This visit was my first for a few years and I went with my daughter and grandsons aged 3 and 9. This was a Saturday visit and, as expected, on arriving about 10.30 am there was a queue to get in. This moved quickly, however, and I was inside in less than 10 mins. There was plenty of seating around the main hall so easy to wait until the others arrived about 11 am. We went straight to the animatronic dinosaurs as we anticipated that this would be the most popular part of the museum. Surprisingly there was no queue for this and the boys enjoyed these and all the other dinosaur exhibits. (After lunch we noticed that there was quite a long queue to this and were glad we went there first.) We liked the fact that here, and in all the other areas, the information and exhibits were displayed so that they appealed to all ages from 3 to 70!
The “bugs” were next on our list and again proved very popular with all. We had lunch in the picnic area (downstairs) which is very well set up with tables with animal pictures – we chose to sit at one with a dinosaur on it. There is a small snack bar in this area as well so you can get drinks etc to go with your picnic. There is also a proper restaurant and 2 cafés which have a good selection in other parts of the museum but these take longer than the diy picnic.
After lunch there was just time to visit the “blue whale” gallery before we went to a talk on fossils at the Attenborough Studio in the Darwin Centre. These lectures are free to attend and the subjects vary but are always led by a scientist who specialises in that subject. Very much enjoyed by the 9 year old who has been fossil hunting in Dorset and appreciated the fact that there were fossils to handle and all his questions answered.
We had managed to get tickets, for 9 year old and myself, for the “back stage” spirit tour. (Ask at the information desk when you enter through the main entrance, numbers are limited to 8 each tour and young children are not allowed – again it is free.) This is a fascinating and informative 30 min tour behind the scenes where the specimens are stored – in jars of spirit – and you can see fish brought back by Charles Darwin and a giant squid amongst other items.
We then went through the “cocoon” where there were many interactive displays enjoyed by all with the option to store information about these to download at home onto a computer – cards supplied free. After this there was only time for a quick look around the stuffed bird exhibits and a visit to the excellent museum shop before the museum closed.
We plan to go back soon as we did not manage to go to the Earth galleries, the vaults or the Cadogen Gallery. Definitely plenty to do for a couple of days of exploring. Everywhere we went the staff were extremely helpful and friendly, they really seemed to want everyone to enjoy themselves. It is good to see that the museum is moving with the times making it a great fun place for children as well as continuing with its scientific research. The website is also excellent and informative and I recommend looking at it before a visit. www.nhm.ac.uk