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Liberty Science Center: Walk a Skyscraper's Steel Beam

The Touch Tunnel is returning after two-year renovation of the center.

New Jersey has the good fortune of having great destination spots all year long, even ones that work during winter weather. Even in the snow, there are exciting places to go and things to see ... and many of them are under one roof at Jersey City’s Liberty Science Center.

Since opening in 1993, the Liberty Science Center, located in Liberty State Park, has aimed to make learning fun with exhibitions that combine lessons of science with the entertainment of interaction. Mary Meluso, associate director of communications, said these exhibitions are meant to relate directly to the experiences of participants.

“We have a hundred hands-on interactive activities, and nine permanent exhibition galleries, and the center presents science as it exists in everyday life,” she said.

On Feb. 18, a longtime favorite interactive exhibition, the Touch Tunnel, returns to the center. Having been removed in 2005 during the center’s expansive near two-year renovation, the tunnel—a pitch-black, crawl-through maze that forces the participants to rely on their other senses to complete it—returns with more twists and turns built in.

The center also boasts a massive 88-foot IMAX dome screen and features the film "Van Gogh: Brush with Genius" until Feb. 4. Starting on Feb. 5 will be the documentary "Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees."

The combination of indoor activities and educational is why we've selected the Liberty Science Center for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town but in reach, and worth the drive.

DAY TRIPPER DIGEST

Estimated Travel Time:  50 minutes to an hour.

Why it’s Worth the Trip: With the amount of activities available at Liberty Science Center, the family-oriented learning atmosphere and its enclosed nature, it is a destination perfectly suited to entertain during the unpredictable winter weather season.

How to Get There from Here: Take the NJ Turnpike to Exit 14C, staying in right-hand lanes at the toll. The exit to Liberty State Park is immediately after the toll. Take the first right onto Jersey City Boulevard, then make an immediate left to enter the parking lot. Travel time from the Turnpike exit: under 2 minutes. GPS users: Note to use the former address 251 Phillip Street, Jersey City, NJ.

You’ll Probably Get Hungry: Inside the Center is Café Skylines, a dining facility overlooking Manhattan. If that is not your style, restaurants in the area include the Liberty Park Café, the Jolly Chef and Pronto Cena. For a quick meal, try Crown Fried Chicken. These locations are all within a mile-and-a-half of the center, but there are many more restaurants to explore in Jersey City.

While You’re in the Area: At Liberty State Park, which is larger than New York’s Central Park, patrons have access to the grounds as well as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Downtown Jersey City also provides access to shopping and restaurants.

The renovation of Liberty Science Center was completed in 2007. The total cost of the work was $109 million, and resulted in a 20,000-square-foot facility and the means to present more elaborate experiences for patrons. The focus of the activities shifted toward showing how science affects us each day, and how we in turn affect the world around us.

A current exhibition at the center, "Skyscraper! Achievement and Impact," benefits from the changes and explores all the aspects of building and living in tall structures.

The exhibition "goes through planning, architectural design, construction and materials, the sociology of living and working in such buildings,” Meluso said. “Part of this involves the history of the construction of the New York Times building, from the groundbreaking to the ribbon-cutting.”

A steel I-beam has been brought in for this exhibit and raised 18 feet above the floor. With the aid of a safety harness, participants can walk across the beam and get a feel for what it takes to be a construction worker building at great heights.

Liberty Science Center has not forgotten the darker side of the skyscraper experience, as two artifacts from the World Trade Center are also on display—a visual reminder of the kinds of forces that can impact a skyscraper and take them down.

Favorite experiences at the center remain including the Rock Climbing Wall and the Large Soap Bubble demonstration.

Prices for admission vary. It's $11.50 for juniors (2-12) and seniors (62-plus), or $15.75 per adult, for the walk-up exhibitions. It's $7 and $9 for the walk-up shows. Call 201-200-1000 or see the Liberty Science Center website for more details.

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