Monday, August 22, 2011

OMSI: A Hands-On Adventure

If you visit us in Portland, chances are we’ll take you to OMSI | Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  This place never gets old with rotating exhibits, several science labs, OMNIMax, Planetarium, USS Blueback Submarine and the very fun Turbine Science Hall. 

When going to OMSI it is best to plan 1-2 hours for the Turbine Hall, at least 1 hour for the theater, 1/2 hour for the submarine and 1/2 hour for the main exhibits.  You can also plan another 1/2 hour to 1 hour for the upper Life and Earth Science exhibits and labs.

If you are visiting during the summer, please be aware that many of the labs will be closed due to the summer camps.  However, most of the camps end between 2pm and 3pm and OMSI closes at 7:00, so you could go later in the day and still have time to enjoy the museum.

My children’s favorite place is the Turbine Hall.  Here is where hands-on fun happens.  Whether they are creating air rocket races, designing wind towers or creating a water system, they will learn about robotics, engineering, space and aerodynamics while having fun!  The Chemistry and Physics labs are located in the Turbine Hall also.  The Chemistry lab is especially fun for homeschoolers who may not want to have chemical experiments happening in their homes!

The upper level of the Museum holds the Life Sciences exhibits and labs. There is a display of human development in the womb from conception to week 32.  It is graphic.  These are actual fetuses donated after natural cause or accidental deaths.  The kids find it “gross” but fascinating at the same time. 

WARNING:  Before this display is an anatomically correct display of the human reproductive systems.  The other side of this display is the stages of labor.  I personally have no problems with my children being exposed to this side of our humanity, but I know some very conservative families may want to avoid this portion of life sciences all together.

For those who want to spend the extra money, the OMNIMAX theater is fun.  The only tip I can give you is to sit in the middle toward the upper level. If you get sea sickness…you may want to take Dramamine first.

The Kendall Planetarium is awesome if you like to learn about the stars.  Our favorite has been about the birth of stars.  In the evening they hold a Laser Light Show synchronized to Classic Rock.  I heard it’s pretty cool.

Our family has not personally toured the submarine yet, so I cannot comment on that part of the museum.

When you are done inside the museum you can head outside and walk along the waterfront.


About OMSI

OMSI is located south of downtown Portland along the east bank of the Willamette River; nestled near the Hawthorne Bridge in the heart of East side's industrial building district. The exact address is 1945 SE Water Ave., Portland, OR 97214-3354 or if you want to be really precise, 45° 30' 36" north latitude, 122° 39' 54" west longitude.

How much does it cost to visit OMSI?

Ticket prices are $12 adults, $9 Youth (3-13), $9 Senior (63+), FREE for members.  Our family would cost $51 for a single trip.  This does not include the cost of parking or any additional exhibit fees.

The additional fees currently are:

  • Parking – $3, Free for Members
  • Narnia Exhibit Fee – $2 per person, FREE for members.  Note:  If you use a ASTC pass from another science museum, you will still have to pay the $2.  The exhibit is free ONLY for OMSI members.
  • Kendall Planetarium – $5.75 for general admission, members receive $1 off
  • Omnimax Dome Theater – $5.75 (matinee), members receive $1 off.  Evening movies are $7.50, no discounts.
  • USS Blueback Submarine Tour – $5.75 admission
  • Motion Simulator  - $5.00, members receive $1 off

They do offer some discounted packages:

  • Adventure Combo Pack: $16 adults, $13 Youth and Senior.  This package includes museum admission and one OMNIMAX Move OR Kendall Planetarium Show.
  • Museum Combo Pack:  $21 adults, $17 Youth and Senior.  This package includes museum admission, one OMNIMAX movie, and your choice of planetarium show or submarine tour.

Another option for a low-cost OMSI visit is to watch for $2 Sundays.  These are held on the first Sunday of the month.  The next date is August 7, 2011.  I believe this is available for everyone, not just local citizens.

What are the benefits of Membership and what does it cost?

We have been members of OMSI for 3 years now.  There are several reasons we chose membership.  The number one reason was the cost of membership vs. the cost of paying for every visit.

  • Membership starts at $75 up to $500 per year.  We opted for the FRIENDS level which costs $140 per year.  This gives us 2 named adults, 8 children (so we can take the kid’s friends) AND 2 guests per visit.  Includes 8 FREE Omnimax or Submarine Tickets and UNLIMITED FREE Planetarium matinees.  I have used this at least 3 times this year and been able to take friends for free.  We love the planetarium matinees.  And it’s nice to be able to visit at least one OMNIMAX show a year.
  • OMSI participates in the ASTC Travel Passport Program.  This gives us access to over 290 museums around the country!  We cannot use it for the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville, but can use it for AC Gilbert House in Salem.  (They have a special agreement).
  • Savings on science camps and classes.  I personally used this when I attended a CPR class at OMSI.
  • 10% discount in the OMSI store and cafes.
  • They offer a discount club which features some local businesses.

To see the current costs of membership, visit OMSI’s website.

What about food?

They do have a cafeteria.  It has a variety of food options. However, it’s like every public attraction cafe, not cheap.

The alternative is to bring your own lunches. You can store them in lockers, or your car, and then eat lunch in the Turbine Hall Lunch room.  You cannot take your lunch into the cafeteria. 

You will WANT to bring your own water.  The bottle water is $2.25 for a 20 oz. bottle.

OMSI is a big recycler, so be sure you recycle whatever you can. There are signs above the bins to help you.

When is OMSI open?

OMSI is open year round with seasonal hours.  During the summer (6/18 to Labor day) the hours are 9:30 am to 7:00 pm.

Don’t want to drive your car there?  Take Trimet!

Taunya is a homeschooling mother of three who enjoys traveling, scrapbooking, taking pictures of random beauty. Located in gorgeous Northwest Oregon, she enjoys the wonder and beauty of God's creation everyday! She blogs at Taunya’s Place.


  1. I thought this would be a great place to ask: Can you leave OMSI and return later that same day while still paying just one admission?

  2. This is a free event, and there is no charge for parking. It is my understanding that you can come and go as you please.


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