Oh, The Places You'll Go: The Montshire Museum of Science

By Alexandra Johnson | 1/18/13 8:30am

At Dartmouth, life is so fast-paced during each 10-week term that it often seems there is no time for anything not Dartmouth-related. While the town of Hanover offers mini-escapes for the stressed-out college student, sometimes it takes more than a stack of Lou’s pancakes and a movie at the Nugget to satisfy a craving to just get away for a little while.

That’s where this column comes in. Each week, I will profile an off-campus destination within an hour of Hanover that can serve as inspiration to break out of the Dartmouth bubble, at least for a few hours. Whether you actually visit the places I feature or simply read up on them to find out what lies beyond the small slice of New Hampshire we inhabit, I hope this column demonstrates the value of exploring and appreciating your surroundings.

A stone’s throw from campus, the Montshire Museum of Science is one of the Upper Valley’s true gems. I first ventured to the museum this past fall with Megan, the 10 year-old girl I mentor through Dartmouth’s Big Brother Big Sister program. I’m not sure which of us enjoyed it more.

The museum is interactive and family-oriented, and has enough stations and activities to easily fill up a whole afternoon. Housed in a large, barn-like structure on the banks of the Connecticut River, the museum features two floors of hands-on exhibits.

On the first floor, see baby turtles at the aquarium, make bubbles as large as you are — while simultaneously learning about liquids, surface tension and soap film geometrics, of course — and discover how the air keeps planes in the sky.

Head up to the second floor to observe bees at work in their hive, play around with gears to explore speed and movement and inspect various fossils from over the years. A set of stairs from the second floor leads up to the museum’s observation tower, boasting views of the river and the surrounding area.

Megan and I were at the Montshire on a chilly day, so we didn’t take advantage of all the outdoor exhibits. The museum’s property is huge, featuring 100 acres of trails and outdoor exhibits. During the warm months you can channel your inner beaver and experiment with dam building in the outdoor science park, then wander over to the human sundial to tell time using your own body.

Clearly, there is plenty of entertainment at the Montshire. Mere minutes from Dartmouth, there really is no excuse not to go. If only all museums were this fun!

The Montshire Museum of Science is located at 1 Montshire Road, Norwich, VT.
Hours: daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., $12 admission for adults, 802-649-2200

Alexandra Johnson