The last time I visited the Science Museum Oklahoma it had a different name and I was younger than my oldest son! I don’t remember ever going with my parents (sorry Mom & Dad if you took me). I remember going with classmates on field trips. It was a 2 hour drive in a bus from Tulsa. My favorite spot was an electrical ball you could touch and your hair would stand on its’ ends. There was also a big play item that looked like a plastic atom.

In recent years, I’ve heard many other parents talk about the Science Museum and have thought often about visiting. Since it is an Adventure Road partner, it was perfect for this trip. We planned half a day and quickly realized we should have blocked an entire day. Oh my goodness did we have fun…and we didn’t even see everything! Chris tends to travel to OKC weekly, so I think we are going to need to get an annual pass.

smokc-01Near the entrance is a large display of things that were once in museums. In the early days of museums, science and art were combined. This led to a bit of confusion…think artists that depict an animal with several heads! I loved getting to talk to the kids about why it is important to see beauty in science, but how it is also important to separate art from science!

smokc-03We headed into the first area of the museum, “Curiocity.” We could have spent HOURS in this one area. The kids were completely enthralled in every display. I had to keep them moving so we could see more of the museum. They would play and I would randomly shout science facts…next time we go I will move slow and make them pay a little more attention to the science behind what we are doing. I am totally jealous of all homeschooling moms in OKC. I’d skip the science books and go at a snail’s pace through all the content and hands-on learning at the museum.smokc-05Okay…I took the picture below on the right for you moms of teeny ones. There was one room with water activities. The whole museum is set up for kids of all ages. Those little chairs are for babies to sit in. There are little fountains in front of each chair, so they can play in the water. If my friends and I were back in the baby stage, I would totally meet up with them there. The babies could play and we could talk.smokc-07smokc-09Vintage Science Museum happening here…I once sat in that ‘plane’ when I was in elementary school!smokc-10She rode her first segway…and asked me to buy her one.smokc-11smokc-12smokc-13smokc-17smokc-15smokc-02One area focused on physical fitness. Corbett challenged Chris and I to several races…we won. For now. I had to work hard for my 3:1 Tug of War victories!smokc-16IMG_9906smokc-18

We arrived in the morning and stayed until a bit after lunch. I was not prepared for how big the museum was or how each thing would hold the attention of my kids for so long. There were a few exhibits we missed and we didn’t get to attend any of the shows. Obviously, we are going to have to go back! If you live remotely near OKC, I highly recommend planning a day at the museum. If you are traveling through Oklahoma, I would encourage you to schedule a day to stop and explore. We will absolutely be going back.

My tips for your visit:

  • Plan to spend a whole day
  • Pack your lunch or dining is available
  • If you have a big family, it would be a good idea to have at least 2 adults. It is big with lots of rooms. This could be stressful if you are trying to keep your eyes on a handful of kids.
  • Pack a change of clothes. The water room is so much fun, but my kids were a little conscience of getting too wet. If I had younger ones, I am sure they would have either had to avoid the water room or ended up soaked. I would not choose to avoid the room, just pack some extra clothes if they get too wet. It might be a good idea to pack a small towel too.
  • Play with your kids. I had just as much fun in each area as my kids. Climb on the playgrounds. Build. Interact. Play. Go outside. This is such a perfect place to really connect and have fun with your kids!


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  • Jennifer - This is the best children’s museum I’ve been to – and we’ve been to a lot. My family went there last spring break and spent hours there. A terrific place for kids and adults!

  • JenW - I am loving this explore OK series you have going on. As an Indiana gal myself I would not have put OK on our destination list…it is now! We’re putting our camper to more use on vacations and OK is certainly close enough for us to head your way!

  • Lisa britten - I live in Canada and would never consider a trip to Oklahoma, but all your travel posts make me want to visit!

    If you ever come to Vancouver BC, let me know!

  • Dawn - You always do an outstanding job on your travel essays! My gosh, you provide such wonderful details, helpful hints and photographs. Thank you for sharing and intriguing us all with your travels! Sending love from Texas!

  • Diana - I love this! We visited a lot of science museums when I was growing up and I have fond memories of those. You’re making me want to visit OK!

  • Shannon - I love these posts! I live in Canada but these posts really encourage me to look around at what my area has to offer and have me taking notes for future vacations:)
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly - Wow! I live nowhere near Oklahoma City or even Oklahoma but should I ever find myself there, I’ll be sure to remember this! My kids would LOVE it!

