Buried deep inside Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park lies the magical Chabot Space & Science Center. Although it’s eerily quiet up there surrounded by all those trees, the building’s futuristic architecture brings a supernatural presence to the area. And the center itself provides loads of astronomical fun!
There’s no better place in Oakland to learn about space exploration and support your kid’s STEAM education than the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland. Currently, the center is open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays.
Advanced ticket purchase is still recommended. Click here to reserve tickets.
Most daytime space and science exhibits are generally designed for children of reading age, but the re-imagined Chabot center offers an immersive experience that makes it fun for children of all ages, not to mention quite intriguing for us adults, too.
Favorites at Oakland’s Chabot Space & Science Center
The Chabot Space & Science Center underwent major renovations in 2020 with new art murals, fresh paint, new signs, upgrades to furniture & layout, and innovative exhibits.
The center is huge and can feel overwhelming with small children in tow. There are two buildings, the first with two floors and the second with three floors of exhibits! Spend your time visiting the different “Studios” to make sure you get the full experience.
Astrolight: Now open for light and shadow exploration
The Astrolight exhibit allows visitors to play and experiment with light. Create shadows with your body or in water, examine colors as light travels through a prism, or use multiple mirrors to focus light. The interactive displays help families understand how astronomers use light to discover elements of the universe. Maureen’s family enjoy creating photograph-like scenes in the Light and Shadow Catcher. There are also some amazing photographs captured by the Hubble and James Webb telescopes placed throughout the studio space!
Studio One: The NASA Experience
The NASA Experience is a unique hands-on exhibition showcasing items publicly displayed for the first time along with real stories from NASA’s Ames Research Center. Though it’s located in the middle of the building, we were determined to head there first.
My daughter was delighted to work on creating some prototypes with the help of Chabot volunteers. She first did an easy paper airplane and watched it soar in a wind tunnel, and then built an Astrobee (space robot) and watched her creation propel across an air hockey table. And, of course, she had to dig her hands into the sand station.
I loved watching my child take on the role of a little scientist! Our favorite activity was designing a Mars rover model and testing it out in the new outdoor courtyard. This area is a nice place to engage with other families.
Studio Two: Going the Distance
Learn how humans are journeying through the universe at this interactive exhibit. Visitors can experience Mission Control, act as a Flight Director, and pilot a Mars rover. There’s also a chance to peek inside a spacecraft.
Studio Three: Other Worlds
The “Other Worlds” experience is located in the second building across the courtyard. My kids enjoyed running and hiding under the various habitats that were already designed. I also saw other kids enthusiastically working with the circuitry tools in this area. This was Angelina (from Beautiful Brown Adventures) and her family’s favorite exhibit. Angelina’s preschooler loves fashion and spent an hour designing her very own space suit.
The exhibit is equipped with fabric, mannequins, and pins to attach your gorgeous and functional space suit designs directly to the models.
Plan your visit to Chabot Space & Science
Start with Planetarium showtimes
There is a lot to take in at Chabot, so I recommend anchoring your visit around a planetarium show since they run about every 1-2 hours. If you can time it right, arrive and explore Chabot settling into the theater. The front desk has a daily schedule of shows. They recommend showing up 15 minutes ahead to get seated, however, we found seats available five minutes before showtime.
The planetarium shows are included with admission and are first-come, first-serve. Depending on your child, the dark room may be scary. Talk to them before you go in and feel free to leave early if it isn’t a good fit. Find updated show information.
Other Highlights at Chabot Space and Science
Observation Deck: Just outside the Astronomy Hall is the Observation Deck. This open area is great for children to stretch their very active legs, have some snacks on the tables, enjoy the views, and learn a little more from the exhibits on deck. Ever wonder what’s inside those giant domes on the deck? They are giant, “research-level” telescopes! And the FREE telescope viewings are available on Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30 pm-10:30 pm (weather permitting). Little ones are welcome to join, but this may be best for children 5+. Dress warmly.
Labs and Activities: As you walk through the halls of all three floors, you will find plenty of exhibits with fun facts, interactive stations for hands-on science and engineering experiments, arts and crafts activities, and other mind-inspiring setups.
Pro tip: Wear something space-related to add to the fun. I proudly wore my crescent-shaped earrings and constellation necklace, my son wore his solar system pants, and my daughter wore a Saturn shirt. I spotted a number of little ones with space suits and science-themed tee shirts.
Things I love about Chabot Space and Science Center
- All exhibits and activities are well designed to ensure that children of all ages will find something to pique their interest. We did have to split up for part of our visit since kids were fascinated by different areas, so bring extra hands if you have multiple kids.
- The cafe serves food like yogurt pouches and cheese sticks if your kids need a quick snack.
- The outdoor space has plenty of tables and room for kids to run and stretch their legs.
- Membership has its perks. It is fully tax-deductible, you get free entrance for a year which covers the fee in just a few visits, you have access to free STEM online content and member exclusive events, and discounts at the cafe and gift shop.
- Chabot has some really cool events for adults too. I once attended their Halloween Hallow’s Eve Costume Party. It started at 9 pm! And I stayed awake not only because they had espresso cocktails, but also because it was a blast. They had science-themed libations from Apothecary, tarot readings, aura readings, a dance floor, and great food. Currently, there are Hike and Sip events and First Fridays for adults.
Driving to Chabot Space & Science Center
To get there, you will likely need to drive. However, it’s a lovely drive up through the winding roads in Redwood Regional Park. Trees grow over the roadways, and ancient towering Redwoods block out sunlight. Even the drive to reach Chabot feels like a journey into the past. A greener option would be to carpool with friends, if possible. Once you arrive, there is ample, free, covered parking. I see you minivan parents packing in all those kids, and all that gear in the elements. Thank you Chabot for not charging for parking!
Watch outs while visiting Chabot Space and Science Center
- While the building is an innovative green building, it is open and airy. It’s also about ten degrees cooler up in the Redwoods, so dress in layers.
- Even with reservations, it gets crowded around lunchtime, especially at the interactive workstations.
- While my daughter loved working on her art, the markers provided are not washable, and tend to rub off; we got ink stains everywhere!
Other considerations for visiting Chabot Space and Science
- Mask wearing is suggested. Sanitizers are available throughout.
- Changing tables are in all restrooms.
- Expect to spend a few hours here so bring food (allowed), and they have a café should you need to buy snacks or small meals.
- There are no other restaurants nearby unless you drive out of Redwood Regional. So don’t plan to leave for lunch and re-enter. You can do this, I just wouldn’t recommend it.
- Roberts Regional Recreation Area is an epic playground and only a half-mile away should you want to get some fresh air after your visit to Chabot
- Joaquin Miller Park is also a great nearby option for some playground time (without paying for parking)
- There are so many wonderful hikes in this area should you want to get your fill of Redwoods pre or post-visit. Read all about Redwood Regional Park.
- Oakland’s Temple Hill nearby is also a must-see for additional breathtaking views.
- Tickets can be purchased online or at the welcome desk. You can also reserve free tickets through your library’s Discover and Go program. I recently got an epic deal on a family membership and it’s been totally worth it.
Plan your visit to Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland’s Redwoods
Location: 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland
Open Hours & Days: Currently, open to the public Wednesdays to Sundays from 10 am – 5 pm
Ticket prices: $24 for adults (12+) | $19 for kids 2-12 and elders 65 and older | Under 2 is FREE
Still can’t get enough science? Visit Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.
[Photos by 510families, all rights reserved]