Location: Bridgeport, Connecticut
Type of Venue: Off-site, science center
Capacity: More than 200 guests
Nearby Accommodations: Inn at Fairfield Beach
In 1958, the Sacred Heart University Discovery Science Center and Planetarium was merely a dream, a dream that included creating hands-on experiences and exhibits that would encourage questions and problem-solving in young learners. The dream became a reality in 1962 when the center opened as the Museum of Art, Science and Industry, better known at the time by the acronym MASI.
Over the years, the center turned its focus toward the sciences, adding award-winning science programming to its offerings. Although it continued to showcase local artists through a series of on-site galleries, the center quickly became known for its creative and interactive offerings in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).
The center closed its doors during the pandemic, offering virtual activities for guests, while it underwent a massive renovation and rebranding, and the center became an extension of the Sacred Heart University located down the road from the museum. The state-funded upgrade allowed the museum to focus its attention wholly on programming and the exhibits offered throughout, and it also brought on the addition of a new digital full-dome planetarium that features a 33-foot-diameter dome and a dual-projector 4K laser projection system. The center reopened to the public in September, debuting its manicured landscaping, advanced technology and lightning-fast internet speeds to a group of eager meeting guests excited to gather within these inspiring halls.
The center is available for meetings, events and celebrations of all kinds; groups can rent any of the on-site dedicated meeting rooms or even book the gallery space outside the Henry B. duPont III Planetarium. Guests can explore the center by day or during events, taking part in the hands-on activities, interactive exhibits and daily programming that’s available to all visitors, before gathering for cocktails with co-workers among a 4-foot sphere with the company name or logo projected on it and then heading in for a private planetarium show with custom music. All three floors of the center are available for meeting guests. A variety of STEM exhibits keep things exciting for guests of all ages throughout their time at the center.
The meeting spaces at the Sacred Heart University Discovery Science Center and Planetarium range from a dining court in a two-story glass room for up to 75 guests to a 4K theater for up to 70 guests that’s fantastic for presentations. The STEAM Gallery, for up to 75 guests, showcases artwork throughout the year and can be combined with the dining court for a maximum capacity of between 150 and 200 guests. On the lower level, which holds up to 50 guests and is located just outside the planetarium, a 4-foot sphere offers a variety of options for custom projections that range from the Death Star from “Star Wars” to custom logos. There are also five classrooms that hold up to 30 guests each for smaller groups or breakout sessions.
The Sacred Heart University Discovery Science Center and Planetarium partners directly with local favorite Fortuna’s Catering to stun guests with delicious food that ranges from simple fare to gala-worthy spreads. Baked brie tarts with seasonal jam and bacon-wrapped dates are popular appetizers, and roasted grape-and-cider pork loin and almond-crusted scrod regularly wow dinner guests. Menus range from brunch to breakout session snacks, and alcohol is allowed as long as it is after the center’s open hours and the caterer or person in charge of the bar has a valid license to serve alcohol.
Each event held within the Sacred Heart University Discovery Science Center and Planetarium is unique: Even the most minute details can be customized. Groups can select music to accompany their evening celebrations or pop their custom logos on a 4-foot sphere for a special touch that always wows guests. The center’s events team can help plan mediated activities for team building for both adults and children. Options include the Escape Room, where guests have to figure out STEM clues to escape from the shuttle room, and the Great Rocket Challenge, where groups compete to design and build their own rockets.
Before and After
The entire center is open for meeting guests during events. All three floors are filled with STEAM activities to delight and entertain guests. Guests can try building a rocket or a paper airplane and then launch their creations with powered launchers upstairs in “Science of Flight.” Or they can get hands-on with a topography sand box, where they can create canyons and rivers with toy shovels and make it rain in “The Earth and Us” gallery. A favorite for many guests is to create a universe or a black hole or even trigger the big bang on the stellar playground in the “Hall of Space.”