  • Angela - On the last visit I made with my kids (7 and 13) at the end of Christmas break, they spent an hour just in the section of Curiocity where they make cars and try them out on that curved wooden area. I just let them go with it. But next time will take a book! I also went with my daughter there on the class field trip (we live in Norman) and loved that they had little weaving looms there to try. Thanks for the reminder to get my kids back there before school begins–after OKC schools start back up!

  • Denise L. - Kudos to the photographer who caught you and Corbet playing tug of war! Great movement caught there. It’s great seeing you in action, too!

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Dawn. It might be odd how much I LOVE writing travel posts…it is so much fun to share and think someone might visit one of the places we go!

  • AshleyAnn - Lisa – Vancouver BC is definitely on my list of places to visit one day!

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Jen!

  • Anne Marie - Oh how I wish I would have read this post a week or 2 earlier! We went here with my sis & her family a little over a week ago… her kids are ages 13-18 & mine are 2-14. They all had a blast and like you said, 1/2 day isn’t long enough! My 2 year old could have spent the whole time in curio-city but we only got to that part 30 minutes or so before we needed to leave! :/ (I didn’t realize it was there) And I SO wished I had dry clothes for him because I had to keep him corralled by the “river” and even then he got pretty wet! Clothes dry pretty quickly once you get outside in the convection oven though! πŸ˜‰ I wish we had this cool of a science museum closer to Pensacola,FL!

  • Anne Marie - There were so many cool things… The huge table & chairs in optical illusions made me see things from my toddler’s perspective (and he even managed to climb those chairs!)… Another thing that intrigued us was the water droplets that you could make “stand still” or “go up”… Who would guess that lying on a bed of nails actually doesn’t hurt very much!?! Oh and you definitely need to take your kids to see the explosion show if you go again. My boys were super impressed! (Who would guess? Boys+explosions??? ?) I think I had about as much fun as my kids at the museum! πŸ˜‰

I was 15 years old and walking down the hallway to my history class. The principal came on over the speaker and announced an explosion in Oklahoma City. I remember being so confused. I think everyone was at first. The normally loud halls were now quiet as we all headed to classrooms hoping for answers from our teachers. The teachers were just as confused. When President Clinton was told of the explosion, the initial news was that it was related to a gas leak. No one guessed a fellow American would purposely drive a bomb-filled truck to the front of a government building.

I remember watching the news. The entire side of a building was missing and 168 lives lost. A daycare full of children – gone. First responders flooded the streets and surrounding areas. Recovery work was called off several times as spring thunderstorms rolled through. Nothing made sense. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City was the worst terrorist attack to take place on US soil prior to September 11, 2001.

It has been many years since I last visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. As we planned with Adventure Road where we would like to visit while in OKC, the OKCNMM as on the top of my list. My kids span from 5 yrs to 12 yrs. I knew we would need to be mindful of how we talked about certain parts the story of April 19, 1995, but I also knew it was an important part of history I wanted to teach and discuss with the kids.

The Museum is interactive and covers the day of the bombing (4-19-95) and the weeks/days/months and years that followed. It is a story of how chaos transformed into hope and unity.

okcnmm-01The museum tour begins with the morning of April 19 and walks chronologically through the events of the day. Early on there is one room where you sit and hear that actual explosion (it was in the background of an official Oklahoma Water Resources Board). The boys went in the room with the recording, but I skipped past that part with the girls.okcnmm-02Below is an enlarged photo taken from across the street. You can see the truck that was used parked across the street. Throughout the museum there are dozens of pieces of evidence used to find answers. I appreciated the way the kids learned not only about the specific event, but discovered in detail how answers were found.okcnmm-03okcnmm-04okcnmm-06

In recent years the museum integrated interactive elements. Instead of only reading signs and boards, my kids jumped on screens and interacted with the stories. The boys, especially the older 2, were hard to pull away from these elements.okcnmm-05okcnmm-08okcnmm-09After touring the museum, we walked outside to the memorial. Several key elements create the outdoor memorial. The Reflecting Pool (where the street once was), the Field of Empty Chairs (where the building stood, symbolizing each life lost), The Survivor Tree, The Survivor Wall (the only remaining wall of the original building, inscribed with survivors’ names), The Rescuers’ Orchard, and a Children’s Area. At the east and west sides of the Reflecting Pool tower two gates. The 9:01 gate and the 9:03 gate. As you enter the memorial, you walk through the 9:01 gate (one minute before the explosion that took place at 9:02). You experience the museum and memorial and then leave through the 9:03 gate – the place where hope and healing begin.okcnmm-11okcnmm-12“The forces of hate and violence must not be allowed to gain their victory, not just in our society, but in our hearts. Nor must we respond to hate with more hate. This is a time for coming together, and we have seen that and been inspired by it.” Rev. Billy Graham, days after the attack.okcnmm-13okcnmm-14

