Today, in our capacity as a homeschooling family, we were invited, along with other area schools to a sneak peak of the USA Science and Engineering Festival. What is a sneak peak? Well, as far as I can tell, it’s when 2000 instead of 3000 of the exhibitors are present! And, it was hardly noticeable! Let me give you a few quick suggestions as you head out the door this weekend!
1) Plan your day with this great tool on the Festival website.
* The most useful search terms for us were to search by “age” and/or “theme.”
* Click the box next to those activities that peak your and your child’s interests. It will be hard to narrow them down!
* Click “View My Exhibits” and the site will put it all together for ya in a grid complete with the most important information: Hall and Booth Number.
I recommend you then pick a HALL to start your exploration (we started in Hall C with PBS Kids) and then visit all of your preferred activities in that area before moving on. With so many exhibits, it is IMPERATIVE that you at least have a list of the favorites you would like to visit. More importantly, if you are concerned about finding age-appropriate activities, they are generally scattered throughout the entire festival (with the exception of the PBS Kids section) so you should DEFINITELY use this link to get organized.
2) The exhibits are all hands-on.
Yes, that’s great. When does it become a problem? When you have to wait a period of time before it is your child’s turn to participate. Yes, lines are normal. But this isn’t an amusement park; these are science and engineering activities…people ask questions and the presenters do their best to make sure that the children get thorough answers to their questions. We ran up against these lines most often in the PBS Kids section. I assumed with 2000 exhibits, this would not be an issue. I was wrong! So, just be prepared to be patient (and help your child do the same.)
Did I mention that there are a lot of exhibits? 3000 is not an exaggeration and I was initially overwhelmed when I looked out into the Exhibit Hall and saw the scope of the event. This picture captures about 1/10 of the event size (literally!)
But, I had to put it in my mind that while I had a wonderful list, in reality, I wasn’t even going to have time to see most of those. So, my next suggestion is to prioritize your priority list. I knew that by midday the kids (and I) would be ready for a nap so we started with the PBS Kids section as I knew that was most age-appropriate for them. I recommend you do the same. Look at your final list, then put stars, check marks, or highlights next to those you don’t want to miss. That way, if you only get to those, you will feel like it’s been a successful outing.
4) Bring a bag for your goodies.
Yes, there are a ton of tables with bags. However, in our 4 hours, every table we went to were out of them. So, the stroller became our bag. I wouldn’t recommend that. So bring a bag just in case.
5) Keep an eye on your children.
Yes, this goes without saying. But, this festival has been promoted up and down the East Coast. It is crowded. Very. And, in our case with the school groups, it was more noticeable because students were moving around in groups with their best buddies. What does that mean? Instead of families of 3, 4, or 5 people, there were groups of 8, 10, 12 students wanting to try experiments together, standing in line (read: cutting line to be with their friends) together, and just walking through the Hall without much regard for the little ones that are half their size. So, I say all that to say, if you have preschoolers or toddlers, this is a great place for those leashes people speak so badly about. LOL Otherwise, a stroller for toddlers and strict directions to any older children is mandatory (including an “if you get lost” talk.) I would even recommend pinning your contact information to their coat or clothing. I saw so many lost parents during our visit. And many of them were separated from school groups and not just their own children! Yes, they lost an entire school group!
I’ll stop there for now! We really enjoyed ourselves today. After managing my own expectations of the exhibits we would be able to visit, we took our time to really enjoy the activities we were able to see. Also, I do know of some families that are going Saturday AND Sunday to see as many exhibits as possible.
Some of RJ’s favs:
* Eating bugs
* The mini-planetarium
* having the Mars Rover roll over him in the NASA section
* Playing with Prisms and lasers in the Nanotechnology exhibit
* Big Top Physics
* Holding the tarantula
* Seeing Cat in the Hat and Buddy from Dinosaur Train
His least favorite for the time we stood in line: The Magic School Bus
* Parking: We had no issues parking. There were more than adequate parking spaces available. BUT, I will say that this may be because the school busses brought most of the groups today! This will probably NOT be the case this weekend. So, check out this “Plan Your Expo Day” link to see transportation and parking options.
*Restrooms: There are many restrooms throughout the DC Convention Center and all of those we visited had changing stations (inside of stalls.)
I hope this helps! Let us know how it goes!!!!
(Doors open 9:30am for
10am Featured Author Presentations
in meeting rooms 145-147 only)
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
Washington, DC 20001