Tri-Cities For All: Accessible STEM Activities

Pictured: Visitors of all mobility enjoy The REACH Museum in the Tri-Cities.

The Ice Age Floods may have built the landscape of the Tri-Cities, but science and technology made this region into an innovative hub with incredible STEM attractions open to all!

Time travel at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, explore deep space in Washington’s largest planetarium, visit the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) where Nobel Prize-winning research was conducted proving Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, or learn the region’s history and heritage at The REACH Museum. The Tri-Cities is home to exciting and accessible science attractions that will appeal to anyone’s inner geek, regardless of mobility or ability.

Here are a variety of accessible STEM activities and attractions that can be enjoyed by everyone in your travel party!

B Reactor National Historic Landmark in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Did you know that the Tri-Cities region was once a secret city? It’s true! Way back in the 1940s, this area was selected for a top-secret government project that brought thousands of people into the community to build the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor. The B Reactor produced plutonium for national defense during World War II and the Cold War, ushering in the atomic area. The US Department of Energy offers free guided tours of the B Reactor in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park where scientists and engineers pioneered the technology behind nuclear reactors. These tours take visitors “behind the fence” to learn more about science, engineering and the global impacts of the technology.

Wheelchair-accessible buses and sign-language interpreters are available with two weeks advance notice. The main tour route in the B Reactor is accessible with smooth finished surfaces. Reservations for the tour are available at manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov.

Local Tip: After your tour, enjoy lunch at Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery, a family-friendly pub steeped in local history. Nosh on favorites like the Reactor Core Pizza or Spicy Nuclear Fettuccine, both are best paired with a pint of the Half-Life Hefeweizen.

Bechtel National Planetarium

Unravel the mysteries of our universe at the Bechtel National Planetarium located in the heart of the Columbia Basin College campus. Soar to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, explore the vastness of our planet’s oceans or dive into an active volcano. The planetarium provides life-like, high-definition images and sound with a 36-foot panoramic viewing dome and the most state-of-the-art projection system in the Pacific Northwest.

The theater offers accessible seating with wheelchair spaces and companion seats.

LIGO Hanford Observatory

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is no stranger to making waves in the science industry. In fact, they’re pretty good at it! The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to the LIGO in 2017 for observing the universe’s gravitational waves for the first time in September 2015, which came from the collision between two black holes. The Observatory announced four new gravitational-wave detections in December 2018.

The LIGO is continually at the forefront of cutting-edge science and engineering. Scientists recently confirmed the detection of a collision between a black hole and a neutron star in January 2020. “Spacey” visitors can learn more about LIGO’s research with guided tours of the facility, including the LIGO Exploration Center (LExC).

The tour is accessible for all mobilities with smooth pathways though visitors will encounter two slopes during the visit.

The REACH Museum

The REACH Museum is an entertaining AND educational experience for all with interactive exhibits, educational programs, and seasonal events that bring the stories of the Tri-Cities to life. Explore exhibits dedicated to the local flora and fauna or step back in time to the 1940s and learn more about life as a Manhattan Project employee. Enjoy the scenic views of the Columbia River from the outdoor learning area while enjoying hands-on activities that are fun while teaching important themes related to agriculture, wildlife and more.

The REACH Museum is entirely accessible for all mobilities with wide, smooth pathways.

These aren’t your only education-vacation options, the Tri-Cities is THE place to Get Your Geek and have either a hands on or epic learning experience. Check out VisitTri-Cities.com to plan your brainy and barrier-free getaway!

Get Your Geek On

Tri-IDEAs is a program exploring and celebrating Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility through tourism in the Tri-Cities.

At Visit Tri-Cities, we believe travel is transformative on multiple levels. Exploring new destinations exposes us to different ideas, cultures, history, heritages and people. Through Tri-IDEAs, Visit Tri-Cities will connect with local business owners, community leaders, event organizers, residents and more to highlight, share and celebrate the diversity of the Tri-Cities that can be experienced through travel and tourism activities.