Some time ago, I read online about a place a couple of hours north of us, right by the Kentucky/Tennessee border, called the Discovery Park of America.
It sounded like a huge, super fun children's museum and I made a mental note that it might be something to check out sometime.
So as I planned our Fall Break activities, I remembered it and decided we would make the trip up north and see for ourselves what all the hype was about.
And WOW, am I glad we did!
It was SO worth the 4 hours (round-trip) in the car. The boys and I were totally blown away by all of the amazing exhibits and it seemed to go on and on and ON.
I kept thinking to myself, "This is like Disneyland for the mind!"
I took a lot of pictures, and I'm sharing a lot of them here with you.
If you want a mini-tour of the Discovery Park of America, read on!
If scrolling through a boatload of pictures isn't your jam, this is your cue to exit the premises.
Union City, Tennessee, is a small town in the middle of a lot of other tiny towns.
We passed cotton field after cotton field as we drove, so it was quite the enigma to see this mammoth building as we drove up the road.
So random to have this place in the middle of such a rural area.
Of course the boys wanted to pose with the bear that was situated just inside the front entrance.
This huge metal person is what we saw as we moved past the bear. One of his legs is an enormous slide, so we immediately hurried over to try to figure out how to get inside.
What we thought was the entrance was actually a toddler area with toys engaging enough to keep all the boys entertained for a good while.
The bathtub full of bristle blocks cracked me up.
Half the time we take pictures, Maxwell gives me a big, cheesy smile. The other half of the time it seems he is staring adoringly at Benson.
Eventually we made our way upstairs (where the entrance to the giant slide was) and, after the boys played around in the metal man for a while, we started looking at the exhibits. Here they are touching a piece of a real meteorite!
This exhibit on different kinds of energy was so cool. Here the boys could aim the mirrors to reflect a beam of light up to a sensor hanging from the ceiling, which would then make an airplane fly around in a circle. You could race the different colored airplanes against each other!
I adore this picture. It is such a classic depiction of the relationship Talmage and Maxwell have. Maxwell is trying hard to do just what his older brothers are doing, and Talmage is standing right behind him, teaching him how to do it and cheering him on enthusiastically.
Next we came to the coolest water exhibit I've seen! There were so many fun, interactive things for the kids to do. Here they could throw plastic balls into a vortex.
This cloud machine would make a cloud when you pressed down on it. Different sizes/shapes of clouds were formed depending on how fast and hard you pushed down.
Benson loved the water exhibit. The light in that area was perfect, so I followed him around taking picture after picture as he intently played with the balls and splashed in the water.
See that smug grin on his face because he's holding so many balls??
They also had a display of Archimedes' screw to show how water can be moved from a lower area to a higher area.
The water from Archimedes' screw would flow down into some different pools where magnetic pieces could be put together in different configurations to form bridges.
Talmage loved this keva planks exhibit! Have you heard of keva planks? They are basically like Jenga blocks, but thinner and made with precision engineering so huge structures can fairly easily be made.
Here they are inside the ball the metal man is holding!
Next we came to an optical illusions display. The boys were HIGHLY entertained by their inverted reflections. I bet hanging a few shiny metal bowls on the wall of the playroom would yield some seriously happy times.
A model of Gutenberg's printing press!
We then headed downstairs to the natural history display. The boys loved the enormous geodes, quartz, and other rocks. I loved how they were allowed to touch so many of the displays!
Huge piece of quartz on a rotating pedestal
This wall of bookcases with the opening in the middle reminded me of a secret passage in a mansion or something. It felt quite magical to step through.
On the other side was an exhibit with artifacts from various civilizations throughout the history of the world. Here Talmage is feeling a replica of the Rosetta Stone!
Of course they loved the knight.
Here is a model of the ark of the covenant, which was fun to show the boys!
Next up was a huge room of cars throughout history. Lincoln was SO excited to see his name all over the place--even a big electronic sign just for him!
After the cars came a massive room filled with military displays, including a jeep the boys got to sit in and "drive" and a helicopter where we could explore the cavern underneath as well as climb up to the cockpit and sit inside.
Next we walked outside to see the rocket. There was a small dome-shaped building next to it with some space displays. It was so strange and cool to be in there, because sounds were amplified such that when we spoke in hushed voices it sounded like we were loudly talking into a microphone.
These signs were begging for pictures to be taken.
The gardens outside were so pretty. The day was cloudy and threatening to rain, but only let down a few sprinkles. So it was perfect weather to spend hours outside exploring!
There were fun percussion instruments the kids could play on our way to the playground.
And also these really cool statues made from driftwood.
The playground had all kinds of innovative toys! Talmage was drooling over this giant chess set, but a few boys were already playing and he never got a chance to start a game of his own. He settled for staring longingly at the pieces.
I love this sequence of pictures--again, such a great representation of life at our house.
Here Benson excitedly approaches a high edge, where he likes to push the limits.
Wesley appears to keep him back...
...and then stays beside him, keeping him safe while Benson surveys the playground.
Next we headed over to see some international gardens.
The first stop was the European garden, where classical music played, columns from different orders flanked the paths, a fountain splashed, and a pine tree maze surrounded an observation tower.
Maxwell wanted to take a picture next to this elephant statue.
Another view of the Discovery Park--isn't the architecture fascinating?
After we made our way through the maze, we walked over to the Japanese garden where oriental music played and Asian plants surrounded a large koi pond. The kids loved watching the fish!
By this point, I was kind of losing steam. But there was still so much to see! So we headed over to the general store and the old-fashioned town area.
My older boys have become so cooperative for pictures. Benson is another story, but when he saw his brothers all sitting down, he surprised me by making his way over and plopping down right with them for the picture!
It took a couple of tries, but we got an okay timer picture.
Talmage is always happy to be my personal photographer. He loves learning how to use my camera!
The general store was a nice, quiet, empty place to sit down and rest for a bit.
The one-room schoolhouse was fun and surprising for the boys to see. Many, if not all, of the old-fashioned buildings we visited were original Tennessee structures (including the schoolhouse)!
The grounds were so picturesque. I would love to do some photo sessions here.
This is a view from one of the log cabins. See how rural the area is??
Tennessee is right in the path of the monarch butterfly migration. It was fun to see quite a few flitting around the flower gardens!
We wanted to see one last exhibit before we left the park, so we headed over to the American History area. A chapel and several colonial-style buildings and monuments were there to see. Benson was starting to get pretty exhausted and wild, so I chased him around for a short time while the other boys watched a historical documentary in the theater.
Finally, I rounded everyone up and we headed out. It had been a fun, exhausting, memorable day for us all!
We ended the day at a 1950's style diner that was covered in Elvis memorabilia before we hit the road for the drive back home. We arrived about an hour after Sam had gotten home from work...
just in time for a backyard soccer game and some toad catching before bed!