Questacon is a name that many adults haven't heard of when they first arrive in Canberra, but the kids sure have. They often hear about Questacon from their friends who have been to Canberra on school excursions and it is the first place they want to visit when they get here. "It's meant to be so AWESOME!" they say with great excitement - and it is. Even for adults it is an enjoyable place where you can forget about being quiet in a museum and not worry about the kids touching anything - because they're meant to touch it all. Questacon science museum is designed so that kids can experiment, pull things apart, put it all back together and generally figure out how science works - without even knowing they are learning science. The question at the top of this article only has one answer - everything!
Meet Robo Q and enter into a new, interactive world
Firstly, you need to pay the admission fee, which gets you into the museum for the whole day, or you can buy annual pass and visit as many times as you like. You then a walk up a series of ramps to the top of the building, before spending the day exploring the various rooms along the ramp on the way down. The design of the museum is easy to explore - once you finish with one room you just walk down the ramp to the next one. You can't get lost, although it is easy to lose each other as the kids race off in all directions wanting to try everything at once. Questacon also has temporary exhibitions throughout the year, such as Above and Beyond (at the time of writing), however new exhibitions and experiments are changed all year around.
As you walk through the various science rooms, there are Questacon staff on hand to show you what to do and answer any scientific questions that you may have. Kids often ask the question "Why?" and the Questacon staff have all the answers. Walk around to each station and crank handles, press buttons, pull levers, put balls into a gravity well, walk in a sloping room, throw balls up ramps, watch lightening get made, see how a miniature tornado is formed, feel an earthquake and much more. See the full list of experiments here.
Watch (and hear!) lightening crackle every 15 minutes...
EXCITE is one of the most popular rooms near the bottom of the ramp, with colourful lighting and a wide range of fun activities to test your skills. Play air hockey with your friends on a table for four people and see if you can beat a robot at a game of one-on-one air hockey. Put a colourful scarf into a vacuumed shute and watch it travel at light speed through a wall of tubes until it gets blown out the top. If you have no fear, why not try the Free Fall experiment, where you hang from a horizontal pole and then drop down onto a slide, to experience the feeling of free fall and gravity. This one isn't just for the kids, with many adults giving it a try too. If you don't think you're game, it's fun to watch.
Will you take the Free Fall challenge? (That's a person sliding down fast on the right hand side!)
Throughout the day there are shows that cater to different age groups, such as making volcanos, dinosaur science, liquid nitrogen shows and demonstrations showing how balloons work. See What's On for details of what's happening this week.
If you have little ones, Mini Q is an area for 0-6 year olds to have a play in a soft, safe environment. Inside you will find a soft play climbing frame, space play, a baby space, a quiet space, a popular water play area with floating balls to play with (as well as smocks to wear to stay dry), role play areas so kids can use their imagination and a sensory space. This colourful area gets very popular during the school holidays, so there is a booking system for 30 minute sessions, to ensure that it doesn't get too overcrowded. See their website for details.
Fun for 0-6 year olds in Mini Q, at the bottom of the ramps
Questacon wins tourism awards every year for its popularity and innovation and in the last financial year, over half a million people walked through its doors. You could easily spend half a day here, or all day, trying out each experiment and going back to the top of the ramp and doing it all over again. If the kids have some pocket money burning a hole in their pocket, save it for the Questacon gift shop on the way out, with a wide variety of toys, gadgets and scientific gifts starting from a few dollars.
Why not set aside some time on your holiday, weekend or school holidays for some Questacon fun. You never know might what happen while you're there.
Expect the unexpected at Questacon. Image: Questacon Facebook