One weekend in early March my girls asked if they could go into New York City to see the Museum of Natural History. But that weekend turned out to be a wash, and I mean literally – pouring rain all day long, the type of harsh rain pellets that did not and was not going to let up anytime soon. A trip into the city was not happening. And then a little bell went off – I remember a friend once told me to check out the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, CT. A mini version of the big one itself, we put on our rain boots and headed for the car. A little over an hour away, it was a much more doable trip than dealing with the rigmarole of New York City and parking (or subwaying), with kids, in the rain.
We got there in a breeze – the parking lot right next to the museum – and upon entering the building, my girls were immediately smitten – for there before their eyes were big, giant dinosaurs. To the adult eye, they are not nearly as big as the NYC ones, but to them they were enormous and just as exciting. “DINOSAURS!” my little one screamed out, and off they went, as I was still in line paying for the tickets. The Hall of Dinosaurs, as it is called, is on the first floor and the centerpiece of the museum. Featuring skeletons from their paleontology collection, they are just as enticing as the ones in the city. The first floor also includes the Hall of Native American Cultures, a section called “Fossil Fragments”, and the Hall of Mammalian Evolution, which, next to the dinosaurs, has some of the biggest fossils to look at. My girls loved this section – what is not to love about examining huge, mysterious fossils from an era long ago?
Comprised of three floors, we next headed up to the second floor, where the ever- popular Discovery Room is located. Kids adore this room because the most important rule is “Please touch!” Filled with a variety of hands-on games that teach children about the wonders of natural history, it is a super fun room for kids of any age. There are also live animals in this room, including the very cool leaf-eater ant colony.
Next we headed up to the third floor, where the Hall of Minerals, Earth and Science, and the North American and Southern New England Dioramas are located. The dioramas are spectacular, and apparently in the museum world they are considered masterpieces. For me, these were the highlight of our visit – they are expertly crafted and look just like the real natural world. My girls’ favorites were the giant bears and the rams, so large and towering over them. Walking through all the different dioramas lit up in the dark hallways, it really did feel like walking around the Museum of Natural History in New York, only without the crowds. And my girls, they were completely taken with them.
If you want to go to a natural history museum, but are in the mood for something small and easy, and may not have the stamina to deal with the city that day for whatever reason, I highly recommend the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, 170 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday Noon – 5:00 p.m.
Admission: $13 Adults, $6 kids 3+, under 3 free