Encounter the Unexpected at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Have you been to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)? It’s right in our own backyard, so you really ought to check it out (and go again, and again, and again). It quite literally does have something for everybody, from baby to adult. You simply can’t go wrong with OMSI—here’s why!

How OMSI Got Started

OMSI has a rich (and long) history. The City Hall Museum, its precursor, was founded in 1896. But then the country went through the Great Depression and several world wars, so it makes sense that a science museum didn’t get a whole lot of resources or support.

But then the museum really began to grow. Ralph Lloyd, a local businessman, hosted a temporary Oregon Museum of Science and Industry inside his home on NE Hassalo Street. This museum was a big deal because it was the very first planetarium in the Northwest, and it included a 20-minute trip to the stars.

By 1955, annual attendance was up to over 25,000, and Lloyd’s house was slated for demolition. But there was a group of people that had a dream about a permanent science museum in Portland.

In 1955, the city leased Washington Park to the museum for one dollar a year. A large group of volunteers laid 102,000 bricks for the new building in just one day. And the city had a permanent science museum, thanks to the dedication of the volunteers who made it happen.

By the mid-1980s, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry had far outgrown its current digs. A $32-million-dollar campaign for over 18 acres of land and a new, state-of-the-art facility was successful. The building opened in 1992, and it currently serves over one million visitors a year.

What OMSI Stands For

OMSI seeks to “inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences, foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and stimulate informed action.”

This non-profit benefits our entire community by helping kids understand science and how it applies to their everyday lives. It encourages them to think outside the box to look for solutions to problems that exist in our world. Institutions like OMSI are invaluable when it comes to showing our children what’s possible with ingenuity, persistence, and a little good luck.

OMSI Exhibits

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has five halls with over two hundred exhibits. Exhibits include satellite images from NASA, a nutrition and fitness center, and one of the largest displays of human fetal development in the world. Innovation station lets you design a flying machine, program a robot, and more!

Special rotating exhibits are part of OMSI’s bread and butter. Right now, OMSI has a special exhibit about the volcano that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii (it will be around until October). The exhibit includes around two hundred artifacts from the ancient Roman city. You can also see the largest collection of full body casts ever presented—human forms that were frozen at the moment of disaster.

Other OMSI Attractions

OMSI has some other pretty cool attractions, as well. Be sure to check them out!


Want to spend the night on a submarine? The Blueback is available for sleep-ins. You can also take a tour to see how the sub’s crew of 85 lived for months. Interested in a tour of the sub’s technical workings? There’s a separate tour for that, too.


If you want an up-close-and-personal view of what’s going on in the sky, OMSI is the place to be. Their 360-degree, full-dome projection of the sky is one of the best views you can find in the Pacific Northwest.

Science Playground

Some of the exhibits at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry aren’t very interesting for the youngest children. But OMSI has a science playground, perfect for kids ages 0 to 6 to explore.

The hands-on water tanks will be a big hit. The museum provides waterproof smocks for children, but you’d be wise to bring a change of clothing for your little ones, as well. There’s also a sand area full of shovels, buckets, and toys that’s perfect for exploration.

There’s also an infant play area, a band area, a discovery lab, and more. So don’t worry that there won’t be anything for your youngest ones to do at OMSI.

Motion Simulator

You can either rocket through the galaxy or dive underneath the waves in the OMSI’s motion simulator if you want a different kind of adventure.


This four-story screen is the biggest movie screen in Portland. The theater has both current movies and more science-related shows about things like dinosaurs.

Camps and Classes

In addition to the main museum, did you know that OMSI has an assortment of camps and classes available for kids of all ages? Classes run from April to September, with the majority of classes taking place during the summer vacation months. What better way to keep learning than to take a fun class like this?

These programs include everything from a cooking class for preschoolers to a backpacking trip to the Canadian Rockies for high schoolers.

Financial aid is available for those who need it, too (though note that financial aid is closed for this year’s session).

Team Science Alliance

Want to join the Thinkeneers, an elite group of problem solvers? Get a shot at solving some real-world challenges as well as get a backstage pass to what the museum is all about.

Sessions go three times throughout the year and are eight to twelve weeks long.

OMSI After Dark

Want to enjoy OMSI in a kid-free environment? Check out OMSI After Dark! The museum has a variety of events for adults. You’ll get to create your own chemical concoctions, learn about the science behind food and drink, or learn about tornadoes or the ocean (depending on the event). And you get to do all of this while enjoying a pint of beer or a glass of wine. Does it get better than that?! We think not.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

We’re so glad to have an organization like OMSI in our community! The services they provide are invaluable, and we encourage you to all get out and explore it. For more blog posts like this one, be sure to sign-up to receive our blog posts in your inbox.