sugarbakerySometimes the best family fun is the unexpected kind. It’s sort of a playcation that happens when you turn a rather ordinary day into a vacation day. That’s what happened to my son and I when we were out on a recent Saturday and decided in an off-the-cuff moment to forego a stop at Dairy Queen and instead take a trip into outer space.

How did we do this and still make it home in time for dinner? We were driving down Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Conn. – yes, “Yale country” – having finished baseball tryouts and buying way too many delicacies at Sugar Bakery and Sweet Shop in East Haven. You may know this shop – it was a winner of one of the Cupcake Wars.

IMG00406_2As if cupcakes didn’t provide enough sugar, my son desperately wanted a slushy-type drink to celebrate the spring-like weather. As we passed the Peabody Museum, Yale University’s amazing centuries-old home of dinosaur bones, gems, mammals and other scientific exhibits, I noticed a sign for the Black Hole exhibit open through May 1. Hoping for the best, I nonchalantly mentioned this to my 10 year old, who about 10 yards past the stoplight asked me, “Mom, do you think we can skip the slushy and go to the Black Hole exhibit instead?” Eureka! What an idea!

I found a parking spot on the street and we went in. I love the Peabody! Luckily, having lived in New Haven or its county for nearly 30 years I’ve hung out with the mammals and minerals there for a long time, but I never tire of a return visit.

The Black Hole exhibit was worth the stop. The interactive displays help kids (and adults) learn about black holes, those mystifying objects in space that we read about in sci fi tales and hear about in science class. The set-up is like a space mission. First, the kids get “briefed” about black holes and receive an i.d. card generated just for them. Next, the use the card is certain exhibits for a personalized experience.

The entire exhibit will take about an hour to go through, depending on the attention span of your child and how many other “black hole explorers” are lining up at each station. But as for these two recruits, we found the Black Hole exhibit the perfect Saturday afternoon treat, and even had some time left over to visit the dinosaurs, peruse the other floors, and purchase a cool illusions kit in the gift shop.

The Black Hole exhibit is at The Peabody until May 1, 2011. What’s next? According to the website, “Invasion of the Bloodsuckers: Bedbugs and Beyond.” Now that’s an exhibit every child will love! But maybe that day I’ll opt for a slushy instead.