7 Reasons to Visit NASA’s Ames Research Center with Young Kids

I wish I could touch a moon rock! That’s what my 4 year old told me one day. She was obsessed with all things space, since she was about 3. We read books and played pretend, but she wanted to see something “real”. And then I remembered about a little hidden gem of Silicon Valley – NASA Ames Exploration Center.  Here are some of the reasons why this is such a great place to take young kids. This post contains affiliate links.

Touch a moon rock and explore other space adventures with kids at NASA's Ames Research Center.

7 Reasons to Visit NASA’s Ames Research Center with Young Kids

Do you have young kids interested in space? The Ames Research Center is a perfect place to feed their interests. These are few of the things we loved about the place:

1. It’s Free!

Everyone loves “free”, especially families with multiple children who might find cost of visiting other museums somewhat prohibitive.

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Photo Courtesy: NASA

2. It’s Small

In comparison to other museums of Bay Area, Ames Center is tiny, but that’s what makes it perfect for younger children with short attention spans.

3. It’s Not Crowded

Many museums of Bay Area are crowded with tourists and locals on weekends, but this museum is reasonably empty despite its small size allowing easy access to exhibits.

4. It’s Got a Moon Rock!!

Ames has a real Moon rock on display, and Smarty was excited to see it. Alas, she could not touch it. As far as I know, the only place where you can touch a rock from the Moon is National Air & Space Museum in Washington, and I vaguely remember waiting in a long line to do that when I visited that museum years ago. Maybe one day Smarty will fulfill her wish when we go to Washington, DC.

By Oleg Alexandrov via Wikimedia Commons

5. Hands-On Exhibits

To be fair, Ames center is rather “print heavy” when it comes to exhibits – with many photos, posters and rather lengthy explanations. Even though my preschooler could already read when we visited this museum, she wanted nothing to do with that, but she enjoyed hands-on exhibits, including microscopes and trying on space gloves that scientists use in the labs to handle objects brought from space.

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6. The Gift Shop is Out of This World

Usually we do not get tempted by knick-knacks, but Smarty begged us to get astronaut freeze dry ice cream. Yes, you can also buy it on Amazon, but I suppose it tastes better when it comes “almost” from space.

7. Fun Photo Memories

Your kids will enjoy posing as astronauts. Who knows? Maybe one day my daughter will don a real spacesuit to fulfill her wish to explore space for real!

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Keep Flying to Space at Home

Need more ideas of how to keep up your kids’ interest in space? Check out this post on Planet Smarty Pants and follow her Astronomy for Kids Pinterest board.


— Many thanks to Natalie of Planet Smarty Pants for this guest post about Ames. She writes a fantastic site chronicling her afterschooling adventures with her gifted daughter. Follow along on Facebook for STEM activities, gifted education ideas and more.

Outer Space Adventure for Kids NASA Ames Reasearch Center FB

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