The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, most often called by its acronym OMSI, is a fun and educational museum located on the East bank of the Willamette River just across from downtown Portland. It’s well known for its many permanent hands-on exhibits dealing with all sorts of topics concerning science and technology, and the museum features several temporary exhibits every year. OMSI also houses a planetarium, the only OMNIMAX theater in Portland, and a submarine which is docked off a pier outside the museum and is open to visitors.
Established in 1944, OMSI has been a major fixture in Portland since the 1950s. The museum has been forced to move twice because it had outgrown its previous locations. Its current river-side building was opened in 1992 and allows for future expansion room as well. Sadly for the countless schoolkids who remember the giant walk-through heart at OMSI’s previous location, the heart didn’t make the move to the current space. Ah, well – at least we’ve got the memories.
Some of the permanent exhibits at OMSI include:
- Chemistry Laboratory – The six stations at the Chemistry Laboratory rotate weekly and demonstrate how chemistry is practical and applicable to everyday life.
- Life Sciences Hall – One of the more memorable parts of Life Sciences Hall is the collection of preserved human fetuses, one for almost every stage of development. Another part looks at the aging process.
- Laser/Holography Laboratory – Only open for an hour or so every day, the Holography Laboratory is where you can learn about how a hologram is made.
- Paleontology Laboratory – This is not your average museum exhibit; in this one, people are hard at work actually finding fossils and dinosaur bones. And museum visitors can watch the whole thing unfold.
- Earthquake House – This newly renovated exhibit simulates two of the earthquakes we’ve had here in the Pacific Northwest, including one that registered a 6.8 on the Richter Scale. You’ll see just what earthquakes do to houses, and learn how to protect your own.
- Science Playground & Discovery Laboratory – This is the place to take the kids who are too young to really “get” the science in the rest of the museum, but who you’d like to see get an early start at a scientific education through the interactive games and toys provided.
- USS Blueback – The submarine docked just outside the OMSI museum is the USS Blueback, which was commissioned in 1959. The Blueback was decommissed in 1990 and purchased by OMSI in 1994 – but not before serving as the set for the film “The Hunt for Red October.” The submarine is now open to visitors.
OMSI also features several theater spaces, including Portland’s only OMNIMAX theater, which show a variety of programs that are all at least vaguely science-oriented. The Kendall Planetarium is all about space, whereas the topics of the films on the OMNIMAX screen cover a wide range of topics. What’s playing changes periodically, but there are usually at least two films in the OMNIMAX theater at any given time. And if you want to go really retro, check out one of the laser shows in the Planetarium – including some classic Laser Floyd. C’mon, you know you want to go.
OMSI really is fun for kids of all ages, no matter how much you like science!
Location & Contact Info: 1945 SE Water Ave., Portland; tel: 503.797.6674 or toll-free 800.955.6674
East Bank of Willamette River, just south of downtown Portland – see map here.
And for you serious science geeks, the exact location is at 45° 30′ 36″ North latitude, 122° 39′ 54″ West longitude.
Hours: General museum hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 09:00-17:00 (closed Mondays); showtimes for the theaters will vary, and special exhibits may have different hours. Check this page for updated information.
Admission: Museum admission – $9 adults (age 14-62), $7 youth (age 3-13) and senior (63+)
Tickets for the theaters, USS Blueback tour and for any special exhibits are purchased separately and are not included in the museum admission (unless you purchase a “Museum Combo” ticket).
Museum admission is not required to visit the separate attractions, such as the theaters.