Museum of Exploration and Innovation MOXI
||Santa Barbara, CA|
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The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation, or MOXI, on lower State Street, is a beautiful museum with tons of things for kids to do. It is state of the art, and quite incredible for a mid-sized town like Santa Barbara! The architecture of the museum is just gorgeous, Gaudi-esque like much of the new construction in downtown Santa Barbara.
When you first walk in you immediately see a giant guitar! Kids can strum the thick strings or walk inside the guitar and feel the vibrations. There is a giant litup globe- kids can make pictures of their hands on it, by heat detection. There are other interesting exhibits with lights and shapes to explore, including a reactable, which is a real musical instrument. A table with super strong magnets is a fun place for all kids.
The first floor opens up to the outside, where kids can load fluffy balls into clear pipes where they are sucked up high into the room. There is an incredibly high exhibit where circles light up as balls come down. A rocket launch exhibit also reaches high into the sky. Another exhibit has a spinning wheel and you can put objects on it and try to make them stay up. Beware the wind tunnels outside. If you spend too long near them you get sore ears, much worse than after a rock concert. I was bummed I let my child play at them for so long after I realized this was happening to our ears.
Part of the architecture upstairs is a huge color wheel which catches the light by the window. Kids can turn the wheel and blend colors. On the second floor there is also a huge station where kids can design cars for maximum speed and then race them down three tracks. At the top of the stairs are wheels with light-up spokes that are interesting to watch. A popular area is a spot where you can walk making funny gestures and see yourself in shape form on screens above you. A similar spot is an enclosed area where you can jump and then watch a video of how high you jumped. There is a wall with tracks you can shape and then roll a metal ball down. One exhibit has a large ball above you, and you appear to move it with your thoughts, as you press your head against some kind of invention. The allosphere is a cinema where you can watch shapes and listen to avant garde music by a UCSB music professor, while wearing 3D glasses. The views from the second floor windows are lovely, of the Norfolk pines and California palms outside by the train station.
The third level is a rooftop area which is exquisite, and offers 360 degree views of Santa Barbara, including views of the ocean. You will need your sunglasses up here. I can imagine you could have an incredible party here, possibly with colored lights shining through the fogged glass floor. Many of the exhibits are on wheels and can be moved around. There are two huge orange sound deflectors. And there are bright orange umbrellas, plus gorgeous curvy architecture. On hot days kids can enjoy the water play station. A rotunda with exciting arches has telescopes which kids can look through, including a heat detector one. Kids can make thunder and rain sounds at one station. Unfortunately, as if your ears haven't had enough abuse, there are three wind tubes up here, attached to the wall, that are incredibly loud. It is hard to even talk over them when someone has pressed the button to make them start. Come on a weekday if you can, in the hope that kids won't be pushing the wind tunnel buttons on the first and third floor too often.
After your visit, it is fantastic to walk across State Street to E. Yanonali Street, or the Funk Zone, and check out the cafes with ivy-covered walls. What a nice atmosphere! You can grab an above-par pastry at Helena Ave Bakery, which is hard to spot until you see its "Food-To-Go" sign outside its door. Try the berry galette- wow!
Another nice place to walk to is Stearns Wharf, which is always a winner.
Another great museum to visit with kids in Santa Barbara is the Sea Center, on Stearns Wharf.
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MOXI is located at 125 State Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101, call (805) 770-5000. The closest parking is at the Amtrak train station, which is free for the first 75 minutes and then $1.50 an hour. The address for the train station parking is 209 State Street.
Open daily 10-5. Members are allowed early entry at 8:30am on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for children aged 3-12, and free for children aged 2 and under. Children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult. A family membership costs $130/year.
Helena Avenue Bakery, 131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101, call (805) 880-3383.
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Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.