Dinos rule. The Girl knows this. She likes her animals fierce. She also appreciates a take-no-prisoners approach in plant life — her favorite is the Venus Flytrap. I’m not worried.
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
As we found out on our recent road trip, Pittsburgh is dinosaur country. In 2004, a public art project called DinoMite Days commissioned artists to create 100 uniquely decorated fiberglass dinosaurs, which were installed throughout the city. We discovered several which remain on public display.
WHY did you go there, exactly?
For the real dinosaur deal however, we knew we had to go to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, home to the world’s largest collection of Jurassic dinosaurs.
Okay, what was so cool about it?
Walking through the “Dinosaurs in Their Time” hall gave us quite an education. Now I know that the Jurassic period was the middle of the three stages in the Mesozoic era (and the others are the Triassic and Cretaceous periods. Look at me how smart.)
Not only is this one of the largest dinosaur collections, it’s also one of the best. These dinos are the real deal — of the 19 skeletons on display, 15 contain at least some real fossil material.
Frankly, it was a challenge to get the kids to actually look up at the skeletons, so focused were they on the video kiosks. They clicked and swiped, looking through the info about where and when each species lived, their lifestyle habits, which species were related, etc.
If you were there that day, and you heard an exasperated mom pleading with her kids, “Look! It’s a Triceratops! Look at its horns! Did you know it was a plant eater? Hello? Where did you go?” That was me.
But while the dinosaur collection is really impressive, it wasn’t the highlight of The Girl’s day. She could not get enough of the temporary “M is for Museum” exhibit on the third floor. GO SEE IT before it leaves on August 30, 2012!
This expansive space dedicates themed stations for each letter of the alphabet. (e.g. A is for Artifact, D is for Draw, X is for X Marks the Spot). At the “C is for Collection” table, kids are encouraged to fill a basket with their own collection from a well overflowing with small plastic dinos, butterflies, bugs, leaves, and more. After you go through the stations, you proceed to Z is the Zone, an arts and crafts area with books and puzzles.
The other fun area is on the first floor. The Bonehunters Quarry is a big archaeological dig site. Kids get goggles, a pick tool and a brush, then get to go unearth bones.
Outside this exhibit is the “Collection Connection” with racks filled with more than 50 tack boxes. Each box is dedicated to a specific animal, identified by its picture. The Girl chose the skunk box, inside which was a real animal pelt, jaw bone, tooth, photos and books.
I dared The Boy to open the bat box. Two shadow boxes contained real, taxidermied specimens. He slammed the lid shut and shuddered. My dreams for a physician in the family now lay on my daughter’s shoulders.
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
As a whole, this museum really rates high in my book. This place has mastered the magic formula which combines education and entertainment for kids (of all ages).
Hey you! Go BIG!:
4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Disclaimer: We received complimentary admission to this facility, courtesy of Visit Pittsburgh.