When parents in the Triangle contemplate a quick day trip, they often head east - to the beach!
But, just 90 minutes west of the Triangle is another great family road trip destination: The Greensboro Science Center, which offers families a growing number of reasons to visit - and come back. The science center with sprawling indoor and outdoor exhibits opened in the 1950s and has since embarked on a variety of ambitious projects in the past decade.
Here are just a few:
In 2008, the Omnisphere Theater opened. It's a full-dome, high-resolution theater with 3D and laser capabilities, according to the museum's website, and, right now, is showing movies about space adventures and underwater creatures.
In 2011, the HealthQuest exhibit opened, teaching visitors about how our bodies work. My kids and I spent at least an hour inside this innovative space where a giant nose sneezes and (kids love this), you can hear the sound of somebody passing gas.
In 2013, the center opened the Carolina Sciquarium, a 22,000-square-foot aquarium where you can touch sting rays, watch penguins, follow a fishing cat and study creatures in a 90,000 gallon shark reef exhibit.
In 2015, it opened SkyWild, an outdoor treetop adventure course with a series of obstacles high up in the trees for ages 8 and up. SciPlay Bay, an updated play space for younger visitors, also opened. My younger daughter really enjoyed the interactive talk with Tai, an animated version of the center's popular red panda.
And, in March 2017, the center opened an expansion of its aquarium, which was renamed the Wiseman Aquarium.
Erica Brown, the museum's marketing manager tells me that the original aquarium was hugely popular, drawing record crowds. "But," she said, "the feedback we got from the public was, 'where is the fish?'"
So, inside the new and expanded aquarium, visitors will find lots of fish, including barracuda in a mangrove swap exhibit and colorful tuskfish and wrasse in the rainbow reef. A kelp forest features anemones and sea cucumbers. And, you'll also see a couple of my favorites - seahorses and jellyfish.
The aquarium is dimly lit and, along with the aquatic creatures, features giant touchscreens that lets visitors learn more about the animals in the tanks and the habitats where they live.
And the center isn't stopping at the expanded aquarium.
In September, the center will open its re-imagined dinosaur gallery, Prehistoric Passages: Realm of Dragons. And, earlier this year, it embarked on a massive plan to double the size of its zoo by 2020.
When we go, my family's favorite stops include seeing the creatures in the aquarium, looking for the tigers in the zoo, listening to all kinds of bodily functions in HealthQuest, catching a movie in the theater and petting the goats in the farmyard. You also can add on to your visit, taking part in a penguin encounter, where you may get to actually pet a penguin, or getting a behind the scenes look at the aquarium.
In other words, a trip to the center is well worth the drive. And, if you decide to return next year, it's likely you'll find something completely new.
The center is open year-round. Admission to the aquarium, museum and zoo is $12.50 to $13.50, depending on the visitor's age. (SkyWild, the movies and other add ons are extra). Kids 2 and under are free. You could easily spend most of a day here.
Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more road trips, check our road trips page.