Noah's Ark at the Skirball Center

One of the things I missed the most when I was a student at Codesmith was weekend outings with my family. While I was able to carve out quality time every day and every week, big outings disappeared. With me out of school, going somewhere special was top priority, and Noah's Ark at the Skirball Center had long been at the top of my list of places I wanted to take my son.

Noah's Ark is pitched as an interactive exhibit showing the Ark and the animals in it, but just calling it "interactive" really sells the whole experience short. There's nothing you can't touch and play with, which makes every moment fun.

a red owl

The exhibit starts with a few of the animals, two by two, and they're amazing nearly-steampunk creations, made from reclaimed trash and other discarded materials — yet entirely lifelike. They drew us all in, immediately.

A foreboding, gray light fills the beginning of the exhibit, calling forth the desolate cold that must have come at the beginning of a storm that could flood the earth. You can pull levers that make the sound of rain, spin a dynamo to create lightning, and even make a clockwork coyote howl. My son couldn't stop pumping water into a diorama of an ark floating above a flooding landscape:

pointing up at the lightning

And then you turned around, and the Ark itself towered over you, almost three stories tall, animals poking out everywhere, and the looming (exciting!) dread turns to joy. Who can resist a giraffe like this, or a life-sized carved camel?

Noah's ark, three stories tall, animals' heads poking out

Walk inside and there's a crank that you can use to make that giraffe's head bob up and down. The kids can play at a table of food, or clamber on a turtle, or climb inside a storehouse of food. Best of all, there's a crawlway of planks, ladders, nets, and bridges all around the boat, for the kids to climb on:

While your child runs around up there like a maniac, you can follow them around with a camera like I did — a wee bit claustrophobic, frankly — or you can relax down below, in, say, an ape chair, surrounded by palm fronds and big, friendly ape hands:

When they're done, if they're not tired out, take them out the back exit of the Ark. There the light turns bright and golden, as the sun rises and a rainbow covers the back wall — the rains have broken and the flood has receded. Kids can play in an exhibit on recycling, and, most spectacularly, the whole clan can join in a drum circle featuring percussion instruments from around the world. Two friendly docents lead a gaggle of families in making exciting music every 90 minutes. Declan loved it, and so did a little friend he made!

Come enjoy yourself at Noah's Ark, while the kids work off their energy. We'll be back for sure!