylinderscope: this exhibit shows you how sound waves look. First strum the guitar strings to get them vibrating, then roll the striped drum. When a white stripes comes, it shows you a snap-shot of how the strings are vibrating at that moment. With multiple white stripes going by quickly, you get a slowed down version of how the strings are vibrating.
Left: Phenakistoscope: this device has a series of images drawn on the edge of a circle. The images are slightly different from one another. When you spin the circle and peek through the slits, the images will blur together to give an illusion of a motion picture.
Right: Velvet hands: The idea here is to place one hand on each side of the mesh and rub gently. The touch sensors on your hand will interpret this as a velvet. This is quite unexpected since the mesh are really more similar to wire fencing or chicken wire. You can try different mesh sizes to get a different effect.
This exhibit shows children how San Diego gets its drinking water: rain, rivers, lakes, dams, pumps, filtration plant, and then distribution to homes. Very educational!
Right: Bicycle Rope Squirter: pedal and the rope will spin out due to centrifugal force.
Left: Whisper Dishes: these parabolic dishes focus, transmit, and receive sound. From one disk, you can whisper and your friend on the other side of the room will be able to hear you even though you are far away and facing away from each other too.
Gift Shop, Cafe, IMAX, and More
After you've exhausted yourself with the galleries, you can visit the gift shop (North Star Science Store) where you can purchase a few items to enjoy at home. Here you will find educational toys, games, books, glow-in-the-dark items, IMAX films on DVD, and freeze dried astronaut food! The Science Center gift shop is located to the right of the entrance (or if you are exiting, then it would be on your left when you are at the lobby).
It's good to know that the Reuben Fleet Science Center also has an IMAX theater. You need to pay extra to see the IMAX films (see pricing below). The shows are approx 40 to 45 minutes long and start on the hour. Films change so call or check the website to find out what's playing. This IMAX is the first in USA to offer IMAX in Spanish.
Just outside the Reuben Fleet Science Center is Galileo Cafe, a small shop where you can buy: soups, hot & cold sandwiches, hot dogs, burritos, pizza, pastas, salads, chips, pretzels, muffins, scones, cookies, ice creams, coffee, tea, soda, and bottled drinks. Make your order inside, and then take your food out to the outdoor seating area. Read more...
And that's not all. Every first Wednesday of the month, the Science Center is open in the evenings to host the Sky Tonight Planetarium Show. This is followed by free star gazing sponsored the San Diego Astronomy Association. Read more...
Hours of Operation: changes with the seasons.
Mon - Thur:
10 am - 5 pm
10 am - 8 pm
10 am - 7 pm
10 am - 6 pm
Admission to Science Center
Gallery & one IMAX
Gallery & two IMAX
You can also join as a member and have free access for one year. Prices can be as low as $60 per family for entry to the galleries. Or $84 if you also want to go to the galleries and the IMAX films. There are many levels of support: the "Innovator" level is $2500 per year and includes special privileges. See here for membership options.
Reuben H Fleet Science Center
1875 El Prado, Balboa Park
San Diego, CA
map location #11
There is plenty of parking in and around Balboa Park, but the closest parking to the Reuben Fleet Science Center is probably right on Park Blvd or in the parking lot directly behind the Science Center. The science center is #11 on this map.
Mist and fans create a tornado.