UPDATED FEBRUARY 2014
The Leonardo in Salt Lake City, Utah is a museum that many local families have not yet discovered, but they should. The Leonardo is “a contemporary museum that explores the unexpected ways that science, technology, art, and creativity connect.” Our children were not enthusiastic when we first told them about it, and my husband and I worried that our children might be a little young for The Leonardo. But three hours later, we had to drag them out.
Two of my family's favorite areas of the museum are the Tinkering Studio and the art studio, known as Lab @ Leo. During our first visit to the Tinkering Studio, my children learned how to build cams inside a cardboard box. The simple machinery made their art, created in Lab @ Leo, dance above the box.
In Lab @ Leo, a working artist is often on hand to answer questions and offer inspiration. Works of art are created from recycled supplies like cardboard boxes, books and plastic bags as well as traditional art supplies. Every time we visit The Leonardo, my children create a different project at the Tinkering Studio and see the work of a new local artist at Lab @ Leo.
We have enjoyed exhibits on DNA, prosthetics, and the one that my family loves most, animation. We have all taken a turn inside the motion capture studio, watching an animated figure on the screen mimic our own movements. My daughter likes standing in front of a green screen to forecast the weather on TV. It's funny to watch her put on a green t-shirt, provided by The Leonardo, and disappear.
There are several computer stations in the same area where kids can create art or short animated films. We like visiting when The Leonardo is not crowded, because my children always want to spend much more time than the 15-minute limit at the animation stations.
One of my favorite parts of the Leonardo is the huge animated chandelier in the lobby, known as the Hylozoic Veil. It's beautiful and fascinating and you'll only notice its subtle movements if you pay attention.
On our first visit to the museum, I had to do most of the work in the Tinkering Studio for my children because it was more sophisticated than what they could do on their own. My five-year-old had fun at The Leonardo, but I don't think he enjoyed it as much as my eight-year-old because he needed help with everything except the building blocks. Now age seven, he enjoys the museum more.
Exhibits and activities change frequently at the Leonardo, so visitors can return often without having the same experience twice. The Leonardo also hosts an adult-oriented Leonardo After Hours series on Friday evenings, which looks like fun for a different kind of date night.
The Leonardo regularly hosts traveling exhibits such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Mummies of the World and Leonardo da Vinci. Our family enjoys exhibits like these and the member discounts made it worthwhile to purchase a family membership to The Leonardo.
The Leonardo is on the same block as the Salt Lake City Main Library, which is also a fun place to visit, even if you don't check anything out. It has a large children's library and a rooftop garden.
Good to know
Where: 209 East 500 South, Salt Lake City. There is metered parking nearby and an underground pay lot under the block. You can also take Trax. The Red Line to the University of Utah stops on the opposite side of the block.
When: The Leonardo is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. On Fridays, the museum is open until 10:00 p.m. for Leonardo After Hours.
- Adults: $9
- Seniors: $8
- Youth (12-17): $8
- Children (6-11): $7
- Children (0-5): Free
Traveling exhibits cost extra. Admission is usually around $20 per adult, and includes access to all of the exhibits at the Leonardo. If you do not want to see the special exhibit, you can enjoy the rest of the museum for the regular prices.
How Long: 2-4 hours
Amenities: There is a cafe and gift shop inside The Leonardo. There are many other dining options within walking distance or a short Trax ride away.