Cooling Down in Grand Junction

Of the handful of times we visited Grand Junction over the summer, I think we had one visit where the temperature was under 100°F. Needless to say, after our first naïve trip where the planned entertainment was visiting a park, we had to get creative to find some indoor alternatives. While the park was absolutely amazing (and one I would have loved to go back to), we were lucky enough to come across the Eureka Science Museum and Dinosaur Journey Museum. Both of these museums were certainly small-scale, but the price was reasonable and they were great 1- to 2-hour stops for a 3-year-old.

Canyon View Park
We made a very quick visit to Canyon View Park on our first trip to Grand Junction. Even though we spent the majority of our visit lounging in the shade of one of the few trees, the playground equipment was amazing and is definitely worth a visit on a cooler day.

Eureka Science Museum
At only $7 for adults and children 3 and under free, this place provided the best value. So much that we visited twice. The exhibits and experiments are geared toward older kids, but Bird still had a blast. There’s a water exhibit that teaches about water conservation and the impacts of water diversion and is a natural draw for the littlest visitors.

Another main attraction for the younger crowd were the various stations set up when you first walk in that have activities like tangrams, Legos, marble runs, magnetic tiles, and more. We spent a lot of time watching marbles fall down various paths and playing with Legos (which we obviously have at home but it’s completely different when you put them on the wall!).

We made many trips through the simulation cave, where the black lights made rocks and articles of our clothing glow.

The living science portion of the museum has several aquariums and a couple of small critters like rats, lizards, and snakes. We happened to go through when they were feeding the lizard and cleaning its cage, so we were invited to pet it, which was a special treat.

Even though this museum is fairly small, especially compared to some I’ve visited in Pittsburgh, Denver, and Houston, it has a lot to offer. Many of the stations and exhibits are activities that you’d see in a classroom, but having the opportunity to do so many things in one place made it really fun and entertaining.

I know the scientific concepts were way over Bird’s head, but giving her the freedom to “play” is the best learning she can be doing. And play she did!

Dinosaur Journey Museum
We ventured to the Dinosaur museum on our last visit to Grand Junction. I’d heavily considered returning to the Science museum instead but wanted to try something else. At $9 for adults and $5 for children, it’s priced about right for what you get.

I can’t say I was overly impressed with this museum, as it is very dated (some of the exhibits are showing wear and tear, the language on some of the write-ups could be more inclusive, and it generally felt a little dark and drab) and seemed a little disjointed. However, Bird had a blast. So, I guess for $14, it was worth it for that alone.

This was not her first time seeing dinosaurs, but she was an infant (and likely sleeping) when we’d seen them before. So I honestly wasn’t sure what she’d think of them.

In the week leading up to our visit, we talked about dinosaurs, that she’d be seeing mostly bones, and looked at a lot of pictures from the museum and other images of dinosaurs.

When we first arrived, she was a little apprehensive about their size and some of the exhibits, but after confirming with me several times that they weren’t alive, she really got into it.

I can’t say a lot about the information provided throughout the exhibits because Bird was literally running from one dinosaur or activity to the next, which may be why it came across to me as more of a random collection than a cohesive story. I’m sure a second visit without a toddler would prove more informational.

There were two activities for kids, both of which have amazing potential but are in serious need of some love and attention. The dinosaur dig site is very small, the tools provided (a few brushes) are very worn, and it felt very much like an afterthought. The second activity was a water table, which I didn’t quite understand its specific purpose. Based on what I read, there were supposed to be a few floating toys and such, but all we saw was somewhat silty water flowing down two troughs.

The two things that had Bird’s attention the most, and which we revisited several times, were the earthquake simulator and the animated dinosaur. These both have buttons to start them, so that alone was a real draw, and they both offered a bit of a thrill…an initial scare followed by some excitement.

I’m really glad we made it to this museum, but I can’t say I’d ever go back. Even though dinosaurs are cool anytime, I left feeling a little grimy and wishing for just a little bit more.

Finding these indoor activities sure alleviated some of the stress of a long trip to Grand Junction and made the trips both educational and memorable. I know there are more fantastic parks and other kid-friendly outdoor activities, but we definitely didn’t experience the weather that would have made those activities enjoyable. The summertime in Grand Junction definitely calls for air conditioning!

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