A hop, skip and a jump away from the sandy beaches of Destin is a museum that may be small, but mighty. Scientists of all ages will discover a world of intriguing hands-on exhibits at the Emerald Coast Science Center. Become a master of topography, shoot an air cannon and conquer robotics all in a single afternoon. This only touches the surface of what your little scientist will uncover. Here is why we feel the Emerald Coast Science Center is one of the best spots for kids of all ages in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We would like to thank the Emerald Coast Visitors Center for providing complimentary admission so we could write this great article. Affiliate links are in this post.
Know Before You Go
- The Emerald Coast Science Center is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. and is closed Sunday-Tuesday. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for kids. Grab your tickets here!
- Be sure to check the schedule for upcoming STEM Events, Planetarium Nights and More.
- Animal encounters are throughout the day however, the animals are always on display for guests to view. Keep a close eye to ensure little fingers don’t make their way into the cages.
- The Science Center has a large parking lot with handicap accessible spots. There is no charge to park.
- The entire museum is on one level and is handicap accessible.
- There is a nice playground right next to the Science Center. We did encounter quite a few homeless folks at the park during our visit however, I feel this is a common sight at the parks throughout the area.
What You Will Discover At The Emerald Coast Science Center
Walking through the Science Center you will feel like you have returned to elementary school but in a good way. Each exhibit has been thought out and carefully designed to encourage learning, discovery, and play. The museum’s exhibits are separated into different rooms. There is a huge open space in the middle of the museum that is scattered with fun experiments, robotics and more. They have an outdoor area, which is fenced and worth exploring.
Mini Makers and Experimenters Lab
We have visited many museums in our travels, but I have never come across one that introduced science in such a fun way to the littlest of scientists. I was quite taken aback at all there is to do with a two-year-old. I was able to acquaint her to new concepts and materials, that I haven’t been able to yet. Not many museums have plastic beakers and test tubes made for toddlers. My daughter promptly took them to the stove because she was making “tea”. Even scientists need to take a break for tea every now and then. Every inch of the Mini Makers and Experimenters Lab was outstanding. Look in every tub and bin, because there are great items that might not be on the table, but are just waiting to be discovered.
Augmented Reality Sandbox
Located inside the Emerald Coast Ecosystem Exhibit is one of the most intriguing displays. An augmented reality sandbox allows guests to build topographic sand dunes in real-time. As the sands shift so does the topography. Guests can even experiment with virtual rainfall! Truly a sight to behold. The Ecosystem Exhibit is great for learning more about the flora and fauna of the Emerald Coast and what factors impact the delicate coastal ecosystem.
Robots, Robots and More Robots
I have to be honest, I saw more adults thoroughly enjoying the robotics than the children. It is remarkable and quite entertaining attempting to pick up a ball with a robotic hand. It is more difficult than it looks and little hecklers stand by waiting for your failure. There are a few different robotics to try your hand at, from underwater exploration to health there is plenty to keep you entertained.
This room-sized Ipad takes learning to an entirely new level. Every person is up, moving, and collaborating to solve puzzles, study the world, create stories and more. The floor is transformed into the screen as movement is tracked through motion capturing cameras. The SMALLab does have set hours due to the nature of the program. Discover Science Saturdays and other workshops are a great way to see the SMALLab in action. Calling ahead to see when it will be open is recommended. Don’t forget to bring your socks, they don’t allow shoes in the SMALLab.
Displays That Are Fun and Teach
I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t leave learning a lot! I had to second guess my education, as some of the concepts were quite foreign or only a vague memory of grade school days gone by. Working your way through the museum you will get the opportunity to learn what makes airplanes stay in the air, experiment with a Bernoulli Blower and explore many of the fascinating realms of science.
All of the animals at the Science Center were either rescued or donated on Exotic Animal Amnesty Day. These lovely creatures now call the Science Center home and are named after respected scientist or scientific discoveries. Guests get to learn all about the different species taking resident at the science center during animal encounters throughout the day.
Unique Events at the Emerald Coast Science Center
Sip N Science
Who said the science museum was only for children? Round up your friends or those you are traveling with and head to the science center for an after-hours party you don’t want to miss. Sip on a cocktail concoction, a local brew or a glass of wine while unleashing your inner scientist. Local fare is available for munching and a fun theme is always the highlight of the evening. You will need tickets, so purchase them ahead of time.
Discover Science Saturdays
The 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month the museum hosts a fun morning filled with themed games and activities. The SMALLab is usually open during this time. Discover Science Saturdays are from 10:30am-1:00pm.
Looking for more great family-friendly activities in Destin? Check out our Guide to Visiting Destin with Kids.
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