CAPITAL DISTRICT – Something about the cold and snow helps insulate, and amplify, every sound children make while indoors.
“Excite radius” is the scientific term for that phenomena. Unlike “cabin fever,” which implies one is suffering from an illness, excite radius is a psychological condition best described as being acutely aware of the stark variance of sounds. Parents are most susceptible to this condition, and are credited with the name: The translation from Latin is “stir crazy.”
As winter drags on, some parents may be keenly aware of that excite radius as they desperately try to come up with new ways to keep their little ones entertained.
“We have gone bowling, played laser tag, there are bounce houses and the trampoline places, children’s museums. Road trips if the weather is nice.” said Kristin Crosby-Miller, of Scotia.
Kim Jess, interim director of marketing at the Museum of Innovation and Science (miSci) in Schenectady, empathizes with those parents. The museum plays host to children nearly every day, either through school field trips or visits with family. Founded in 1934, miSci offers a multimedia experience for visitors of all ages.
“If [families] haven’t been here before, this time of year is the perfect opportunity to visit,” said Jess.
Parents may notice the open floor plan of the museum, and how its acoustics are so much more pleasant than their own living room. The expansive layout houses several exhibits that cater to an interactive experience, allowing children to explore everyday science and technology. One exhibit includes a miniature grocery store, complete with cash register scanners. Children and adults are also encouraged to hang out in the museum’s play area, where families can build with Legos or explore the play of currents on boats at the water table. There is also a giant bubble machine, allowing people to observe the structure of bubbles while standing inside of one.
The focus on practical knowledge encourages the curious of all ages to look skyward. The wonders of space take center stage at the museum’s Dudley Observatory. The historic observatory moved to miSci in 2013, expanding the education program to astronomy, aided by astronomer Dr. Valerie Rapson. The Suits-Bueche Planetarium houses the only GOTO Star Projector in the Northeast and is an official NASA Space Place. MiSci brings the stars closer to home through the Challenger Learning Center of the Capital Region, a state-of the-art STEM teaching tool offering simulated space missions to school classes, community groups, work teams, scout troops, birthday celebrations, camp-ins, private parties and team-building events.
Older children working on research papers can use miSci’s library of information. The museum’s archive includes an extensive collection of photographs gathered by General Electric, totaling more than 1.6 million prints and negatives. The archive comprises more than 3,500 cubic feet of historic materials and more than 15,000 objects relating to the history of science and technology. The museum also owns an 1878 Edison tinfoil, the second oldest documented Edison tinfoil recording, the oldest playable American voice.
“No one goes away disappointed,” said Jess.
In addition, MiSci offers Science Zone, with weekly hands-on activities and challenges; Saturday Science Zone activities are sponsored by National Grid. For more information, visit www.misci.org.
The science of speed can be observed from behind the wheel of a racecar on an indoor track in Guilderland.
K1 Speed has 40 locations countrywide, and while its 30,000-square-foot Crossgates Commons site is the smallest in the franchise, the thrills are big.
“First-timers approach it as a festival, bumper-cars atmosphere,” said K1 Speed spokesman Michael Renus. Each of the custom-built cars are equipped with 20-horse-powered electric motors. The adult models are capable of speeds up to 45 mph. The junior models have a maximum speed of 20 mph. By the time customers are done with their first race, Renus said, their competitive nature takes over.
K1 Speed caters to private parties and corporate events. Races can be customized to include friends in a private grand prix of up to nine racers. There are no “hard-and-fast” age limits, said Renus, but there is a height requirement.
All drivers go though a training experience before hitting the track. Adult car drivers must be at least 4’10”. Despite height limitations, kids have earned respect on the racetrack.
“The kids do better than the adults,” said Renus. “The adults are the ones who get in trouble. … The kids, they listen. Generally, the kids are the better drivers.”
If the competitive juices between parent and child are ready to simmer over, you may be obligated to drive — safely and within the speed limit — to Zero Gravity Entertainment in Albany.
This corner of the city whets the appetite of would-be action heroes. Through the doors, you’re welcomed by arcade games of many types, reminiscent of the ’80s where everyone tried to leave their mark with their three initials next to the high score. Unfortunately, Mom and Dad may not find Galaga, but there is still a chance to redeem themselves from their defeat on the racetrack.
Zero Gravity’s main attraction, however, is its 5,000-square-foot laser tag arena. Gear up with harness and gun as you take to the black-lit battlefield donning a codename like Optimus, Punisher or Snake Eyes. This may not be the activity of choice for those sensitive to gun violence. However, the violence is limited to “lasers” temporarily turning off your opponent’s equipment. It’s a fun exercise that allows families to work together, or against, each other.
The battlefield has multiple levels, allowing players to follow strategy as their team takes to higher ground or works together to take control of the bridge that spans across the grounds. Up to 40 players (20 players a team) can play at one time, so the action can be exhilarating.
Due to the excitement of laser tag, and its dark environment, Zero Gravity recommends children be no younger than 8 years old.
Comic book fans may want to take note of Zombie Planet next door, too.
Another option for fun physical activity could involve Sky Zone in Menands.
Sky Zone boasts of being the “world’s first indoor trampoline park.” Coining the phrase “fun fitness,” it mixes physical exercise with the fun of trampolines. And, who doesn’t like trampolines.
With that said, parents are required to sign a waiver before allowing kids to participate. Nervous parents may take solace in the knowledge that each station is manned with chaperones for safety, and there are also several television sets across the facility with safety videos on a continuous loop to remind children how to behave. You can brush up on more about Sky Zone by visiting www.skyzone.com.
For a milder jumping experience, check out Pump’N’Jump in the lower level of Crossgates Commons. It’s an indoor arena filled with inflatable bounce houses, obstacle courses, giant slides and games perfect for the preschool crowd, although anyone 2-12 is welcome. Visit www.pumpnjump.com to learn more.
When all else fails, and presuming there is snow on the ground, you can always bundle up the kids and head for the hills with a sled. Just, for your sake, don’t forget the hot coffee. (It’s said to be a cure for excite radius.)
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