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Published April 28th 2016
Become a Mythbuster without losing your eyebrows
Become a scientist for a day at our best museums (by MAAS)
Science is a powerful ability to understand the world around us. Our earliest childhood memories carry the vivid colours, sounds and tastes enjoyed during our adventurous exploring. Seeing a helium balloon sail into space, mixing paints to create new colours, building sand castles and tuning homemade musical instruments are some of our first lessons in chemistry, physics, geology and astronomy. What if your experiments are more ambitious? How to do you satisfy your curiosity without ruining your parent's carpets or singing your eyebrows?
If you're in Sydney, you share a scientific fascination with millions of other enquiring minds. Join them at our best science-based museums, each hosting hands-on exhibits to test the limits of the universe's natural forces without accidentally creating your clone or warping you into another dimension.
When you visit these inventive sites, you won't need heavy-duty protective clothing or Geiger counters to warn against dangerous radiation. You will need an open mind to comprehend the magical wonders within these wonderlands and an early start – time passes quickly when you're having so much fun. Warning – science is addictive. If you don't want to leave, check for job openings at one of these centres. If you're lucky, you could be paid to visit every day!
Choose from one of these centres, located throughout Sydney:
Darling Harbour – Powerhouse Museum The Powerhouse Museum is the best place for hands-on experimenting to solve those daily mysteries that baffle our parents. How does a battery work? What's nuclear energy, the invisible force used for power, medicine, weapons and more? Control a giant steam engine, check the time on an ornate Strasburg Clock, board a space shuttle and ride a locomotive. Alongside these permanent exhibits, the Powerhouse hosts special events with world-renowned scientists and temporary exhibits investigating lego's superhero potential and the world's largest experiment – the Hadron Collider. To display more of the vast collection in the museum's secret spaces, a move to Parramatta is planned. The Powerhouse Museum is open from 10am – 5pm everyday except Christmas. Entry is $15 for adults and free for members and children 16 and under.
Millers Point – Sydney Observatory At the top of The Rocks, you won't have time to look down at the ferries in Circular Quay or the bridge climbers beginning their ascend of the Harbour Bridge. In the Sydney Observatory, you'll be staring into the heavens with Australia's oldest telescope. Harness digital power with the 40cm telescope in the North Dome to scan the eastern skies. Our parents warned us to never stare into the Sun but it's safe to peek through the Solar Telescope to inspect it and other stars. When the Moon and Venus sail overhead, you can also check them for alien life. Australia has a long history with the stars. Our flag features the Southern Cross and the slow transition of the constellations are integral to Aboriginal stories. Experience this mixture of history, beauty and space travel in the Planetarium. The Sydney Observatory is open from 10am – 5pm everyday except Good Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day. Entry is free during the day. Night tours are $20 for adults and $16 for children.
Sydney (Hyde Park) – The Australian Museum Australia's first museum is one of our most comprehensive and dynamic. The iconic sandstone walls of the Australian Museum are a landmark for dinosaur hunters, tourists and children with vibrant imaginations. Stand beneath the bones of a giant whale in the foyer before encountering the extinct Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger – the lifelike reproduction will seem to move if you stare long enough. Explore thousands of colourful mineral and rock specimens, many collected from persistent scientists, digging for colourful stones formed after millions of years pressure from the earth's forces. Delve into your own history with a wander through genetics and the structure of DNA. You can even volunteer, helping the scientists to catalog and maintain the vast collections, used by researchers throughout the world to answer science's trickiest questions. Special temporary exhibitions include a Virtual Reality Experience with David Attenborough (legendary naturalist and documentary host) and Trailblazers, highlighting Australia's greatest explorers. If you're wondering if the displays come to life after closing time, the museum offers special sleep-over events. Don't forget your torch! The Australian Museum is open from 9.30am – 5pm everyday except Christmas. Entry is $15 for adults and free for children under 16.
You won't get your feet wet to sail the high seas in the Australia National Maritime Museum. Aboard the tall ships and submarine moored at Darling Harbour, you'll relive the exciting encounters of our bravest sailors and explorers. Discover the secrets of medicine, navigation, sailcraft, weather, naval warfare tactics and the wonders of foreign lands before the Wright Brothers took flight. The museum arranges special temporary exhibitions, including insights into the Anzac experience, James Cameron's deep sea discoveries of new lifeforms in the ocean's depths and the clever tools created before satellites and computers to navigate the high seas. Follow the bafflingly accurate voyages of whales, sharks, turtles and seabirds as the travel thousands of kilometres on seasonal jaunts. The Sydney Observatory is open from 9.30am – 5pm everyday except Good Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day. Entry is free to the permanent exhibits with access to all the immersive experiences and temporary exhibits costing $30 for adults and $18 for children aged 4 – 15. Members enjoy free entry.
Camperdown – Sydney University's Macleay Museum A university degree isn't required to enjoy Australia's oldest natural history collection. At the Macleay Museum, fill your imagination with the images of extinct animals, including the Tastmanian Tiger, Woolly Mammoth and Sabertooth Tiger. Peek into the memories of Australia's oldest Aboriginals with objects collected over a century ago. Toys, tools, weapons and clothing retain the powerful images inscribed and painted hundreds of years ago. See if you can retell their tales. Witness the incredible range of colour in nature with thousands of insect, fish, bird, reptile and amphibian species, each with a unique glow more vibrant than the brightest animated movie. Step through scientific history, guided by the shiny instruments used by generations of chemists, physicists, engineers and geologists to interpret and shape our natural world. The Macleay Museum is open from 10am – 4.30pm weekdays and 12pm – 4pm on the first Saturday of each month. Entry is free.
A day at any of these museums is lively but for the exhibits, night-time can be just as exciting:
We came to Sydney for the weekend to see the people at Australian Granny Flat Builders regarding a new granny flat. Somehow we came across this site and thanks to you we have totally booked out our weekend AND have had to arrange another trip in 2 weeks to catch up on some of the attractions we had never heard of. Thanks for providing such a FANTASTIC online service.
That's really great news Theot. The dedicated volunteers and experts at these museums have captured the childhood curiosity and wonder at the world around us. I hope you and your family enjoy many memorable experiences at each of these world-class discovery centres.