Engineering is Cool at The Works Museum

Winter in Minnesota can seem to stretch on for an eternity, especially when the first snowfall hits as early as November 6. (What’s up with that, Ol’ Man Winter? Can’t you just wait your turn?!).

My kids are excited for the snow right now, but once the temps drop to below zero, and snow fatigue starts setting in, I know they’ll be going as stir crazy as me. For this reason alone, I’m always on the lookout for fun, reasonably inexpensive, close-to-home activities and family-friendly destinations. We know about the “usual” places to burn off energy on a cold winter day, the Science Museum, the Children’s Museum, the indoor waterparks and playlands, but up until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of The Works Museum in Bloomington.

The Works is a nonprofit museum with the mission of “inspiring the next generation of innovators, engineers, and creative problem solvers.” It’s a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-focused discovery center, teaching kids that science and engineering are cool, exciting, and fun. 

My husband, our two kids (6 and 3), and two friends of ours (one who is studying aviation and aerospace at the University of Minnesota) went there a few weeks ago.  After experiencing it first-hand, I can absolutely recommend The Works to other families. The space is smaller than other museums (so you don’t have to worry about losing your kids), it’s modern and clean (they’ve only been open in their current facility for two years), and most importantly, my boys had a blast with the interactive exhibits!

We went right when they opened on a Sunday (noon), and nearly had the place to ourselves. After paying the $8 admission, we explored the main level, spending the most time—and having the most fun—at the K’Nex area. We all sat down to build a K’Nex vehicle and then raced one another down a two-laned ramp. After that we headed over to the Sensor Zone maze, described on the website as a “full-body sensor experience with lights, sounds, and motor-powered obstacles … that challenges you to find the sensors, explore them, and sneak past them if you can.” (Tip: Lie on your back and scooch along the floor.) We had our own music concert/dance party in the Studio Remix room, trying to figure out which pieces of furniture or areas on the rug triggered certain tempos or lights, and the kids loved building houses and barricades in the separate space that was filled with giant foam blocks. My 3-year-old enjoyed knocking the blocks down as much as setting them up.

Our last stop of the day was a visit upstairs, to the 3M-sponsored Design Lab, where we had the opportunity to work on various experiments together (our challenges included a paper cup pom-pom launcher, magnetic bridges, and a wind tube, although the challenges change frequently). We did a lot of exploring, building, discovering, and creating, and had a great time along the way.   

The Works is located at 9740 Grand Ave., not too far from the Mall of America. Admission is $8 per person, children 2 and under are free. Special half-price admission applies to bi-monthly pre-k Mondays. See the website for dates, hours, and details.