Please know that I am not a nitpicker, I don't write endlessly bad reviews in fact I rarely find anything so bad about an attraction, hotel or restaurant. This experience is a true reflection on a disappointing day.
We had been looking forward to a day out at the California Science centre from moment we booked to go to LA over the christmas break. We were on a tight budget so steered clear of the amusement parks and overly expensive attractions. We are a family of 4 (2 adults 2 children aged 9 and 3) so a free full day attraction had us very excited. We swallowed the $10 parking it was ample, and parking in LA is not cheap! We'd read on their website and via other reviews that in order to make sure that you see the Shuttle Endeavour its best to book online as it is a timed entry system, and as we were going on the Sunday before New Year's we knew it would be busy. So we went online and paid the $2 per person (under 4 is free) so totalled $6. Unfortunately, the hotel we were staying at had an issue with their printer and we were forced to turn up with my confirmation email and pdf ticket on my phone. When I arrived I was then told to queue up in the "will call" line (the main line early in the morning was huge and not all the tellers were on which is always annoying on a busy day). I told the others to go and make a start without me and off they went. When I finally got to the front and explained the situation, they charged me another $2 just to print it out. We'd also decided not to visit the IMAX to be honest its unneccessary!
When inside we started on the 2nd floor and the kids flew off. Unfortunately, they were incredibly disappointed as we spent most of our time saying "sorry this one doesn't work" and Oh yes "sorry this doesn't work either!" The buttons didn't light up, whatever something was meant to do it didn't, it was just overall very disappointing. There were a lot of things, space items etc for them to see, but for the kids, its the touching, looking and feeling and these were as I've said, either not working, old, tired or just plain wrong as the world and science has moved on since they were obviously installed.
I also take umbridge and get very annoyed with places that say they are free and then continuously bombard you with "pay for things" at expensive prices everywhere you look, stuff that they know that the kids will want to do and nag you to do, and if you don't have an endless wallet of cash (although they make a point of accepting visa) the kids feel upset. Whether its the MANY simulators ($5 per person) the Hurricanes, the balancing cycle etc etc before you know it you have spent a merry fortune. And these things were not cheap. Many times through the day we had to remind the children that this wasn't a theme park and we were not going to go on these expensive minute thrills. The one thing was free (the earthquake simulation) we queued up for for ages, then they took all the fun out of it by having some video talking at a level that was way over the kids heads, the metal plate on the floor shook for all of a nano second and then it was over... Nearly all of the 15 people (the capacity for this) walked out going.. was that it!!
Our tickets for Endeavour were for 2.30pm, so we went to entrance sign at 2.20pm really excited until we saw the queue. This was the stupidest, down right ludicrous system I have ever witnessed, you queue with your printed paid for tickets in a roped off area, to receive at the end of your queue (which just ends in the hallway no where near where you need to go ).. for.... guess what another ticket!!! When I questioned the man who was stood at the beginning of the roped off area why we were queueing for so long (20 mins by then) for something we have a timed entrance ticket for he said.. "oh I don't know.. you just have to queue for your ticket then you can go" nonsensical!!
Why on earth have a timed entry for something if a. your entrance is no where near the actual entrance and b. you are just standing in a roped off area with your entry time actually being your queuing start time if your entrance is 2.30pm and you have to then queue for another ticket for 20 mins.
When we finally got our ticket, we left the roped area to the "go down there through that exhibit up the stairs etc etc". What a mess! Anyway, we found the area we were meant to head to, there were two people on the doors that only let people in that had these "new tickets" that we'd just spend queueing up for. These "new tickets" were basically credit card sized cards that were being reused over and over again. They were made of card, and you had to keep hold of them for when you finished this exhibit hall and had to make another trek to the exhibit hall with the shuttle. They were also generic cards with no time stamp, so people once they got them were using them when they wanted!
When though.. guess what another pay for simulator.. no thank you...! The exhibits were quite interesting but the place was RAMMED full. We flew through this there was only about about 4 things to see.. then pictures on the wall of all the astronauts from the latter 25 missions, then we had to leave and go down stairs again and use the cards to go outside to the exhibit hall. These cards where then taken by the guy at the door.
The saving grace from a disappointing day was the shuttle it was spectacular to view.. they could of done a bit more in terms of interesting things in the hangar, it was basically look, take a photo and leave (via the gift shop of course).
I did have a little look in the gift shop at the end of the day to see if there was anything reasonably priced to get the kids as a memento, even the smallest thing (a ruler was nearly $4). Everything else was marked up by it seemed at least 40%. I'd rather buy the same thing on amazon for much cheaper.
So that was our day, what we hoped would be inspiring turned out to be disappointing and very unsciencey. I'm not bothered about crowds, I am happy to wait my turn, but I have been to many science museums and this I have rated as the worst, this is also from the kids point of view, they thought it was boring and broken. California Science Centre up your game, you have a good concept, good site and the shuttle is great but you can do so much more, firstly and most importantly get your exhibits in order and hire MORE staff.
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