A few number facts

  • 168 people killed
  • 19 children killed
  • 850 people injured
  • 30 children orphaned
  • 219 children lost at least one parent
  • 300 buildings destroyed or damaged
  • 462 people left homeless
  • 12,384 volunteers and rescue workers assisted in rescue, recovery and support

*Source: Governor Frank Keating’s office, 1995

The Survivor Tree (pictured on right) survived the blast. Evidence was pulled from its’ branches and trunk. It now stands as a symbol of strength and witness to the events of the day. Near the tree reads, “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”

okcnmm-15Outside the museum is a children’s area with chalkboard tiles. Children are encouraged to draw/write/express after touring the museum and memorial.okcnmm-17okcnmm-18okcnmm-19As you prepare to leave the memorial, you are encouraged to respectfully dip your hand in the Reflecting Pool and press it to the 9:03 gate…leaving your handprint and a bit of you behind.okcnmm-20okcnmm-21okcnmm-22

9:03. 1 minute after the blast. The moment we were all changed. The place where healing begins after the horror.

My tips:

  • Talk to your kids before the visit. Give them a bit of knowledge about the event and what to expect. I made sure my kids understood we were not going for ‘fun’, but to learn, understand and show respect.
  • If you have small kids, there are a few graphic photos (especially ones of the children who were killed) that you might want to avoid. I would just try to do a quick glance of each new room and then walk in a way to avoid anything you don’t want little ones to see.
  • Plan time to go slow, read, interact, discuss
  • Go through the museum before you tour the outside. Everything outside is much more meaningful after you have taken time to really learn and understand all the symbolism.
  • Some kids process more in the days and weeks after learning about something like this. We didn’t go into much detail with our youngest. I stayed close by my 7 year old and asked/answered a lot of questions as we walked. I know my kids will ask more questions in the days to come. I think that is common for most kids. I’d just encourage you to keep the communication open and be sensitive to how your kids work through stuff like this.
  • My 10 & 12 year old were at great ages for the museum. If you only have really little ones, I might wait until they are ready to understand and learn from museum and memorial. If you have tweens/teens the very last room promotes great discussion that helps them implement what they learn. Take advantage of spending time in the last room (with the interactive quizzes)

The outdoor memorial is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and charges no admission. The Museum is open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm with paid admission.

“We come here to remember those who where killed,

those who survived and those changed forever.

May all who leave here know the impact of violence.

May this memorial offer comfort,

strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

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  • Kate - Oh my goodness Ashley,
    Thank you for sharing this powerful reminder. It has touched my heart deeply.

  • Cathy - I love that you are not afraid to show these things to your kids and teach them about them, my oldest is 4 and as she is starting to ask hard questions I struggle to know how to answer them for her. I hope I am giving her enough answers to not frighten her, but to let her know there are scary things in the world and am teaching her how to deal with them. Any good resources on how to talk to little ones about hard things?

  • Brady - Goosebumps. I’ve gotten to see the outdoors memorials, but haven’t gotten to go in the museum. It’s on my list now. Thanks for sharing.

  • Windie D - about 10 years ago I went on a youth mission trip which was called “Where the Spirit Leads”. We didn’t have any real plans before the trip – just a few rules, such as the maximum amount of miles we would drive each day and that we would only stay one night in each place. The teens were encouraged to be the leaders (handing the money, making any reservations, deciding which direction to go).

    Coming from Colorado, we started south. After our first day – all the youth wanted to head west – towards California; the 3 adults wanted to go East. We voted to go west and after we started driving, the wind was so strong – it was really hard for us to keep the 15 passenger vans on the road. We pulled over to discuss and as soon as the youth agreed to go east, the wind stopped!

    I truly believe that the Spirit lead us east for a number of reasons and one of these was to experience this memorial and museum. It was unforgettable. And even though it was very tough to walk through, I am glad I was able to see it.

    Even if you are just passing through OKC – make time to stop and visit this memorial!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Ashley, this was beautifully written. I was born in OKC (only lived there for four months), but a part of my heart has always been in Oklahoma. I remember that day so very clearly. I think the children lost were what shook me the most. I pray that hearts are softened and violence becomes a thing of the past.

  • Melanie - Sadly, with all the things that happend in Paris and Munich, dealing with terror is an important topic for us in Germany, too. For us parents it is hard enough but I really have no glue how to explain this to my 8yo son without giving him the feeling that the world is a bad place. It is just too much.

