Museums of Great Science

Three family-friendly museums to inspire your children’s scientific curiosity.

After 20 years off the air, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has come back to make science come alive for the general public. Continuing on that science wave, Northern Virginia Magazine has spotlighted three unique science museums in Virginia.


Photo courtesy of Nauticus, Norfolk, Va.

The Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, located 187 miles away from Fairfax on the Chesapeake Bay. The Museum is unsurprisingly nautically-themed with a focus on the ocean, both militarily and ecologically.

For those with a passion for naval history, one of the largest and last battleships built by the Navy, The U.S.S Wisconsin, is berthed at Nauticus. The Wisconsin is available for both self-guided or professional tours as part of your ticket price. Experience history first hand by exploring the five battle-star rated World War II vessel. 

Among many of the ecological exhibits, Nauticus adds their latest permanent exhibit, the Shark Experience, to go along with their interactive Horseshoe Crab Cove, where children of all ages can look and touch Horseshoe Crabs. The Museum also boasts many aquatic simulation stations where you can hunt down bogeys and explore the ocean floor.

There are a total of 10 permanent exhibits with changing season exhibits. Admission to the museum differs whether you buy a  Gold Ticket  (Adults: $35.95, Children: $31.50 (Ages 6-12)), or White Ticket (Adults: $15.95, Children: $11.50, ages 4-12), with the difference being the professional tour of the Wisconsin.

After you’re finished with the museum for the day, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk is a mere 20-minute drive. 

1 Waterside Dr, Norfolk, 23510

Science Museum of Virginia

The more traditional take on a science museum, the Science Museum of Virginia is located 98 miles away from Fairfax, near downtown Richmond. Along with an ever-changing IMAX theater, which is currently playing Great White Shark, the museum has six permanent exhibits, with their seasonal exhibit featuring prehistoric creatures called “Be the Dinosaur.” 

This featured exhibit first shows an animatronic nine-foot-tall, 21-foot-long Triceratops. After the three-horned herbivore has been experienced,  Be the Dinosaur allows guests to walk in the footsteps (sometimes literally) of these mammoth beasts as their ecology, habits and lives unfold before your eyes.  

The Science Museum has a multitude of interactive exhibits that allow guests to experience first-hand g-forces and the science of spinning very quickly. The Idea Factory exhibit is ideal for younger children, but is suitable for all ages. Children learn the best mechanics for paper airplanes, just how strong bubbles can get, and the ability to play with air pressure.

On the second floor, the museum holds demonstrations with an assortment of animals, and chemicals, though thankfully not at the same time. Enjoy such experiences as Rat Basketball or watching pennies explode after interacting with liquid nitrogen. Admission to the Science Museum of Virginia is based on whether guests want to view the exhibits, a movie, or both. Tickets for both are the most economical and cost $16.

Given its location in downtown Richmond, after your stay at the museum is completed, be sure to head over to Carytown to grab food from local Richmond restaurants.

2500 W Broad St, Richmond, 23220 

Virginia Discovery Museum 

Located 101 miles away from Fairfax in the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, the Virginia Discovery Museum charges $6 for entry. The Virginia Discovery Museum’s target audience is far younger than usual museums. As the name suggests, it is all about discovery, more specifically, discovery of that growing world. The goal for this museum is to bring young children and their families together to problem solve, enable their imaginations, and most importantly to have fun. 

The museum boasts 13 exhibits ranging in types from a Panera Bread exhibit, where kids can take charge by baking their own bread to serve their families, to The Treehouse Room where children can tumble around, or can relax with a stuff animal or a book in one of the many corners.  While not exhibiting hard science, such as biology, this museum is one of a kind by catering to a much younger audience, and providing them with practical yet playful real world simulations. 

 Since this museum is located on the downtown Mall, there are plenty of restaurants and activities to choose from, but Northern Virginia Magazine suggests you stop  by Marco & Luca if you enjoy dumplings.

524 E Main St, Charlottesville, 22902