Science attractions

Permanent training courses or groups are not the forte of ZiL, the largest culture palace in Moscow. Diverse festivals, lectures and one-time master classes for children any age are – and you do not have to sign up in advance. A long time ago DK ZiL (ZiL Palace of Culture) was the culture palace for the employees of AMO ZiL Factory, and it continues to arrange concerts, dancing and tea parties for retired AMO veterans, where they share recollections from their past life of hard work. The ZiL "lectorium" for children, teens and young adults seems to cover every subject imaginable, from hip-hop history to the habits of early humans to the string theory. Science festivals are held here quite frequently, to which end chemical and physical labs are deployed, where kids will examine dragonfly larvae, observe snowflakes through a microscope, and do other exciting things. The DK ZiL building is a constructivist landmark created by the brothers Leonid and Alexander Vesnin, erected in 1937 on the grounds of the gentry necropolis of the neighbouring Saint Simon's Monastery. The children's bookshop at ZiL entrance has some rare, hand-picked books for sale.
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This science centre for kids, located in Sokolniki Park, gives very informative lectures on astronomy, physics and chemistry, as well as exciting master classes, where kids get to grow crystals, make natural toothpaste, or observe a table-top volcanic eruption. One can send a group of kids on a scientific exploration mission, where they will feel like participants of an intergalactic journey. There are more things to do outside InnoPark, which sits in the middle of a beautiful old park, like stand-up scooter riding or feeding the swans.

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This is a museum of science and technology for children, demonstrating the laws of physics plainly enough for the youngest visitors to understand: why a spring rebounds, how the clouds form, what blood pressure is, and so on. The exposition takes three floors, split into sections like Acoustics, Optics, Magnetism, Electricity, Water Room, Puzzles, Mechanics and Space. There is a spherical film theatre, too. Visitors are allowed and, in fact, encouraged to touch, rotate, take apart, rock, and otherwise examine any exhibits. Among the exhibits here you will find a miniature hydroelectric power plant, the cabin of a real truck, a heartbeat drum, a laser pendulum, a transparent grand piano that plays with light, a drum kit, a labyrinth of mirrors and laser labyrinth, a 3D game of noughts and crosses, a miniature hoisting crane, pneumatic mail system, laser harp, mini-tornado, soap bubble room, air gun, an air cushion you can ride, "magnetic" room where the floor is tilted 30 degrees, and a multitude of other curios. You can make sand move with the power of sound in the Acoustics Room, and draw with light arrows on a white wall in the Electricity Room. The Water Room is a huge cascade installation with floodgates, vortices and pumps. Here you can navigate a rowboat by changing the force and direction of the water flow. Every exhibit has a detailed explanation next to it, but the young assistants at Experimentanium will be happy to provide further information. Experimentanium offers excursions, lectures and master classes, for which visitors sign up on the museum's website. There is a shop of scientific and intellectual toys, and a café.

The Moscow Planetarium was designed by architects Mikhail Barshch and Mikhail Sinyavsky, and construction was completed in 1929. The parabolic dome with a diameter of 25 metres (82 feet), which thickness does not exceed 12 centimetres (5 inches), stands over the 1,440-seat auditorium. It was the first such installation in the Soviet Union. In 2011, following a lengthy reconstruction in accordance with Alexander Anisimov's design, the whole building was raised by six meters to accommodate the technical rooms. The rare Carl Zeiss projector made in the 1920s specifically for the Moscow Planetarium was replaced with a digital one. Today this is one of the favourite recreation spots both for the city residents and for tourists who come to Moscow with their kids.

The Planetarium, officially a scientific and educational institution, is not that different from an amusement park with its mind-boggling Large and Small Stellar Rooms, Urania Museum, the interactive Lunarium Museum, Sky Park, observatory and 4D cinema. It is advisable to plan your visit beforehand, as it is not easy to orientate oneself spontaneously amid the Planetarium's miracles. Perhaps the best place to start is the show in the Large Stellar Room. Tickets are available online. One hour before the show, ticket holders will be taken on a tour of the Urania Museum, which is of two rooms. In the first room, they will tell you about the history of the Planetarium and of space exploration. In the second room, the composition of the Solar System is displayed on a tilted ramp, with correctly arranged planet semi-spheres. Planet globes are also on display along with a unique collection of meteorite fragments.