  • Kari - I’ve wanted to leave a comment on this post all week, but every time I do it ends in tears. I was 12 when the bombing happened; I remember feeling our school shake. And I remember my friends losing their nephews and aunts and sisters. I remember everything about that day as if it were yesterday. I’ll eventually have to explain what happened to my kids and your post is where I’ll probably start. I don’t really know what I wanted to say but I wanted to say something. So, thank you for this.

  • Steph - Wow, I really appreciate you putting this post together. I’m Jewish and have visited a few Holocaust museums and I’m always impressed by how they handle taking people, often tourists, through such a devastating set of facts and figures and emotions. I have to say the outdoor portion of this memorial is the most thoughtful, engaging and well-crafted tribute I’ve ever experienced. Thank you for letting me have that experience in some small way. I will likely never be in Oklahoma, so I never would have taken the time to appreciate this memorial or reflect on the horror it honors. Thanks again.

  • AshleyAnn - Steph – thank you for taking the time and sharing that with me. It is such a delicate topic, but an important one. I appreciate you letting me know what the post meant to you.

  • AshleyAnn - Kari – Thank you. I don’t know a single person that lived in Oklahoma and was over the age of 10 in 1995 that doesn’t remember exactly where they were on that day. I know it is such a hard and personal memory. Thank you for coming back here and sharing your experience with all of us.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Kate. The children shook me so deeply too.

  • Kelli - Thank you for sharing Ashley. I grew up in the area, definitely remember that day well. In the days and weeks that followed my father was a rescue worker. And while his stoic self would never share the details of what he saw, I could see it on his face every late night when he came home. I have run in the memorial run the past few years and have visited the outdoor memorial. But haven’t been able to bring myself to go to the museum yet. Maybe when my kids are older, it’s definitely something I want to be able to talk to with them, but seeing the pictures it still feels raw 21 years later.

On the top of our family’s list of new favorite stops in Oklahoma City is Riversports Adventures. If you give us an opportunity to do something adventurous together – we are all in. As part of our trip with Adventure Road, we took an afternoon to get sweaty and active at RiverSport Adventures located near Bricktown in OKC. You can see the downtown skyline in the distance. While it is not the background to rafting we’ve done in Colorado, it is pretty cool to have something like this in our state.Riversport-01My four guys could not get out on the water fast enough. Throughout the day the rapids are ‘turned down’ and you can go tubing.Riversport-02

Riversport-03Riversport-04I took one for the team and sat on the bank with the girls while the guys did the rafting. The girls weren’t quite tall enough, so we waited and watched. It wasn’t nearly as fun on the sidelines, but seeing the guys have a blast together was pretty great. We kept dumping water on our heads while the boys were getting soaked. Oklahoma is hot this summer (and every summer)! On the other side of the rapids is the Oklahoma River where you can flatwater kayak and stand up paddle board.Riversport-05The rafting adventures take about an hour and a half. After we watched the boys a bit, I took the girls over to the Youth Zone. The disappointment of not being tall enough for the rapids was subdued a bit by the activities they were tall enough to do. The Youth Zone area is only for kids under 48″ and is $10 a day (3 and under are free). It is such an amazing deal if you have little ones. There is also a free park next to the Youth Zone.Riversport-06Riversport-07Riversport-08Riversport-11Riversport-10The day we went the girls had the whole Youth Zone to themselves. It was awesome!Riversport-13The Youth Zone also had a mini ropes course. The girls got to wear a real harness and lock in just like the big ropes course. Though they wanted up on the high adult course, they had a wonderful time on the youth version.Riversport-12Cutest little ropes course walker ever.Riversport-14Since Chris got to go rafting, I got to do the SandRidge Sky Trail while he stayed with those that did not want to climb. My 10 year old and I got on our harnesses, hooked in and started climbing. My son said it was like training for American Ninja Warrior. There were beams, bridges, ropes, ladders, etc. that you cross. The structure goes up 80ft with 6 different levels. If no one was waiting down below for us, we could have spent a great deal of time just climbing and challenging ourselves to try everything without holding on. So much fun. I want to go back.Riversport-18

Riversport-20For those that don’t want to climb all the way up (and those that do) there are a few high speed slides too.Riversport-21The highlight of the day for me was the zipline. The actual zipline across the river was fun, but the chance to do it with my son was the best part of the day. He has been waiting YEARS to do a high zipline, but he has never been tall enough. Friends have shot past him in recent years, while all he ever asks me for is a growth spurt. It is so hard to see your kid struggle with something and not have the ability to fix it. When we walked up to the zip line, I held my breath until we were sure he was tall enough. He was! Happy dance by mom!

