The Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, Sioux Falls, SD

And we are off on another adventure!

This time we headed to the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Sciences in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has been in operation since 1999 and is housed in the former Washington High School building. It was a rainy day so we headed to an indoor attraction, the Kirby Science Discovery Center, just one part of everything offered at the Washington Pavilion. My boys are total gear heads, so learning = fun, and everyone wins.


Admission prices are $7.50 for children (ages 3-12), $7.50 for seniors (ages 62+), and $9.50 for adults. We opted to purchase the Household Membership for $80 which means that we can come back whenever we want for a year. There are a bunch of other benefits to the yearly membership as well. They offer various discounts, you can find them here. Well worth the investment.


The boys immediately started having a blast in the Science Center’s Air and Space area. Thing1 flies a virtual hang glider over a gorge. He took this seriously until he realized he could bounce on the virtual water surface. Then he got all crazy with the flight simulator.


Thing1, future astronaut. The kids can climb up into a real spacesuit.


The boys really wanted to climb up on this table, but I had to convince them that they could roll marbles and this was just as cool. Mama never understands, I know.


Here the boys are trying to manipulate objects while “wearing” space gloves. I like how this area of the Science Center offers very real hands-on experiences for the kids.


And then there was an area for us grownups, the Sci-fi Theater. My husband and I enjoyed watching old sci-fi clips. Made us wonder what people were thinking when they filmed some of this stuff!


Meanwhile, Thing1 tries to land a space shuttle.


Thing2 was interested in the meteorites. Who could blame him? There were a number of samples to look at, too. The boys had a hard time believing that these rock chunks were from outer space.


Thing2 would probably play with this space set all day if he had it at home.


Meteorite up close.


This meteorite came from Flandreau, South Dakota, about 40 minutes away from the Washington Pavilion.


And here the guys move a tabletop virtual maze.


It’s hard to get a photo of this contraption, but the boys really enjoyed it. There are control sticks on the side they are on. Each stick moves one part of the contraption, which then changes the pathway that large marbles flow down. There were all kinds of shoots and jumps – the track was extensive.


Thing2 floats a ball with a concentrated stream of air.


The Room to Grow area is for kids 7 and under.

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Even the hallways to the bathrooms had learning opportunities. On this floor, there was a lesson about color. There is a button on the wall that changes the overhead lights to yellow. The colors on the wall change appropriately. This experience kind of hurt my head, but the boys were so interested that they had to be convinced to take a potty break.


The boys learned about using a fulcrum to lift a heavy weight. I didn’t get a photo of it, but there was a larger example out front of the Washington Pavilion. The boys were able to lift up a car there, which quite impressed them.


Here are the boys in the Ag Gallery.

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Here are Thing1 and Thing2 hanging with a lovely dinosaur named Stan in the Dynamic Earth section.


Thing1’s favorite area was the Light, Sound, Action area. He is a budding engineer.

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Thing2 flies down the Stairway of Sound!


And here is some magnet art that we created.


Roll it, Rev it: The Physics of Motion


We need to go back to the Washington Pavilion Kirby Science Center some time soon. There were 3 levels to the Science Center portion, and we really only explored 2-1/2 floors in the time we spent there.

The Washington Pavilion has not only the Science Center, but it also has the Husby Performing Arts Center, Visual Arts Center, Wells Fargo CineDome (currently showing Tornado Alley, The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea, and Oz the Great and Powerful), and a Community Learning Center. While we were visiting, there was a Dr. Suess exhibit in the art museum, and there was an orchestra playing in the Performing Arts Center. I love that all of these things are located in one space, that the building is in the center of the downtown area of Sioux Falls near all kinds of restaurants and shopping, and that there is always something great going on here at any given moment – art by Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams have both been recent exhibits here, for example. The only drawback for me is that to access all of the offerings of the Washington Pavilion, a person would have to shell out a lot of money throughout the year. While our yearly membership got us into the Science Center and some of the other things, the Dr. Seuss Exhibit would have made our total cost double, so we didn’t see it this day.

If you go on a Sunday, the parking lot across the street is open and free. The Science Center is closed on Mondays.

We’ll be going back.

Interesting fact! The cornerstone of the former Washington High School building-now-turned arts and science learning center, set in the 1930s, says this: “The thing of most value and joy that takes place here is the flow of human interest.” I’m glad that the Washington Pavilion carries this message forward into the future.


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