Make a refreshing stop along Route 66 to stretch your legs and mind at the Discovery Center in downtown Springfield, MO. Explore four floors worth of jam-packed exhibits with hands-on learning activities for kids of all ages. Lie on a bed of nails and learn how to illuminate a light bulb with your body. Then get back on the road with kids who are ready for a relaxing, quiet ride back in the car. Maybe they’ll even take a nap!

An exciting and refreshing pit stop for kids on a road trip: Discovery Center in Springfield, MO

An Exciting Pit Stop for the Kids: Discovery Center of Springfield, MO

We are good in the car for about six to eight hours on a road trip before mom hits her limit and needs to stop for the day. I love traveling, but our minds and spirits just aren’t as sharp beyond that point. It also gives us time to find something to do locally and blow off a little steam before getting a good night’s sleep. My boys, ages 9 and 4, also need an outlet by then or it’s hotel chaos.

For us, six to eight hours is nearly 500 miles into our usual 750 mile road trip between Tennessee and Kansas to visit family. So X marks the spot in Springfield, MO where we have found several interesting ways to spend our time.

Why Visit A Children’s Science Museum?

After checking into our hotel with my two restless kids at the end of our first travel day, I grabbed several brochures in the lobby. After we got situated in our room, I quickly flipped through the brochures and zeroed in on a place with lots of wide open space and fun for kids: The Discovery Center of Springfield

Discovery Center building in Springfield, MO

Discovery Center building, downtown Springfield, MO. Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

It was raining pretty hard at this point so we were glad to find so much to do inside so the kids could unwind. How much? There are four floors full of hands-on activities at this children’s science museum.

What Will You See First at Discovery Center?

It was hard to choose what to do first, but my guys headed straight for the dinosaur exhibit and jumped in on a fossil dig. They were happy to uncover a Dilophosaurus while a pteradactyl watched overhead.

Fossil dig to uncover a Dilophosaurus at Discovery Center in Springfield, MO

Digging through soft rubber mulch to uncover a dinosaur. Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

On the same floor, the boys sat on a bench in front of a heat-seeking camera and saw themselves on the monitor. They got a kick out of seeing their differences in body temperature. My oldest is hot-blooded like me, and you can tell the difference in their body heat.

Seeing themselves on a monitor in front of a heat-seeking camera at Discovery Center in Springfield, MO

“Hey, he has more red!” Noticing their different body temperatures. Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

They got to lie on a bed of nails, see a wind tunnel and have a blast turning the hand cranks on a wooden pulley that carried soft foam airplanes up in the air and dropped them down into a bin. It was a fun way to learn about gears, pulleys and lifts. There is also a big water table to experiment with and a giant hamster wheel.

What’s On The Second Floor At Discovery Center?

We made our way up to the next floor where a woman did a science demonstration on static electricity. She had my younger son touch the big sphere and move the spark around. Then she touched a light bulb to the top of his head. The kids laughed and took turns watching the light bulb turn on as it touched their heads and hands.

Learning how our bodies can power a light bulb at the Discovery Center in Springfield, MO

Learning how our bodies can power a light bulb! Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

There was also a neat science lab where they do workshops and science experiments for kids. The second floor is also home to the Phenomena Gallery, an air cannon, anti-gravity mirror, echo tube and several other hands-on stations.

What’s In Discovery Town?

As a former news photojournalist, I was curious to see how they’d react to the small television studio on the third floor as part of Discovery Town. It has a real video camera, news desk, control room and weather center. They loved turning the studio lights off and on, sitting at the news desk and seeing themselves on tv doing the weather report.

Seeing themselves on television doing the weather report at the television station inside Discovery Center in Springfield MO

Hey, where am I? I’m pointing that way! It looks funny on tv. Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

There is also a newspaper-style newsroom nearby with computers. You can write headlines and print out stories. We also enjoyed a makeshift supermarket, jumbo building blocks and a huge Operation game, complete with giant tweezers and a buzzer.

Giant eyeball in the BodyWorks exhibit at the Discovery Center in Springfield, MO

Step inside the eyeball and learn how it functions. Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

The BodyWorks exhibit explores the human body, health and wellness. You can walk into a giant eyeball to learn about all of the different parts of our eyes, stick your hands out the big nostrils of giant nose and observe Brain Central. It was neat to see the way messages travel to our brains from other parts of the body.

Is There A Place To Explore Diversity at Discovery Center?

An opportunity to learn about diversity presented itself on the museum’s fourth floor, which houses the Worldwise Gallery. Several workshops and exhibits there encourage the knowledge and understanding of a culturally and racially diverse world.

The Worldwise exhibit represents six countries: Mexico, Chad Region of Africa, Netherlands, China, Japan, and Peru.

What You Should Know About Discovery Center:

  • If you’re looking for a great place where kids can stretch their legs and minds for a nice long breather, this is the place. We stayed for two hours, but could have easily stayed for several more. There are so many exhibits beyond what is listed here.
  • This is a popular field trip location so it can get crowded, but there is space to spread out and plenty of stuff for everyone.
  • There is ample opportunity to remember manners when it comes to sharing and taking turns, as is the case with any popular children’s venue.
  • There is a “Wonderland” room on the first floor for infants and toddlers. It is an enclosed room with clear windows and a door, so if you are looking for a respite from noise and busy times with little ones, this is a great place with several age-appropriate activities.
Playing with the air tunnel in the Wonderland toddler room at Discovery Center in Springfield, MO

Pfoom! Putting soft objects in the wind tunnel in the Wonderland room. Photo credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

We played in Wonderland for a little bit at the end of our visit when a summer camp came in. It was a less chaotic space for my then-3-year-old before we left, and he really enjoyed putting fabric balls and scarves in the wind tunnel and watching them blow out the top. Big brother was able to go in too since I was there and the room was nearly empty. It was a good place for us to all slow down before we left.

They do regular learning camps and workshops at Discovery Center. There is also a gift shop and party rooms available for parties.

Do you like to drive straight through to your destination, or do you pause for pit stops along the way?