Many museums have become increasingly kid centric over the years, and have been successful in encouraging parents to engage their kids’ 5 senses through the museum experience. I am excited to bring you stories about them for Museeum.
I grew up frequenting the American Museum of Natural History in Manahattan, NY. My dad would take my younger brother and me there on weekends, and I remember absolutely loving watching the visual history of the natural world unfold from room to room, genuinely appreciating the artistry and skill exercised to create each display whether taxidermy, insect, or bones. We now live in Los Angeles county and my kids are younger, ages 2 and 4, but I continue to take them along to every museum adventure I dare journey through with 2 toddlers in tow. (It was much easier when they were babies who were not yet mobile and much more easily entertained.) I was especially excited for our trip to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, since they have been interested in dinosaurs and dinosaur bones in particular as of late. Needless to say, we had an amazing experience and even upgraded our tickets to Membership level on the way out. I can’t wait to go back.
The museum is in Downtown Los Angeles’ iconic Exposition Park which is adjacent to University of Southern California and home to a number of museums which include the California Science Center, the Californian African American Museum, gardens, and community gathering spaces. The museum originally opened its doors in 1913, and it’s main building with its fitted marble walls and domed rotunda is on the National Register of Historic Public Places. It has since gone through numerous expansions and renovations, the most recent few being the new Dinosaur Hall in 2011, Los Angeles history exhibition, Becoming Los Angeles, in 2013, and the outdoor Nature Gardens and Nature Lab in 2013. There are two satellite museums – the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and the William S. Hart Park and Museum in Santa Clarita, California. It protects over 35 Million specimens, dating back 4.5 billion years and is the largest natural and historical museum in the western United States.
The Age of Mammals exhibition is impressive, with a dimly lit massive main hall showcasing the animals effectively. Beautiful, lively, and serene at the same time. It’s great for young kids that get very excited and may want to wander or even run around a bit as everything and everyone is in plain sight, and the acoustics are well absorbed through the wood paneling. This hall rents out for private and public events, and I’ve actually been to a few events in the past years held in this very hall. As one could imagine, it is quite magical.
The special programs and activities are a huge draw for families and school groups alike. They offer daily tours and live animal encounters. We were able to catch the Dinosaur Encounter, which features a live skit performance with animatronic dinosaur (realistic walking Dinosaur costume) that the kids simultaneously loved and were slightly terrified by. The Dinosaur exhibit is amazing, multiples rooms with interactive touch screens, tactile features and more in conjunction with the majestic bones on display. A real treat for me was the Dino Lab, a functional preparation lab staffed by Paleontologists working on real fossil specimens and research. It is open to the public every day the museum is open. It’s a true behind the scenes experience as you watch through the glass windows. My daughter was thrilled to get a wave from a member of the crew.
The Nature Gardens are such a visual and physical respite from the interiors of the museum out to the lush outdoors. We had to stop the kids from picking the ripe strawberries growing on the vines. Equally enticing is the Nature Lab, which is a brightly lit gallery sized space thoughtfully curated with educational interactive exhibits, live specimens, videos, and touch screens that effectively tell stories about Los Angeles’ wildlife.
Accessibility of quality food is an important part of any outing if you have kids, because they will get hungry in time. The Café definitely has some above par food and well-kept facilities. I was pleased to see that the menu offering albeit burgers, soups and sandwiches, were gourmet quality, and that there was actually an array of quality snacks and drinks offered. The Mac and Cheese, always a sure thing for my kids, tasted as if it was made from scratch and the portion was large. It is befitting of the quality of the Museum overall and is a huge bonus in my book.
I am definitely excited to go back for more.