Wandering through the new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami is an odyssey. From its yellow-submarine-like elevators, which take guests to varying levels of a 500,000-gallon aquarium, to its 30-foot-long feathered dinosaur, the sights in the open-air space are other-worldly.
So it's no surprise that many locals, as they trek through the three-building science complex today for its grand unveiling to the public, have wide eyes and gaping mouths. The more you explore, the more curious things become. For instance, taking a trip to the museum's fourth floor, a level known as "Vista," not only offers sweeping views of downtown Miami and the bay, but also allows guests to get up close and personal with some of Florida's strangest residents (besides Miamians).
In one massive pool, shark fins cut through the surface of the churning water. Beyond Jurassic Park-style doors, guests walk through a netted aviary, where birds fly overhead to soak up the sun in an enclosure surrounded by mangroves. In another "habitat," juvenile alligators — which will be released into the wild in about a year — blink their hazel eyes as they wade in the water.
Taking the elevators to journey a few leagues deeper, guests come face-to-face with the museum's eye: a 31-foot-wide oculus lens that allows them to peer into the tank holding the bearers of the black-tipped fins they saw on the Vista level.
Visitors weren't the only ones entranced with the glide of multicolored fish overhead. Wandering the exhibits of Frost Science has also been a mesmerizing experience for its employees, who also see the museum come alive with the starry-eyed guests.
"These past few days have been exhilarating, watching the community’s excitement around the museum and hearing laughter fill the building. It is incredibly rewarding and inspiring for all of us at Frost Science," Joseph A. Quiñones, the director of marketing and communications, tells New Times. "The former museum location held a special place in the hearts of so many South Floridians. This new campus is building upon the museum’s storied legacy and will continue to inspire the scientists of tomorrow."
Not only is the museum's new planetarium future-focused, but its showings are out of this world. In the film Asteroid: Mission Extreme, which is narrated by Sigourney Weaver, visitors ascend to the stars — it feels as though you're on a rocket ship journeying through space — while they learn about the various ways humans might mine cosmic debris in the foreseeable future.
Just beside the planetarium is an exhibit dedicated to teaching locals how laser lights are produced. (This is distinct from the laser light shows that will begin June 2 in the planetarium.) In the exhibit, Frost employees work their magic to create mesmerizing laser demonstrations. They illuminate a hazy room via alternating patterns of cherry-red, violet, and cyan beams of light.
In a way, this illumination exemplifies Frost Science's mission: to inspire and connect people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy science and technology, particularly as a means to better understand our world — and universe, for that matter. The new space is bound to spark conversations about all aspects of science: from astronomy to environmental issues and from constantly advanced robots to the ethics behind scientific endeavors.
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There are still some things we'd like to see at Frost Science in the coming months as it assumes its prime position in the Magic City's cultural scene. One of them is for the exterior of the concrete planetarium to be illuminated at night, as is shown in renderings. Another is for the proposed net sculpture to be hung over Knight Plaza, just atop the small avenue that connects the art and science museums. If realized, that artwork would be Museum Park's crown jewel.
Nevertheless, Frost Science is worthy of the buzz surrounding it. As the state's premier destination for all things related to science, it will inspire many locals to reach for the stars. Frankly, it would be a disservice to buy a $28 one-day ticket when for $65 you could snag yearlong access to the museum. Treat. Yo. Self.
New Times' Best of Miami party will take place at the new Frost Science Museum Thursday, June 22, from 8 to 11 p.m. Visit newtimesbestofmiami.com.