People have been talking about the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science for what feels like decades. The massive, gorgeous building has been under construction for half of my adult life. And now that it’s finally opened, this is all everyone is doing and talking about. But like almost everything in Miami, it’s gorgeous on the outside and completely vacuous and uninteresting on the inside.
On top of the $28 price tag to see a pretty (but mostly empty) building, parking at the Frost is $8 for the first hour and $4 for each additional hour. So you’re looking at spending at least $40 to see this disaster.
The alternative is taking the Metromover to the Museum Park station which is right in front of it. These are also your options to get to the much better museum, the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), since they share the lot and the Metromover station.
The inside of the museum is a mess. It looks like it was designed with only aesthetic in mind and not a thought to utility. The elevators, which are outrageously slow, are in the center of the whole thing. Without a paper map, it’s not very clear where where you’re expected to go. Where most museums have some sort of intuitive route, the Frost has an absolute clusterfuck at the elevator
on every floor. It’s easiest to go all the way up in the elevator and then walk down to avoid that hassle both ways. That also takes the sting out of busting a mission to get upstairs later in your visit only to find floors that are nearly empty anyway.
The museum is mostly outdoors, which means it’s very hot to get around in and can be very wet when it rains. The heat also accounts for why the exhibit spaces that are indoors are so crowded. But the crowds will be outside too, in line for the exhibits and food.
From the outside, the building looks like it houses all the magic and secrets of the universe. But as soon as you enter, you’ll realize that you’re definitely in what amounts to a stylish parking garage. The Frost has six whole floors that are basically vacant. The top two floors offer absolutely nothing but a view. Granted, it’s a beautiful view, but for a $30-40 price tag, you and three friends can charter a helicopter and have a much more interesting time than you will crammed on the “Lunar Terrace” with hundreds of other people who got swindled into visiting that dump.
For the most part the exhibits are lightly filled, which you might be able to get away with in a contemporary art museum, but this is definitely not that. Where you might expect to see a lot dazzling, interactive displays, there is empty space or one or two things that are already malfunctioning, even though the place hasn’t even been open for 6 months. From the Space to Seeing exhibits, you can enjoy children playing with paper airplanes and bouncing on an interactive dance floor. (Ok, that was pretty fun, but it’s because I was wasted.)
Many of the exhibits would definitely only be interesting to children or really drunk adults. And my expectation, as the latter, was that even if all the bad things I had heard about it were true, I was gonna enjoy the hell out of it. But even several cocktails in, I thought there was nothing amazing about the Frost, their three pieces of space travel memorabilia, or their broken touch screen displays.
One of the most worthwhile reasons to visit the Frost Museum of Science is the planetarium. They have rotating shows that are pretty impressive. Thankfully, I caught one of them about space during an after-hours event. Because when I returned to the Frost for a night of science and fireworks on the 4th of July, they were showing an awful Star Wars themed laser show that looked like it was designed the year the movie came out. The graphics were terribly basic and they gave us 3D glasses for some reason, which just made everything look like an even bigger mess than it already was.
Their standard full-dome shows about earth and space are well-produced and narrated by big names like Liam Neeson, lasting anywhere from 20-25 minutes. I would say those are informative and entertaining, but skip the weird laser shows. Still, is a decent planetarium show good enough reason to shell out almost $30? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. But I can think of a million things to do in Miami for that much money that are better, like Vizcaya. Also worth noting: because of its popularity, the planetarium shows often sell out or require long waits in a line.
The aquarium is another one of the most talked about Frost Museum exhibits. It spans three floors, which is a lot for the handful of fish they have in there. From the top deck, you can see the surface of the aquarium and walk around exploring the different South Florida habitats. There’s a shallow enclosure where you can also touch stingrays that couldn’t be less interested in being touched and are as far away as possible from the hundreds of gawking visitors.
The bottom of the aquarium features the “oculus lens” which allows you to look up into the bottom of the aquarium. Maybe it’s because I’ve been ruined by the jaw-dropping Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, but nothing about the oculus is impressive, especially because all you can see are the small fish your dad might catch and release on the bay because they’re too small to eat. The aquarium is also home to one hammerhead shark that occasionally graces you with its presence.
On level 3, you’ll also find 30 small aquariums full of colorful fish and corals. If you have a rich friend who lives on Fisher Island, you’ll see more impressive aquariums than these. There was one tank full of jellyfish that were being moved in a circle by a jet stream in the tank, even though at least a few of the jellyfish were very obviously dead.
Before I saw the Frost for myself, I was surprised to hear some of the nicest people I know talking bad about it. These people would find something positive to say about Hitler, but they still thought the Frost was awful. And now I get it. It’s overpriced, overcrowded, and if current conditions are any indication, by the end of its first year, there will probably be even more dead sea life in those aquariums and more exhibits in disrepair. For how expensive it is to go there, there seems to be very little budget for maintenance and upkeep.
So should you skip it altogether? Definitely, unless you’re in 5th grade. Then go get your grubby little hands and feet all over everything. Who cares about compelling scientific knowledge anyway when you have an interactive dance floor?