In the Large Stellar Room, which has the biggest starry dome in the world, they will show educational video projections about telescopes, astronomers, the Solar System, the mysteries of Mars and of the Universe, and certain earthly phenomena, such as volcanoes. The programmes change, and updates are posted on the Planetarium website. The chairs in the theatre house are almost like beach chairs as people have to look up at the dome ceiling. The best seats are in the middle and in the back rows. After the show, the ticket holders are invited to proceed to the Astro-Pad of the Sky Park. On display here is a collection of quaint old and contemporary astronomical observation devices, and there are two observatories: Large and Small. Visitors are allowed to look through the powerful telescopes, but only when the sky is clear.

It is better to buy the ticket onsite for the interactive Lunarium Museum. The ticket is good all day, and you can leave and return any number of times. The exhibits are arranged in two rooms – Astronomy and Physics and Getting to Know Space – on two floors. In the first room, the laws of physics are illustrated in a graphic and creative way. Here you can compose your own space music on a sophisticated synthesizer, and you can generate some clouds entirely on your own. The second room imitates a space station of many sections, each with its own exciting adventure, e.g. saving the Earth from asteroids, comparing observation data from different telescopes, writing a letter to aliens, and piloting a Mars rover. Europe's largest Foucault Pendulum is also here, offering proof every hour that the Earth does actually go round.

In the comfortable 4D theatre they will show some light-hearted short films on space subjects, or take you on a virtual space rollercoaster ride. The Planetarium is next door to the Moscow Zoo, so if you think you can do both, you might as well buy a combined ticket and see the stars and the beasts the same day.
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When the historic building of the Polytechnic Museum closed for reconstruction, a part of the museum moved to VDNKh. The exposition at VDNKh is entitled Russia Does It On Its Own, displaying achievements of Russian scientific thought. Among the exhibits are the radio receiver that belonged to Alexander Popov, the inventor of radio, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's rocket plane, Vladimir Lukianov's hydro-integrator (water computer), and other amazing inventions, as well as a video course on the invention of the atomic bomb. Exhibitions are held here from time to time, for example, Inventing the Bicycle, or 100 Gadgets that Changed the World. Tour guides are available, and scientific master classes are held periodically at the VDNKh pavilion.

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This cheerful interactive science museum is devoted to all living beings. The sensory perceptions of a kitten, olfactory sensations of man, how Godzilla's or a zombie's body would work… the museum will illuminate all this and much more. The exhibits are all exciting practical aids, which can and should be palpated. For example, the exhibit "Sol" ("Salt") shows how much salt a human tear contains, and there's a measurement instrument you can use to see if you can out-howl a howler monkey. Exhibits are moving and blinking, kids are screaming… What is going on? We thought this was a museum! Excursions and master classes are given here all the time, where you will be, for instance, invited to examine water fleas from some swamp in the north of Moscow under a microscope, or dared to tell Russians from Americans in a bunch of photographs. The museum has a shop that sells scientific toys, and a café with a good selection of fresh cakes and pies.

Evrika Park is an educational complex, offering clubs and classes to satisfy all needs and tastes. In the natural sciences section, kids learn to tell acids from alkali, grow multicoloured crystals, and train animals. At the DIY Cartoon Kitchen, trainees get so good at cartoon animation they will make a cartoon in just 1.5 hours using only matches, semolina, modelling clay, and anything else they can find. Other classes at Evrika Park will explain how planes fly, what carnivorous plants eat, reveal the secrets of sleuthing, and illuminate many other things. The titles of the programmes are self-evident: Life Under the Microscope, Chemistry: Miraculous Transformations, Mysteries of Sight, Sleuth of Genius, Trick Academy, The Physics of a Miracle, Mathematics: How Man and Machine Calculate, How Planes Fly, Predator Plants, etc. Each programme is 1.5 to 2 hours long. The time-table is on the website, and you can sign up online. The youngest kids (4 or older) are welcome to attend robotics classes. In the section named Biopark, kids study animals and plants and take care of them.