Are your kids obsessed with dinosaurs?  The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut will satisfy all of their Jurassic cravings!  One of the world’s oldest and most revered natural history museums connected to a university, this destination is well-known for its Great Hall of Dinosaurs which allows families to immerse themselves in a real-life Jurassic World.  Heading to the Northeast?  Consider bringing the kids to this unique destination in a cool, up-and-coming city.  The museum doesn’t take more than a few hours to conquer while offering a fun and educational experience.

Both boys gaze at the incredible fossils in the Great Hall. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

Both boys gaze at the incredible fossils in the Great Hall. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

WELCOME TO DINO-LAND

My boys – ages 10 and 12 – have always loved dinosaurs.  And, while they may have outgrown the plastic figurines, they are always game for a visit to the Yale Peabody Museum, bordering the campus of one of the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions in New Haven, Connecticut.  This internationally respected museum boasts a world-class collection of artifacts, ranging from dino bones to Native American clothing. We recently traveled there – all three of us on a mission to enjoy each other’s company while learning some new pre-historic facts. Outside the museum, a life-size Torosaurus – perched above busy Whitney Avenue – welcomes visitors to this destination. Step into the museum and feel like you’re Harry Potter entering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! The building feels like a castle with stone walls, large rooms and elegant staircases. A life-size model of a giant squid hangs high in the foyer, setting the scene for the special sights in store.

PERMANENT EXHIBITS

The leaf-cutter ant colony in the Discovery Room. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

The leaf-cutter ant colony in the Discovery Room. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

First, we headed into the Great Hall of Dinosaurs which is simply stunning. A detailed 110-foot mural, showing dinos in their heyday, adorns a wall in this spacious room that features numerous, actual dinosaur skeletons and fossils. Families can see the museum’s largest mounted skeleton, a Brontosaurus, as well as reconstructed skeletons of Camarasaurus, Stegosaurus and Camptosaurus.  The boys were full of enthusiastic exclamations, such as, “Come over here!” and “Look at this!” and “I can’t believe it!” It was really rewarding to see them so wowed by paleontology and this real-life Lost World.

Then, we wandered through the Hall of Native American Cultures and the Hall of Mammalian Evolution, containing fossils and dioramas of creatures from the Cenozoic Era, such as a Mastodon.

The boys were stopped in their tracks by the Discovery Room on the second floor. This emporium allows kids to embark on hands-on activities and see live critters such as a poison dart frog and bearded dragon.  My sons were most entranced, however, by the tropical leaf-cutter ant colony which the public can view through glass.  The little guys (i.e.: ants) are hard at work, racing back and forth, chomping leaves.  Fascinating to watch!

The third floor includes a detailed look at Daily Life in Ancient Egypt and several North American Dioramas, showing animals like mountain goats, grizzly bears and deer in replicas of their natural habitats.  Looking at these dioramas became a game of “I Spy” with my kids, as we excitedly found animals and took turns reading the plaques while learning about their characteristics.

While on the third floor, don’t forget to check out the Birds of Connecticut and the Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space.

MUSEUM VISITS INSPIRE CURIOSITY AND CONVERSATION

A life-size model of a giant squid greets visitors as they enter the museum. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

A life-size model of a giant squid greets visitors as they enter the museum. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

I don’t know about you, but I think curiosity is an essential trait.  It inspires kids to ask questions, think analytically and converse in a smart, purposeful way.  I know my sons were fulfilled by the talks we had as we strolled through the exhibits at the Yale Peabody Museum and guess what?  So was I. You know the drill – we spend an inordinate amount of time racing to camps, sports and music lessons. To step away from it all in an interesting setting helped us bond and relax together. Brilliant.  Also, seeing artifacts from hundreds, thousands of years ago is so important for kids (insert link) – providing them with valuable perspective and wisdom.

NEW HAVEN OFFERS PLETHORA OF CULTURE AND RESTAURANTS

My boys walking through the campus of Yale University. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

My boys walking through the campus of Yale University. Posted by Sarah Cody, Museum Loving TravelingMom

A visit to this museum is extremely doable – important for families with young kids.  You can see most everything – while reading plaques and conversing – in a few hours.  While the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC  and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City  are simply amazing destinations (we have been to both!), they can be overwhelming in scope and size.  They also attract crowds.

I believe the Yale Peabody Museum offers a more calm experience which really promotes learning.  Also, a visit there brings the traveler to New Haven – a very cool urban landscape.  Recently referred to as the “Greatest Small City in America,” New Haven is home to top notch theaters, concert halls and restaurants that celebrate food from all around the globe.  You will be happy to know: New Haven is famous for its pizza!  Each and every day, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (often called Pepe’s) sports a line of hungry revelers, eager to enter the famous eatery.  And, of course, there’s Yale University.  After our visit to the museum, we grabbed burgers at Shake Shack and walked around the campus of this world-renowned ivy league school.  Beautiful and inspiring.  So, consider a visit to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven – truly a haven of culture and knowledge!

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WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM?