For the last several years, I have noticed this large, neat looking museum along I-75 when passing through Cartersville, Georgia on trips to Atlanta. I have been dying to stop and check it out, but we are always on our way to somewhere else and never have the time. Last month, I finally decided to make the time by planning a day trip with the sole purpose of visiting the Tellus Science Museum.
I wasn't sure what to expect, so I thought 2-3 hours at Tellus would suffice. But lo and behold, 6 hours later, we were closing the place down. The museum turned out to be so much fun that we bought a membership and plan on going back this summer.
What To See
Science in Motion
An exhibit devoted to transportation and space exploration, you can examine full-size replicas of the Wright Brothers' Flyer, Apollo 1 capsule, and Sputnik. There are also vintage vehicles like an early (1886 early to be exact) Benz motorwagon.
The kids really liked the Wright Flyer and the all the space paraphernalia. It is a great place to walk around with kids of any age-- the younger ones will enjoy simply looking at all the cars and and the helicopter, while the older ones will enjoy the space artifacts and reading a bit more about each invention. The information plaques were pretty good for the most part, and the kids stopped to read quite a few of them.
Big T. Rex replicas are always a kid crowd pleaser and this was no exception. The exhibit is well set up, taking you through time and the fossil record in an easy-to-follow way. The fossils are mostly replicas but the kids didn't seem to mind. They still thought they were cool.
Weinman Mineral Gallery
An exhibit about gems and minerals I thought for sure would be the gallery we could skip, but it turned out to be the surprise hit of the museum. The giant periodic table was my favorite part, and it had samples of many of the elements (such as sulfur crystals) as well as what they were used for (i.e. a Coke can for aluminum).
The planetarium was another huge hit. I would definitely spend the extra ($3.50) for a ticket to one of the shows. We saw 2 shows, the black hole presentation and the live tour of the night sky. Both were good but the black hole presentation fascinated the kids. They are still talking about it a month later.
Hint: The planetarium was a nice, sit-down break after an hour or two of exhibits so buy tickets with that in mind.
Interactive Exhibits Specifically For Kids
Fossil Dig and Gem Panning
You have to walk down a hallway to find this room at the back of the museum but be sure to stop by here. I could have left one of my nephews in here all day. The gem panning room lets kids sift sand and water to fill their very own tiny ziplock bag with gems and is a huge hit as you can imagine.
The fossil dig lets kids pretend to be paleontologists and uncover some small, real fossils in sand. Bonus, they get to keep one of the fossils they find. Don't get too excited because the fossils are mostly shark teeth or preserved shell casts, but again, the kids had such a good time hunting.
I loved both of these exhibits as a fantastic way to get kids to interact and identify minerals and fossils. And I loved that they were included with general admission.
My Big Backyard
A large room for kids to run around in and push buttons is a good addition to any museum in my opinion and this one was no different. Geared more towards the under 10 crowd, my 8 -year old nephews had fun playing with magnets, measuring their reaction times, and watching how their voices changed in wavelength. We ended the day in this exhibit and the only reason we left was because the museum closed.
Outside The Museum
The grounds include the Observatory (only open on Friday nights) and a Solar House (open Thur-Sun 1-4pm but you can walk around and look through the full-length windows any time). The solar house was designed by West Virginia University students for a 2015 DOE competition, and we enjoyed reading the information plaques about the design elements, even if the house was closed while we were there.
Also on the grounds is a 100 ton dump truck, a train, and a rock garden designed for kids to climb on.
Tips and Information
The website recommends 3 hours for your visit, but we spent 6 hours with two 8 year-old boys. I think 4-5 hours is a safe bet with elementary school-aged kids, especially if you are going to eat, see a planetarium show, and go gem panning.
You'll find some chain hotels, gas stations, and a Waffle House at the same interstate exit as Tellus, and a few more fast food chains at the next exit south (290).
Tellus is open 7 days a week from 10am- 5pm and is closed on major holidays. The Solar House is only open Thursday-Sunday from 1-4pm.
Adults $15.95, children 3-17 and students $11.95, seniors $13.95
Memberships range from $55 - $165 for a year and include admission, discount planetarium tickets, and 10% off at the gift store and cafe onsite.
The cafe onsite is fine and very reasonably priced. Grilled cheese sandwiches were about $3 as were hot dogs and hamburgers. We were not planning on eating at the museum, but we spent so long here that the kids were starving. It was a pleasant contrast to most museum cafes and we would eat here again. They don't charge for cups of water either which is one of my biggest pet peeves.
If you are bringing your own food, there is a large picnic pavilion next to the parking lot.
Directions and Parking
Halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga, the museum is about an hour away from both. Tellus is right off of exit 293 on I-75. You can see the museum from the interstate.
The parking lot is large and free, so you shouldn't have any problem finding a spot for your car.
This is a terrific museum with a wonderful planetarium, interesting exhibits, and a fun kids section. If you are looking for an easy and enjoyable day trip for you and your kids from Atlanta or Chattanooga, you should definitely check out the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.