Spectrum Downtown: Bigger Location, Better Hours, Same Liquid Nitrogen Cheetos


I love the way my kids respond when I tell them we’re going to a science museum. It’s like they’re going to Disneyland. Truthfully, only a few of them really like Disneyland, so a trip to a science museum rates even better.

In the past few years, we have made a robot dance at the Tech Museum in San Jose and examined our cheek cells at the Science Museum of Minneapolis. We have made it a point to partake in any hands on science exhibits that we can find when we travel to a new city. And, occasionally, we have gone to Spectrum.

We have always loved the idea of Spectrum, but I’ve never been too fond of the execution. It was in a smallish room in what always seemed like a forgotten back alley in the University. The hours were spotty and even when you did hit it on the right day (this was not the type of place that you could really just swing by), you were never really sure of exactly what was going on.


The kids at the Science Museum of Minneapolis.

The gift shop was in the center of the room, so I spent more time chasing my smaller children around to try and recover the toys that I had no intention of purchasing, before the “you break it, you bought it” policy needed to be implemented. In my head, I always thought our trips to Spectrum would be filled with wonderful “ah-hah” moments, but they just never played out that way.

But a few weeks ago, something happened…


Spectrum has moved downtown and the larger space has given them the opportunity to reveal their awesomeness. We have gone there four times in the past few weeks and my children have still not become bored with it.

On our first visit to the new space, the kids got to touch a pig’s heart (I abstained because that sounds gross to me) and play with a flight simulator. On another visit, they looked at fruit flies through a microscope and did some experiments to learn about weather.  We played with a mindflex and put our hand in a box to see if we could guess what was in there.


By the looks on the faces of the girls in the background, I’m not the only one that is a little grossed-out about touching a pig’s heart.

This new Spectrum seems to have it all. They host different activities daily at the discovery table and they currently feature a “Neuroscience” exhibit. There is a water table exhibit about the Clark Fork watershed that will appeal to the young ones. There is also a water table for the older crowd that demonstrates erosion and is awfully fun to build mountains in.

If your kids haven’t tried a liquid nitrogen cheeto yet, they are missing out on a very important childhood experience. At least, that’s what my son thinks. He had one for his 4th birthday party (at the older, slightly cramped, yet still fun for birthday parties Spectrum) and he still lists it as one of the top 10 experiences in his life. He claims that smoke came out of his nose and ears, and that’s one highly exaggerated memory that I think I will let him hang on to.

Don’t worry – the gift shop is still there. It’s much bigger and they have a whole lot of those cool science museum gifts that make great stocking stuffers. And, they even let you play with some of the toys, which seem to be much more fun than the exact same ones we have at home.

Their new location is just a couple blocks off of Higgins on Front St, so it’s a great addition to an afternoon downtown. And, the new hours (Tues-Sat 10am-5pm) make it much more likely that they will be open when you show up. Hooray Missoula, we have a science museum… we are moving up in the world!

Homeschoolers: check out Spectrum’s Homeschool science clubs. This is a great way for homeschool families to connect over some pretty sweet looking science explorations.  Clubs range from age 5 to age 15 (one for 5-7, one for 8-11 and one for 12-15). You can get more information at the Spectrum website.


Learn it BioAnnie Graham and Brandon Kendall are convinced that education can be fun, exciting, and meaningful. Brandon has been a teacher in Missoula for the better part of a decade. Annie is a proud parent of six children and a home school teacher. Check out their blog for fun (and educational) adventures around Missoula. Visit their Learning With Meaning website for ideas on dynamic and project based learning at home and in the classroom.