Those of you who have read our USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries will know that we visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI as it is known, while we were in Portland. This had been recommended to us and was on our Portland Bucket List. In this post I’ms haring with you our visit to OMSI as well as some useful information should you plan a visit there yourself.
The day after we arrived in Portland we decided to head there. I was quite excited as I had found out they had a Pompeii Exhibition on at the time of our visit to OMSI. BattleDad is a huge fan of Roman History and we’d love to visit Pompeii at some stage so to see the exhibition was an unexpected bonus. Our only reservation for our visit to OMSI was whether BattleKid would enjoy it. We need not have worried.
OMSI was founded in 1944 and was originally located in Washington Park at the site of the Portland Children’s Museum. However, as visitor number grew, and exhibitions got bigger, a new location was found for it on the east bank of the Willamette River.
The OMSI building is huge and houses no less than 3 auditoriums, a planetarium and numerous exhibition halls. They also have a submarine exhibit in the form of USS Blueback which was used for the film The Hunt for Red October before being towed to its current location at the pier adjacent to the main OMSI building.
Exhibition halls include the Featured Hall for special touring exhibits and the Turbine hall with exhibits for engineering, physics, chemistry and space travel. There is also the Life Sciences Hall which is all about biology, and includes talks and demonstrations with live animals. The Earth Science Hall features geology-oriented exhibits with two specialised laboratories. The Planetarium holds astronomy and laser light shows. And there is the Science Playground which we spent the most time in.
We arrived shortly after 9.30am after driving from our hotel and once we’d bought our tickets for the Pompeii Exhibition (including museum admission) and planetarium tickets, we made our way to the café for a quick cuppa and bite to eat. There I had my very first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which was quite nice.
After we had eaten, we made our way upstairs to explore the exhibitions halls. As soon as we entered this area, BattleKid made a beeline for some giant cubes and dived right in. He and I had great fun at a giant pinball machine which was designed to educate children about food groups. Although he was too young to understand these, he still had fun trying to whack the balls!
There were exhibits about recycling and garbage, exhibits about animals where we saw a Dire Wolf skeleton and saw live animals, and my personal favourite, an exhibit about fluorescent materials. This brought me back to my science background.
Next, we moved onto the Science Playground. And BattleKid had a whale of a time in the Science Playground. This area has been designed for families with newborn to children of six years of age. Fully enclosed and designed so that children are visible and secure at all times, it encourages children to discover through play and imagination. It has various experimental stations including
- a stimulating infant area
- a giant sandbox
- a water area
- a reading area and
- a physical sciences area.
First stop was the water area of course. Only, we hadn’t quite planned for the wet floor. We had to take BattleKid’s shoes off as we entered but forgot to take his socks off. Wet feet were the result for spending so much time having splashy fun in the water area. It also meant he couldn’t really go into the giant sandbox as his feet were still wet and I didn’t fancy trying to get sand off his feet!
Next BattleKid had fun at the physical sciences area and was playing with other children, putting balls through holes and down ramps.
We moved into one of the rooms off the main one and he and I did a fun game with magnetic balls in a maze. I ended finishing it when he got bored!
As were we getting close to our 12pm time for the astronomy show in the planetarium, we had to drag BattleKid away from the Science Playground. This was the first time BattleDad had been in a planetarium and he and I enjoyed it. It was great being shown some of the star constellations we can see above our house in Portugal, although I couldn’t tell you their names, apart from the Plough now. BattleKid got a bit restless before the end but stuck it out thankfully.
After the stars show we made our way to the Pompeii Exhibition. They allowed entry at timed intervals, which was to allow them to show the short video at the start of the exhibition. This gave some background about Vesuvius and Pompeii and the build up to that fateful night in 79AD.
Once you had watched the video, you were let into one of the main exhibition halls which featured artefacts from Pompeii including urns, gladiator clothing and weapons, mosaics and frescoes. Between this hall and a second one, there were over 200 artefacts on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
It was amazing to see how well preserved some of the items were and the level of detail in them, particularly metalworks such as jewellery and coins. After the main hall, we were led upstairs where there was another short video. However, it was advised that it was unsuitable for young children and we were allowed to skip this video and were let into the next exhibition hall by a member of staff. #
The video we didn’t see was a 4D one in which you could experience the fury of Vesuvius in an immersive theatre with vivid sights, sounds and shaking ground. I think it was very helpful of OMSI to allow families with younger children to skip this part.
The last room of the exhibition had more artefacts and also body casts of people from Pompeii. It was a sobering place, especially seeing the body casts of children. We didn’t stay long in this room with BattleKid.
Before we finished our visit to OMSI we visited the gift shop which is well stocked, and BattleKid got a little space ship souvenir with his name on it for his room. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to OMSI and highly recommend it. Had we known how good the Science Playground was going to be we might have booked a later showing in the planetarium and let BattleKid enjoy it even more. I am so glad it was recommended to us and made it onto our Portland Bucket List.
Visitor information for OMSI
- There is a large car park adjacent to the OMSI building with a charge of $5. WE were there early on a Wednesday morning in September and there was plenty of parking.
- OMSI is served by public transport. The OMSI/SE Water Ave Station connects to the MAX, bus and Portland Streetcar lines.
- The museum is open from 9.30 to 5.30 Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
- The café is open from 8.30 to 5.30 Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday and from 8.30 to 8.00 on Friday and Saturdays.
- Submarine tours are from 9.50 to 4.30 and you can even do sleep overs!
- Entry to the museum costs $14.50 for an adult and $9.75 for a child (3-13 years).
- Entry to the submarine costs $6.75. For the Empirical Theatre, which we didn’t go to, an adult costs $7-8.50 and a child is $6-6.50. Entry to the Planetarium costs between $5.75 and $7.50.
- The Pompeii Exhibition ended in October. To see up-and-coming events, please visit the Events page of the OMSI website.
We can highly recommend visiting OMSI if you are ever in Portland, Oregon. There is plenty to see and do for children and adults alike. Children will particularly like the Science Playground, so give yourself plenty of time in there.
*Prices are correct at the time of writing.
**We were not asked to write this review.