Since yours truly is out conquering the wild on a hike through Tennessee (no C is not strapped to my back for this walk), Sarah C. is bringing you another fantastic blog post:
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is located in downtown Raleigh a block north of the State Capitol Building. It houses a variety of permanent exhibits that explore natural science in our state. Admission to the museum is free with the exception of the occasional special exhibits which require a ticket (check the museum website, below, for information and pricing). My husband and I have visited several times in the past and recently took D for his first trip. The day itself was a hot one so we were happy to have an indoor (read a/c and comfortable!) place to walk around.
The museum has 4 floors. Maps are available on the museum website if you want to preplan your trip. Since we visited on a Friday and there were a lot of students on school field trips, we decided to start at the top and work our way down. We had arrived during lunch time so this seemed to work out pretty well at helping us space ourselves away from the crowd coming in and starting on the first floor.
Overall, this museum is best for pre-school and school aged children. We were well aware from our previous visits, but knowing our son we also felt there were some parts he would enjoy and we were right. He had a great time watching turtles and fish in some of the aquariums, gazing upward at the pterosaurs “flying” overhead in the Terror of the South dinosaur exhibit, and, of course, people watching.
One spot we skipped due to the crowd was the Living Conservatory on the fourth floor. It houses butterflies, turtles, snakes and a two-toed sloth. Having been to the Butterfly House at the Museum of Life + Science, I know D would have loved it but I also know when he’s not in the mood to stand in a line so I think we made the right call. Sometimes it’s best just to keep the stroller in motion.
The Discovery Room on the second floor was the perfect opportunity to let D out of the stroller to explore and get in a little hands-on learning. One section is designated for toddlers so we headed there first. It was filled with books, wooden puzzles, a basket of dinosaur toys as well as instructive play tucked into plastic storage boxes. One box was labeled “The Hungry Caterpillar” and, being one of D’s favorite books, I had to take a peek. Inside were a variety of fun soft objects (including a caterpillar and butterflies, of course) to act out the story. Taped to the lid were prompts to aid parents in teaching their child(ren) more about these insects.
After a few minutes of play, D discovered he could crawl elsewhere in the room so we wandered to see what other fun adventures there were. We peeked at some tadpoles living in an aquarium, played with puppets in a section designed to look like we were underwater, and watched as honeybees worked in their hive. The hive is nested between glass on each side and there is a plexiglass connector between the hive and the window – visitors can literally watch the bees come and go as well as work on their hive. This was definitely one of the highlights for D as there was plenty of movement. I just hope he doesn’t think he can bat at bees in our backyard as he happily did in their safe environment here!
A few tips for planning your trip: Public parking can be found a block away at the corner of E Jones and N Wilmington Streets. It’s inexpensive on weekdays ($1/hour) and free on the weekends. If you decide to visit and have lunch, the museum offers a café on the fourth floor. There are also various street vendors (think hot dogs, gyros and sno-cones) on weekdays located along the streets at each end of the alleyway between the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and the NC Museum History.
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
919-733-7450Mon- Sat 9 am – 5pm
Sun noon – 5pm
First Fridays: on the first Friday of every month (except as noted) the Museum stays open until 9 pm
Directions & Parking Info – http://naturalsciences.org/