You probably know about music festivals: multi-day events featuring dozens of artists across multiple stages and fans totally immersed in the experience. You’ve probably even been to an art festival, wandering downtown streets bursting with local artists showcasing and selling their wares. And if you haven’t been to a science festival, you’re missing out!
Don’t let the name intimidate you. Science festivals aren’t just for scientists — in fact the whole point of them is to invite anyone and everyone to experience the new and interesting, and to celebrate the process and products of science, technology, engineering and math. Science festivals around the country offer hundreds of accessible, interactive and often free events and activities for you to experience.
What is a science festival?
A science festival has a lot in common with our beloved art or music (or beer) fests. It’s an all-day, or often multi-day event, filled with booths, vendors, events and all-ages activities that let you learn, explore and, best of all, get hands-on with science. You might stop by an activity booth and make slime with the kiddos, take a tour of a science laboratory, watch an explosive chemistry demonstration and then leave the kids with a sitter for a “science of beer” event at the local pub.
“The point of most festivals is to bring people together to celebrate and build community in the public square, and science festivals share that same spirit,” says Ben Wiehe, manager of the Science Festival Alliance, and Manager of Experimental Practice at MIT Museum. “There are a lot of good reasons to participate in a science festival, whether you are really committed to science, curious about science or just looking for a good time.”
What happens at a science festival?
“Anything can happen in a science festival!” says Wiehe. “All of the science festivals have big main events that draw thousands or tens of thousands of people (when there isn’t a pandemic going on). But most of them also have busy schedules that cover a week or two with all sorts of great public events.”
Happening now and throughout this spring, there are science festivals in both Atlanta and North Carolina (and many more elsewhere throughout the year). Check out a few of the awesome events you’ll find there!
Is there a science festival near me?
Every year, numerous organizations host science festivals all over the world. Many are held in major cities and at large universities, and some are even statewide. To find out if there’s a science festival in your area, search your location on ScienceNearMe.org and refine your results by Activity Type: Festivals.
Many science festivals now also offer virtual events, so be sure to scope out event offerings from science festivals all around the world!
Atlanta Science Festival (March 12-26, 2022)
All across the metro area, science has descended on the city of Atlanta for two weeks this month. Watch science-themed performances, take a guided nature walk, meet crazy creatures and more.
At Drive-In Demos: Chemistry from Your Car, chemists from Atlanta’s Emory University will put on a live show that you can watch from your car, just like at the drive-in. Fire, ice, bubbles and explosions are guaranteed to wow, and you just might learn something about chemistry while you’re at it.
Local storm chasers will be there, too. At 11Alive Stormtrackers: The Science Behind Tracking Thunderstorms, the audience will learn all about storms, tornadoes and more in an interactive presentation. And yes, they’re bringing their 11Alive ThunderTruck storm chasing car!
At Conversations in Creativity, join artist and architect Amy Landesberg and Georgia Tech mathematician/physicist Elisabetta Matsumoto at a restaurant in Atlanta’s Pullman Yards for a conversation about the many ways art and science inspire each other.
And on March 26, the fest will end with a bang with the Exploration Expo. Control a robot with your brain, compose music with a potato, touch a human brain and find tons of exhibitors, demos, maker spaces, food and more. And be sure to be there at noon for the Pink Ping-Pong Big-Bang, when thousands of pink ping pong balls are launched into the sky!
Explore over 100 Atlanta Science Festival events at ScienceNearMe.org.
North Carolina Science Festival (April 1-30, 2022)
NCSciFest takes science festivals to the next level, celebrating science across an entire state and for an entire month! Find events at museums, schools, libraries, parks and more.
You can tour the Bonehenge Whale Center at their Open Houseon April 8th in Beaufort. Learn about the marine mammal research that happens there, including how they collect specimens and clean and assemble skeletons!
Or choose from over 35 locations to join in the Statewide Star Party for a night of skygazing on the nights of the 8th and 9th. Partygoers will also learn about NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope and how it will help us better understand the universe. Find an event at a park, college, university, planetarium, science center, nature center or library near you. Nearly 3,500 people are expected to participate, so don’t miss out.
At the QAR Conservation Lab in Greenville, you’ll find real pirate artifacts from Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge! Visit during their April 23 open house to learn how archaeologists use chemistry, physics, technology and more to recover and conserve artifacts through fun hands-on activities and educational demonstrations.
Not ready to leave your couch? That’s OK: NCSciFest has virtual events, too. Tune in to Lean In, Women in Science on April 21st to hear accomplished female scientists discuss their careers, challenges and successes. The event is designed with STEM-interested high school girls in mind, but all ages and genders are welcome. The panel discussion will be followed by break-out sessions for conversations with the scientists.
“If you would have told me in 2019 that a global pandemic would impact the next three(!) planning cycles of our statewide festival, I would have assumed I’d be looking for another job,” says Jonathan Frederick, director of the North Carolina Science Festival. “But the reality is, people love science so much that we couldn’t stop this celebration if we wanted to.”
“It’s become a tradition, which is what we set out to create,” Frederick says. “Science festivals connect and inspire us the same ways music, food and arts festivals do. They bring people together in amazing ways to deepen our appreciation for how science is connected to our everyday lives.”
Explore hundreds of NCSciFest events at ScienceNearMe.org!