I am less than a week into summer vacation and here we go to Santa Barbara to visit the The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation (MOXI). Seeking sunshine from an overcast Ventura, we ventured off to Santa Barbara. Since moving to Ventura County last August (2016), I had only been once to Santa Barbara so I was looking forward to it.
We were pleasantly surprised to find the MOXI did not require us to wait to go inside. Apparently, there are scheduled times when it becomes too crowded, but it was not a concern on a Wednesday afternoon with sunshine peering through the clouds. It helped that most school districts are still in session and we showed up a few hours before closing time. Overall, I enjoyed the museum almost as much as my oldest daughter (6). My youngest daughter (2) went with the flow, being the museum gears the exhibits to slightly older kids.
My two year old was unable to reach some exhibits (cubes that make music in the Sound Track, different types of scopes), did not understand which direction to go in at some (walk through rocks with minimal sound), and did not have the motor skills to work with others (rubber track with for balls to slide down). My two year old did enjoy the water contraption on the third floor, the carton boxes in front of the drawing stations and putting materials on the fan blowing air up a tube (Wind Column Workshop). She found enjoyment despite not understanding the purpose of some of the exhibits unlike my six year old.
My six year old greatly enjoyed the museum. Some of her highlights were working the music at the 3-D exhibit, the soft balls traveling through the air tubes (Wind Column Workshop), and the slow motion jump machine. She interacted well with most exhibits and was pleasantly surprised to find out it was more than one floor. When we finished with the second floor, she was even more surprised there was a third floor. Needless to say she enjoyed the MOXI.
My children had a great time throughout the museum and were able to interact with about 90% of the exhibits in about 2.5 hours. I believe this was only possible because there were hardly any people there. They did not have to wait their turn at the exhibits, which kept them engaged throughout the experience.
Because the museum is geared towards students above 3 years old, there is no charge for kids under three. Even if the exhibits are for kids, I found myself immersed in most of the exhibits. I too was delighted by the 3-D musical interpretation of the hydrogen atom. I also enjoyed the sound studios where I could make music for a soundtrack. It was great to be able to send myself not just our soundtrack but also other projects throughout the museum.
Having been to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, some of the exhibits at the MOXI were not necessarily new. It is much smaller than the Exploratorium, but does a better job of organizing the exhibits in a coherent manner, particularly in a much smaller place than both of the aforementioned places.
The Lawrence Hall of Science resembles the MOXI with the spectacular views and some of the exhibits they have in common. They both target scientific concepts and explain them with simple activities. The MOXI did a much better job of explaining each exhibit, having a good amount of guides available and cohesive layout of the exhibits.
Although the MOXI is small, the location can’t be beat: three blocks from the beach, two blocks from the main hub of State St., and overlooking the Amtrak station (which you can watch arrive if you are on the third floor). Make it part of your day on a family day in Santa Barbara.