Together we climbed the stairs to the top. As we reached the very top, he started to get nervous. It was a long way down and far bigger than anything he has ever done. His nervous excitement was contagious. He was in front of me, walked to the edge and jumped off. It was one of my favorite parenting moments. That steep climb up and soaring ride over the river was a long time coming. I’m so grateful I was by his side.



I do not take days like this with my family for granted. Today I am strong and healthy, but that strength and health is not a guarantee. I know plenty of parents that would give anything to have one pain-free day with their kids. Running, jumping, climbing – the ability and chance to do these things are not guaranteed to any of us. While I am able, I am going to be as active as I possibly can with my crew.

I wanted to share a few of my tips for those of you that visit RiverSport Adventures. I’m always learning as I go when it comes to traveling with kids. Hopefully, these will help some of you!

My Tips:

  • Wear secure shoes (no flip-flops). We had flip-flops and had to make a quick run to the store to get better shoes. Most people wore Chacos or similar shoes. I would not wear running shoes if you want to do any of the water activities too.
  • If you got on a hot day with kids under 48″ bring socks. My girls really loved the Cloud Bounce, but you can’t wear shoes and it was pretty hot. They would have jumped longer if they had socks.
  • If you want to do the zipline, reserve a time as soon as you get there. We almost missed out on this.
  • Reserve you whitewater rafting time before you arrive. You can reserve a spot online so you are sure to get one.
  • Wear active clothes and longer shorts or yoga capris. I had on khaki shorts…not so great with a harness.
  • There is not a ton of shade on the actual activities. Pack sunscreen.
  • Food. There is a concession stand and restaurant on site. The parking lot is between the rapids area and the other areas. If you have special diet concerns, you could leave a cooler in your car. We have a little one that needed food we can’t find in most places. It was not an issue getting to her food quickly.
  • Be sure to read the rest of the Important To Know tips on the website.
  • The website has tons more info, I’d take time to read it all.

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  • ashley jensen - I had no idea this was in OKC! I am so glad you have been sharing your Oklahoma travels. Even after growing up in BA I still haven’t experienced a lot of activities OK has to offer, only a small few. I definitely have a list going since you have been sharing over the past couple years! Thank you!

  • Debbie C - This looks awesome! The feeling, for you and him, of him taking that long-awaited zip line must’ve been amazing. My eyes got a little wet reading about that favorite parenting moment!

  • Jamie - I seriously LOVE all of your travel posts. Like, I think they may have become my favorite kind of all. Your beautiful photography of these places coupled with learning about all of these new places, is just exciting to me! We are on the verge of being able to do more activities as a family now that the kids are getting bigger and it’s been cool learning about these things both near and far. So thank you!

  • Carrie Campbell - Looks like fun! I like that you take advantage of what your state has to offer. And that you share it with others so they can go too. :)

  • Debi - This is so cool! We would have to travel from Colorado to do this, but my kiddos would love it! Any tips on where to stay if we were to come to do this?

  • Marsha - What a wonderful post, Ashley. I’m so thankful for parents like you and Chris who enrich the lives of your children, even when it’s sometimes hard. It’s kind of how we were in our homeschooling days. My memories of that day are more vivid than the photos my husband took the day, or two, before they imploded the rest of the building. He wanted to detour on our way home from our son’s 5th grade graduation near Enid. The images on TV were hard enough for me. I didn’t want actually seeing it burned into my mind, yet it was historic. I begrudgingly agreed. I focused on holding our toddler and six month old close and looked at everything but the building as best I could. Thankfully, my memories of the building itself are mostly from the photos. I do remember the fences completely covered with trinkets, letters and notes (many scrawled on napkins and torn bits of paper), and more from people who came from all over the world, the makeshift memorial next to the YMCA, and the people all around. We’ve been to the outdoor memorial many times, but we’ve never timed it right to tour the museum. Honestly, I have mixed emotions, at best, of touring it. I saw enough on our television, in being there that one day, and in knowing a church friend who was part of the rescue and changed by it. We later lived in the town where the perpetrator was jailed and got to know the officer who apprehended him and the community who didn’t want to be in the spotlight for this tragedy. Maybe one day I’ll be ready to visit the museum and put into another perspective all that happened. Until then, I always seem to wander up to the church with the statue of Jesus crying, and cry myself.

  • Laura Piersall - This is awesome! I’ve seen this River Sports stuff being built over the last few years, but I’ve never stopped to explore. Thanks for showing me what’s in my own city! Haha.

  • AshleyAnn - Marsha – Thank you for sharing your experience with us. My hope is when others read the post on the Oklahoma City National Memorial that they will also read the comments and the experiences of others. I appreciate you taking the time to leave your story. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to visit the site and the museum after such a personal experience. Many tears shed here too.