Buried deep inside Redwood Regional Park lies the magical Chabot Space & Science Center. It feels magical because not only space itself is so mysterious, but also their building’s architecture feels futuristic, and it’s eerily quiet up there surrounded by all those trees.
While the majority of the daytime space and science exhibits are for children of reading age, Chabot has made some recent, awesome changes to make the center fun for children of all ages. They’ve dedicated a space called the Discovery Lab for their youngest visitors (0-5).
How to plan your visit to Chabot Space and Science
Start with Planetarium show times
There’s a lot to take in at Chabot, so I planned our visit around the 11am planetarium show. This gave us a good hour to run around before settling into our theater seats. The shows run about every 1-2 hours. When you arrive, the front desk will have daily schedule of shows. They recommend showing up 15 minutes before showtime to get seated. However we’ve never had a problem finding seating even on the busiest of days, so five minutes before showtime was good enough- even with all the school groups, which they stagger.
We’ve seen a few of the shows, my daughter’s favorite is Lunaverse. It is not scary (some of the shows can be a bit intense with the panoramic-style theater, and loud music). The story is about a child’s conversation with the moon. The handout says it’s 20 minutes, but really, they start 5 mins late and the show is 15 minutes. Perfect for wiggly littles. The planetarium shows are included with admission and are first come, first serve.
Other Exhibit Highlights at Chabot Space and Science
- Project Create: Besides the many (awesome) space exhibits, Chabot offers a new exhibit called Project Create. It was a definite highlight for my 4-year old. From Chabot: “it’s a tinkering space that encourages you to explore, experiment and build using your hands and a few handy tools.” She could have spent an hour alone at the fashion section making dresses and outfits.
- Megadome: Features various science shows and the one we attended was about bubbles. My 4-year old enjoyed the presentation. I’ll admit it was a little hard to entertain my 1-yr old during the presentation, mostly because she just wanted to run on stage and twirl around in the bubbles (can’t say I blame her). I mostly ended up chasing her up and down the stairs. Fortunately, nobody really seemed to mind, as many of the adult school chaperones were chatting amongst themselves during the presentation. It was much more casual than the planetarium show.
- Discovery Lab: a light-filled, open space for kids under 5 to do their thing. I had not been to Chabot for a few years and this space was a delightful surprise where my girls could tap into my inner nostalgia by playing with a life-size Lite Brite. There are also puzzles, a sand box, building blocks, a light table, books and more to play with. It’s also a nice retreat area when the place is buzzing with large swarms of larger kids, on field trips. Importantly, Chabot kindly requests no school groups in the discovery lab.
Things I love about Chabot Space and Science Center
- Often open on holidays, good for school/work closure days – my girls and I visited on MLK day when school was closed. It was less busy than on a regular weekday.
- Chabot has some really cool events for adults too. I recently attended their Halloween Hallow’s Eve Costume Party. It started, I repeat, started at 9pm! 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. It was also the night of the rolling PG&E blackouts, so the party got extra spooky after midnight when the power went out.
- All the exhibits remain in the building, so there are no wet paintings or art projects to bring home. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good art project. However, sometimes it's just nice to enjoy the creative process, and take a picture to remember.
- In an effort to go paperless, they offer a membership app, instead of a traditional card.
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
- The only real snag in my plan was the various school groups I hadn't anticipated. You can call in advance to ask how many schools/children will be visiting if you or your kids are overwhelmed by crowds.
- While the building is an innovative green building, is it open and airy. My girls and I stay in jackets during our visits. It’s also about ten degrees cooler up in the Redwoods, so dress in layers.
Other considerations for visiting Chabot Space and Science
- Food is allowed, and they have a cafe should you need to buy snacks. 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.
- Changing tables are in all restrooms!
- 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
- There are so many wonderful hikes in this area should you want to get your fill of Redwoods pre or post visit
- 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.
[All photos by Julia Gidwani for 510families, all rights reserved]