I’ve been hearing for months now, “Mom, when are you going to take us to SPARK?”
My children visited the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention last spring with their dad and have been looking forward to a return visit since then.
So we finally ventured out on a blustery November afternoon to Bay Street in downtown Bellingham, which is becoming a hub for arts and dining. (In fact, we started our day’s adventure around the corner at Rocket Donuts, a 1950’s sci-fi-themed doughnut shop.)
Exhibits at SPARK feature some of the earliest experiments to discover and understand electricity along with all sorts of collections of antique communications equipment, including military radios, phonographs, some of the earliest television sets and telephone switchboards. I was fascinated by an early, circa 1880, stock market ticker, one of Thomas Edison’s many inventions.
The museum features several hands-on opportunities: Take a peek through a stereoscope, experiment with electricity, see sound waves or make music with a Theramin.
Upstairs, kids can get even more hands-on discovery time with a room devoted to them. My kids loved the old-fashioned typewriter, a collection of magnets and simply creating mosaics with little plastic tiles. All of the activities are fairly low-tech, and I marveled at how, with a museum full of gadgets, they were easily amused for an hour with these simple toys. I reluctantly had to pull them away before our parking meter ran out.
On weekends, visitors to the museum can catch the MegaZapper, one of the largest Tesla coil “lightning machines” in the country. (Museum staff recommends children younger than 5 skip this show – it’s safe, but quite loud.)
The museum staff is full of passionate employees and volunteers who are excited to show off the collections and encourage visitors to interact with the exhibits. They made our visit that much more enjoyable.
While we were there, visitors came in every age range, from grandparents with toddlers, to a college-age couple on a date, to grade-schoolers; and everyone appeared to be having fun.
Now I know why my kids were so insistent that I come see SPARK for myself.
If you go
The SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children under 11. For more information, visit sparkmuseum.org/visit/
More rainy-day fun in downtown Bellingham
When the weather finally turns too cold and wet to brave the outdoors, there are plenty of indoor options in the downtown area to amuse (and educate!) the family.
Just around the corner from SPARK on Holly Street, is Mindport. Part art galley, part interactive exhibits, Mindport uniquely merges art and science with exhibits that range from music to mechanics. mindport.org
Whatcom Museum FIG
The FIG, short for Family Interactive Gallery, has activity areas for the tiniest of tots (0-3) to adults who love to play. Kids can play dress up, build things, dance and more at 15 different interactive stations. The FIG studio is the place for creating your own museum-worthy art. whatcommuseum.org/fig-about