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The Columbia Memorial Space Center

The Columbia Memorial Space Center

Did you know that the city of Downey has a space museum?  I didn’t but I’m sure glad I found out about it.  Nestled between Kaiser Hospital Downey and the Downey Landing shopping center lies The Columbia Memorial Space Center.  You can’t miss its unique design or the space rocket up in front surrounded by planets, and the Columbia Memorial Space Center is going to be one of your families favorite places for exploring and learning about space.

Space Museum in Downey

Space Museum in LA

Kids Exploring Space with The Apollo

Why would such a museum be in Downey instead of Los Angeles? The site of the museum is the former Boeing/Rockwell/North American plant where all of the Apollo Command/Service Modules were built and were the Space Shuttle was conceived.

Downey’s rich aerospace history dates back to World War II when Vultee Aircraft set up shop in Downey and produced 15% of all of America’s military aircraft.  Not only that but the company was a pioneer in hiring women in manufacturing positions and was also the first aircraft company to build airplanes on a powered assembly line.   In the 1960s Downey was the “it” city for aerospace.  Downey’s Rockwell NASA plant produced and tested many of the 20th century’s greatest aviation, missile, and space endeavors.

Learning about space is fun

Kids and space at Columbia Space Museum

Kids learning about space with computers

kids and Robotics

Sadly with the end of the Cold War, Downey was brutally hit by cutbacks in the defense budget and slowly but surely plant after plant shut down leaving behind a 70 year industry/history.  When Rockwell closed its plant in 1999, the former plant was demolished and the site now features The Columbia Memorial Space Center, Downey Landing shopping center, a Kaiser hospital, a city recreation field park and the former movie studio site of Downey Studios (yeah Rockwell was that huge).  It’s really a remarkable city filled with so much history and memories.  With all that being said I bet you’re wondering what this museum is all about so here’s the low down. The Space Center is a hands-on learning center dedicated to bringing science and innovation to kids of all ages.

Space Science Experiments

Kids Playing in a Mini Space Shuttle

Lego Building

The museum has a variety of camps, workshops and other monthly events to generate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The 20,000 square foot, two-story building features a robotics lab, HD computer lab as well as a wide range of interactive exhibits.  I’m guilty of not exposing my children to as much STEM as I would like, so this museum was a prefect way for them to get their feet wet and be little science sponges.  From exploring our solar system to robotics my children were engaged by all the exhibits and were learning as they played which I loved.

Robotics at the Columbia Space Center

Kids in a NASA Space Suit

Space Education - NASA

I know the distance may seem far but its only 30 minutes away via freeway from Central Orange County. With free street parking and a $5 admission price (children 3 and under are free) there really isn’t a single reason why you shouldn’t give the Columbia Memorial Space Center a try.  Side note: the world’s oldest McDonalds is also located in Downey, maybe you could grab lunch there and check it out.  For hours, directions and more information about the Columbia Memorial Space Center please visit their website.

I’m an OC mom of two and photographer. I love living in Southern California and want to expose my children to all that it offers. I love taking my kids on adventures and capturing their every moment so much so that my kids find it odd if I don’t take their pictures. You can see my work on facebook.com/photosbynaz.
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