Behind the colorful glass windows of the Museum at Prairiefire is an inspiring world of science and beauty, as well as a room so fun for kids, they won’t realize how much they’re learning.
I wouldn’t fault you for shrugging it off, at first, because it’s a museum located on the outskirts of a shopping center. It’s not the first place I’d look for a museum, either. But, you’d be missing out if you skipped it.
Fun fact: The Museum at Prairiefire is the first architectural structure in North America to use dichroic glass in its design. This glass was originally engineered by NASA during materials research.
The way I see it, there are two really remarkable, don’t-miss things at this museum – and one is FREE!
You’ll see the first right when you walk in.
ALIVE Interactive is an interactive video screen in the lobby showing real-time images of you in the Great Hall while prehistoric creatures (and a dragon or two) run by or swoop your head. Those creatures were created by patrons just like you using touch screens. All ages enjoy this!
I was like a kid dodging velocipraptors with my kids. It’s FREE to create your prehistoric animals and watch them come to life on the screen, if you didn’t feel like paying admission to see the rest of museum.
The Discovery Room
The second don’t-miss part of the Museum at Prairiefire is the Discovery Room. If it’s busy, you’ll be limited to the amount of time you can spend there, but I’d say plan on spending, at a minimum, an hour here if it isn’t. Your kids will not want to leave.
The Discovery Room is broken up into different areas of science – think anthropology, field biology, paleontology – where kids can learn through play and hands-on exhibits.
It’s a place where technology mixes with old school science, like a dig pit and magnifying glasses.
We played ancient games, hunted for animals in the sycamore tree, petted a mouse, and dug up dinosaur bones.
The kids tried on masks from around the world, explored astronomy ideas and used microscopes to see just how many scratches were on my wedding ring.
The Discovery Room is worth the price of admission, hands down.
Museum staff are on hand to explain things (and make sure idiots like me don’t break anything, or teach their children the wrong way to put an insect statue together).
Other cool area of the museum
The beauty of this place begs you to explore it, inside and out.
My kids weren’t too interested in the giant T-Rex in the lobby, nor the science theater showing short documentary films. Typical of my kids to ignore a gigantic T-Rex, as if seeing one is an everyday thing.
They were a little more interested in the traveling exhibit, “Horse,” in the American Museum of Natural History Exhibition Hall. It’s geared more toward older children and adults, though the end of the exhibit does have some hands-on activities for the younger crowd.
“Horse” is at the museum through Jan. 24, 2016.
There’s also a gift shop and café in the museum.
If you go
Museum at Prairiefire
Where: 5801 W. 135th St., Overland Park, Kan.
When: Mondays through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 5 to 7 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
Cost: Admission to the Great Hall is FREE. All-access pass is $22 for adults (13+), $15 for kids (3-12); Discover Room is $8 for adults, $7 for kids; American Museum of Natural History Exhibition is $14 for adults, $8 for kids.
Tip: The Museum at Prairiefire is near quite a few recommended places to eat. Try Rock and Brew (it has an outdoor, heated play area for kids) directly across the street from the museum or Nick and Jakes, just down the road.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Visit Overland Park for hosting my family’s visit to the city!
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