Fistful of fun

Did you know that the human tongue has 10,000 taste buds or that flies have such buds on their feet? Those are just two of the odd facts you will learn when visiting the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. This 44,000-square-foot space (which is constructed in part from an old fire house) at 220 E. Ann St. has more than 250 interactive exhibits that teach kids of all ages (including Mom and Dad) about science, nature, health, technology and more.

The Hands-On Museum makes seemingly complex concepts simple, such as how e-mail works and electricity is generated. But a favorite exhibit is a toilet with exposed plumbing that enables kids to see how it operates, says Pam Smith, public affairs director for the museum.

The Hands-On Museum, which opened in 1982, has become a popular destination for 200,000 visitors annually. To keep the experience fresh, the museum continually creates new exhibits. It recently installed a 1920s general store, complete with an antique cash register, phone, radio and a checkerboard (another favorite hands-on activity). Also new to the museum is a “measure up” exhibit that allows kids to measure their muscle strength, heart rate and reaction time and provides them with a report card. And posted throughout the building are fun facts. For instance, “Did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards or upside down?”

Although just about anyone will get a kick out of the nifty hands-on experience, preschool through sixth-grade-age kids are likely to enjoy it most. They can scale a rock wall, encase themselves in a giant bubble, sit inside a real ambulance and explore more than 250 creative experiences in all. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $6 for children 2 and older; children under 2 are admitted free. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information go to or call 734-995-5439.

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