Go, See, Explore: Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, IL

On a recent road trip, we stopped at an awesome museum in Rockford. My son did not need to go more than 10 steps past the entrance at the Rockford Discovery Center Museum to know that this was a place he could stay all day. Right inside the door was a GIANT ball run. It was a large floor to ceiling exhibit that featured simple machines with balls in it that rolled down inclined planes when you moved levers, screws, and wedges. Marble run

The Discovery Center Museum is a Children’s Museum that has a strong focus on the STEM fields  (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) while also never losing focus on the fact that many kids learn best through hand-on, tactile play. I was impressed the most with the fact that the museum is engaging and hands on for everyone of every age. The 250+ hands on exhibits were both captivating and educational for all.

Our Sunday afternoon visit started in with a live Chemistry show. The resident scientist started his experimentation by making a cloud in a bottle; moved on to mixing hydrogen peroxide and luminol;  made a cannon out of a water cooler jug and launched a Minecraft-style pig; and finally exploded a balloon filled with two chemicals to demonstrate how fireworks were made. Kids (and parents alike) were excited. Later in the afternoon Planetarium show was offered. We chose not to attend so we could keep playing with exhibits. (Yes, Discovery Center Museum is so awesome that it also has a Planetarium!).

My son visited the Tot Spot (for toddlers and preschoolers) and played in the water.


My husband and son explored the mechanical advantages of pullies and levers.

pulleychair lever

We all played with the Whole Body Bubble maker.


We sent each other Morse Code messages.


I explored the forces at work in a tornado.


Vertical jumps and pitch speeds were measured.



My husband played some virtual volleyball.


My son climbed a model of a Bucky Ball in the outdoor Science Park.


Having even more fun in the Science Park.


All of us dancing together and having it replicated in a variety of ways on the screen in front of us and then found a giant litebrite next to the exhibit.


If you are planning a Discovery Center Museum visit here are a few essentials to know:

  • Open Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Admission is $8 per person. Kids under one year old are free.
  • 250+ exhibits for all ages.
  • The best thing? The Discovery Center Museum is an easy 1 1/2 hour drive from Madison. Day trip? You can leave after breakfast and return for dinner. Break up the summer or fall routine and visit a new place!
  • An entire room (with doors that close!) with tables and chairs is dedicated as a family picnic area. You can easily bring your lunch or snacks and have a place to eat. Bring your own food. There is no restaurant on site.
  • There’s a Quiet Room for melting down toddlers and nursing mothers in the Tot Spot.
  • The outdoor Science Park & Secret Garden are closed during rain, snow, and other wet weather.
  • The Discovery Center Museum shares a building with the Burpee Museum of Natural History and the Rockford Art Museum.



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