Pros: Diverse collection of well-presented exhibits, educational, very kid and family friendly
Cons: A good parking place is hard to find.
We spent Day 6 of our 2002 summer vacation in Denver. We took this day to focus on attractions that would appeal to my 9 and 11 year old daughters. We decided to visit the Denver Zoo, the adjacent Denver Museum Of Nature and Science and the Butterfly Pavilion in nearby Westminster. Please read my separate epinion about the zoo and Butterfly Pavilion (coming soon).
Denver Museum Of Nature and Science - Rocks, Dinosaurs, Bugs and Beasts
On Colorado Blvd., about 2 miles south of I-70, Exit 276B
Located near the Denver Zoo in the expansive Denver City Park, the cavernous Denver Museum Of Nature and Science has 3 levels packed full of exhibits and activities. Just inside the front door, you are met by two gigantic plesiosaur skeletons suspended from the ceiling. Plesiosaurs, you may remember, are those giant aquatic dinosaurs with long necks and fins.
Their permanent exhibits as listed in their website are as follows:
* Australia and South Pacific Islands
* Bears and Sea Mammals
* Botswana - Safari to Wild Africa
* Edge Of the Wild
* Egyptian Mummies
* Explore Colorado
* Gems and Minerals
* Hall Of Life
* North American Indian Culture
* North American Wildlife
* Prehistoric Journey
* Rare Birds
* South America
The museum has hundreds of mounted butterflies and other insects. Their outstanding mineral gallery is filled with colorful, unusual and well presented mineral specimens. My oldest daughter was quite fascinated by the two Egyptian mummies on display... a rich woman and a poor woman.
Among the museum's most memorable exhibits are the numerous dioramas featuring mounted animals and birds displayed in their natural habitats, with beautifully painted backgrounds. Some of the birds are now extinct... passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets and ivory-billed woodpeckers... which left me to wonder, "If they didn't stuff and mount these birds, maybe they wouldn't be extinct."
The kids really liked the hands-on science lab. They could choose from about 8 or 10 projects to work on with the assistance of a museum employee. They decided to make "flubber"... that gooey green stuff from the movie made out of glue. There was very little wait and the project only took about 15-20 minutes.
"Prehistoric Journey" is a unique and fascinating exhibit. Hundreds of millions of years pass before your eyes as you witness some the earliest and strangest life on earth. You'll see trilobites, squids, bugs and other creepie-crawlies and ultimately, the dinosaurs. This is a very popular exhibit. Expect to wait a few minutes to get in.
Beyond the permanent exhibits listed above, the museum also rotates temporary exhibits. They also have an IMAX theater, so your experience will be different each time you visit.
According to their website, they have a new exhibit opening in mid-2003 that sounds great. It's called Space Odyssey, a journey to Mars and outer space. They also have a planetarium which was closed for renovation during their visit, but will reopen in conjunction with the Space Odyssey exhibit.
The museum shop is also very interesting. Of course it's expensive, but many of the items are fun, educational, and unique to this museum (e.g. a poster of the geologic history of the earth)... it beats souvenir back scratchers and Sponge Bob t-shirts.
2003 admission is $9.00 for adults, and $6.00 for kids (3-18) and seniors (60 and older). Separate admission is required for the IMAX theater, but a combo ticket is available. Parking was very difficult during our visit, but there was a great deal of construction, which took up some of the parking area. Even though the museum is 2 miles off the interstate, it's an easy drive up and down Colorado Blvd. to get to the museum. Hours are 9-5 every day of the year except Christmas. Allow at least 3 hours to visit although you could easily spend all day here. Hot food is available. Phone: (303) 322-1709 or (800) 925-2250
The Denver Museum Of Nature and Science is fun, educational and perfect for pre-teens, although it's thoroughly enjoyable for the whole family. It's entirely indoors, so it's a perfect activity for bad-weather days.
We visited between 1 and 3 PM on a Friday in August, 2002
Weather: Sunny and hot (Not a factor. Museum is entirely indoors.)
Ease of Accessibility: B
Handicap Accessibility: B-
Overall Experience: A-
The museum has a great website: