Visiting the MIT Museum with Kids
The MIT Museum is a haven for science and engineering geeks, but it’s also a fascinating place to visit for everyone else. It’s where all things STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) are explained, learned, and celebrated. It's also a quieter, calmer alternative to the Museum of Science for families with tweens and teens. Read on for highlights of the museum’s offerings, tips to get the most out of your visit, and things to do before and after your visit.
5 Museum Highlights
Sampling MIT – The exhibits on the first floor allow you to engage with experiments and ongoing work of scientists and engineers from MIT. From the evolution of the internet to testing gaming systems created by students in the Gambit gaming lab, the changing exhibits are often interactive and always fascinating, Be sure to find the Eight Einsteins (tip: walk slowly backwards to the other end of the room while looking at the wall of Einstein portraits).
Gestural Engineering: The Sculpture of Arthur Ganson – Arthur Ganson’s kinetic sculptures appeal to all ages. The interactive works of art and engineering are whimsical, mind-bending, and thought provoking. They might even inspire your kids to invent some kinetic sculptures of their own.
Holography – When you visit the HMNH, you must see the glass flowers. When you visit the MIT Museum, you must see the holograms. Some are breathtaking, several take a few moments to figure out, a few get a chuckle, and a couple of the holograms are downright creepy, but they are all incredibly cool explorations of light and perception.
Robots & Beyond: Exploring Artificial Intelligence at MIT – You might walk away from AI exhibit pondering the deep questions in life, and I’m guessing that’s the idea here. Sure, there’s the wow factor of the technological genius, but the exhibit also inspires contemplation. The museum provides a workspace in the exhibition for you to pen or draw your thoughts. We have been visiting the museum for years, and this is where my kids always spend much of their time. We usually have to finally pull them away with promises of visiting the Museum Store (keep reading).
Museum Store – The Museum Store may be small, but it is chock full of clever gadgets, t-shirts, games, and other celebrations of nerd pride. There’s a nice selection of books, including the latest version of MIT “hacks”, called Night Work. If you have a geek in your life, this is the place to find a gift. Warning: If your kids (like mine) are a little on the geeky side, good luck getting them out of the Museum Store.
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Visit
- After you enter and pay at the admission desk, head straight back through the gift shop to the coat rack and free lockers (you need a quarter for deposit) to unload.
- There is no cafe in the museum, and food and drinks are not allowed.
- Visit during school vacation weeks for special family enrichment programs. February vacation coincides with National Engineers Week and the Cambridge Science Festival is held during April vacation.
- Admission is free on the last Sunday of each month through June.
- The museum is located about halfway between the Central and Kendall Red Line T stops, and it’s a bit of a hike from either station. If you use the Kendall stop, check out the MIT Bookstore next to the station. The selection of children’s books, especially STEM-related, is excellent. If you are driving, there is metered parking on the street in Central Square. You might get lucky and snag a spot right in front of the museum.
5 Things to Do Before and After You Go
- Pre-register your child (middle school and high school age) for one of the workshops offered during National Engineers/February Vacation Week and the Cambridge Science Festival/April Vacation Week.
- Take a stroll through Central Square, stopping at Ten Thousand Villages and Artist & Craftsman Supply.
- Pick up some fresh produce or artisan bread at the Cambridge Central Square Farmers Market, in the parking lot behind Harvest Co-op (Mondays, May – November).
- Stop for lunch in one of the many ethnic eateries in Central Square.
- Walk down Mass Ave or hop on Bus 1 to the Hart Nautical Gallery at 55 Massachusetts Ave, Bldg 5, for the coolest ever exhibition of model boats. Technically part of the MIT Museum, the Nautical Gallery is actually located on the MIT campus (and the MIT Museum is not).