With a passion for science, Danville center breaks record for summer visitors

Ahead of a full fall state of activities, the Danville Science Center set a record for visitors in the summer months.

Over June, July and August, a total of 17,057 visitors toured the science-themed museum in Danville’s River District, an increase of about 10,000 from 2021.

There were 7,175 guests from July alone, marking the third highest one-month visitation record since 2010, according to a news release from the organization. July’s figures were more than double from 2021 and about 2,000 more than pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.

When COVID-19 swept through the country, the center closed from March-November of 2020. Since reopening, it’s roared back to life attracting the science-inquisitive.

About 40% of the summer visitors came from outside of Danville and Pittsylvania County, Executive Director Adam Goebel told the Register & Bee last week. The museum captures zip code data from guests to help track the demographics.

“Of course, we’re excited about having the highest attendance ever at the science center, but what that really means to me is that we’ve inspired even more community members and helped them discover their connection to, and passion for, science,” Goebel wrote in the news release.

The upcoming casino expected to open in 2024 in the Schoolfield area of Danville — itself expected to be a tourism magnet — could lure even more people to explore Danville’s downtown science center.

“I do believe there will be some crossover in visitation that will surely impact our annual visitation once the resort opens, but to what extent, it is too early to tell,” Goebel told the Register & Bee.

“The combination of our incredible transformation into a world-class STEM resource plus dynamic programming led to the success the science center experienced this summer,” Goebel explained. “We know we can keep that momentum going as we head into fall with the activities we have planned.”

Among events this fall, a touring exhibit known as the Design Zone will open Saturday. Produced by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, it’s designed to allow guests to see behind-the-scenes how people like video game developers, music producers and roller coaster designers use math on a daily basis. A National Science Foundation grant helped to bring the exhibit to Danville, where it will stay until early January.

On Sept. 24, the center will honor the anniversary of the wreck of the Old 97. The rail disaster occurred on Sept. 27, 1903, and spurred a ballad telling the tragic tale that’s been recorded by countless artists.

Old 97 Rail Days — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 24 and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 25 — will feature private model train displays. The yearly event normally draws “generations of locomotive aficionados,” to the center, which is about a mile away from where the fatal crash happened.

Guests also may stroll along historic train tracks near the center and visit a restored 1948 Norfolk and Western caboose. Little visitors — 5 and under — have the chance to explore the Crescent Crossing, a train-themed exhibit at the science center.

The Danville Science Center also has a Digital Dome that shows about two to three movies a day, Goebel said. Each film is tailored toward a difference audience. Also, there’s a brief planetarium presentation included with all movies.

“Dinosaurs of Antarctic” is the most recent move added to the daily lineup.

Article by Charles Welborn| Register & Bee