A hands-on, state of the art science center is the last thing you'd expect to find in a complex which includes a former grain silo dating back to the 1880s. The Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City is the perfect marriage of old and new, the brainchild of former technology executive Bonnie Baskin. Bonnie set out to create a place to get young people interested in STEM careers.
Located less than an hour's drive from Austin, the Science Mill is the perfect place to spend an afternoon or to include on a weekend trip to the Hill Country. Although the exhibits are well-suited for any age (including adults), I found that the exhibits were especially good for my tween son, who is beginning to age out of many children's museums but still ripe for any opportunities to learn.
When you enter the Science Mill, you receive an Avatar Passport which you can customize at a kiosk and which you can take with you to "check in" to the exhibits. Even after you return home, you can use your passport to log onto the Science Mill's website to check out the online Explorer Zone.
After you get your avatar set up, you can visit all the exhibits and use your avatar passport to "favorite" the ones you like best. Although we enjoyed many of the exhibits, our five favorites were:
Cell Phone Disco, a large chamber which converts electromagnetic waves from your cell phone into a dazzling light show.
Mindball, where a biosensor headband helps you channel your brain waves into a fun game.
The Fractalarium, where vegetables meet math and biology.
Dig In!, a mesmerizing interplay of sand, light, shadows and augmented reality.
Other parts of the Science Mill you should know about are:
- The Young Explorer Zone, an area specially designed for toddler and preschoolers which has a place future engineers can build, a magnetic ball and gear wall and a climbing area.
- The Ladybird Lane Cafe, which is a cut above your average museum fare and features vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes.
- Exhibits outside, including a new Giant Wave Pendulum.
The Science Mill also has periodic special events. Check here for the schedule and more information.
Hours: Wednesday through Saturdays 10am-5pm, Sundays from noon until 5pm
Cost: Adults $8, Ages 2-18 (or with student ID) $6.50, Seniors (65+) and Military $6, Under 2 FREE; summer group rates available by reservation two weeks in advance
Location: 101 S. Ladybird Lane, Johnson City
Phone: (844) 263-6405