Science Means Fun at Scientopia in Napa

Do your kids need a place to play out of the rain? At Scientopia Discovery Center in Napa, they can learn while having fun and even bring the family reptile along.

Does the thought of science conjure the image of a frizzy-haired, mustachioed scientist in a white lab coat, happily working amid a sea of beakers and Bunsen-burners?

You can forget the stereotypes at Scientopia Discovery Center near downtown Napa, where parents bring their kids for play time that comes with an educational bonus. 

"It's the only place in town like it. It's great, especially on a rainy day," said Napa mom Angela Nelson. 

Longtime Napan Heather Dodge's two boys, Britton and Ethan, were busy in the Castle Pretend area of Scientopia Sunday.

"When I take them to Scientopia, they just play for hours and hours," Dodge said.

For owner and manager Marcy Deeds, that's all part of the plan.

On arriving in Napa 13 years ago, she and her engineer husband noticed a lack of engaging activities for the wee ones of the valley.

"There was nothing for little folk to do," said Deeds. 

In addition to a play area stocked with colorful and engaging toys and settings, Scientopia offers more specific play-centered education in areas such as crafting, scientific experimenting and self-expression.

Current exhibits cover a wide range of scientific interests, including solar power, simple machines like levers and pulleys, basic physics and gravity experiments and a Van de Graaff generator demonstrates the shocking nature of electricity. 

The Pee Wee Reptile Club meets monthly with "Joe the reptile guy," as he's affectionately called, brings a selection of his scaly friends including snakes, lizards and frogs and teaches eager youngsters about their behavior and traits. BYOR (Bring Your Own Reptile) is not only allowed, but encouraged.

Scientopia also offers camps and special events like play dates for military families.

"We try to put out a quality product for people," said Deeds. "But it is getting expensive." 

In a spate of dreary rainy days like we've just had, attendance spikes as kids and their parents seek out fun and meaningful activities for their young ones, Deeds explains.

But "when the weather is nice, people are outside. We need people to come in all year," said Deeds. 

Scientopia Discovery Center's winter hours are Thursday through Friday 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. through 3:00 p.m. It is also available for parties. Scientopia is located at 1785 Tanen Street, phone number (707) 259-1559. Its Web site is scientopiadiscoverycenter.com.

Basic rates are $10 a day/$40 a month for the first child and $8/$35 for siblings, for all-day access; $7.50 a day for any child after 4 p.m., classes excluded; free admission with siblings for babies younger than 1, or $5 for a baby with no siblings. Adults pay no admission. "Prepaid pay passes" knock a dollar off each visit: $45 for five play days, $90 for 10. 

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