Trade massive crowds for a peaceful, smaller venue and discover a hidden treasure! Off the beaten path in Murfreesboro, TN the Earth Experience natural history museum is packed with surprises. Walk among the bones of creatures that lived more than 66 million years ago, including a full-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Passionate volunteers embrace and educate visitors for a one-of-a-kind Earth Experience.

Earth experience natural history museum in Murfreesboro, TN

Big excitement in a little venue! Visit the Earth Experience natural history museum. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

I love keeping the family schedule pared down to almost nothing because it allows room for boredom. I’ve found that anytime we’re bored at home, we get creative and we’re a lot more likely to explore the things around us for entertainment. As much as I enjoy taking a nice, long road trip I also like to find local attractions.

As I watched the kids play at home with their rough-and-tumble collection of dinosaurs, I did a search online for dinosaur museums online. I am crazy about reading reviews, and I saw several comments about all of the surprises we would find at a little bitty venue close by. So we got in the car on the hunt for this hidden treasure, the Earth Experience Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History.

Full sized Tyrannosaurus skeleton at the Earth Experience Museum of Natural History

Full-sized cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at Earth Experience. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging Traveling Mom

Where is the Earth Experience Museum of Natural History?

The Earth Experience Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History is located in Murfreesboro, TN which is about a twenty minute drive from where we live. We found ourselves driving in an industrial part of town and looked for the sign.

The museum is in a big warehouse-style building with other businesses, but it’s clearly marked and the GPS took us straight to it.

What Will You Discover at Earth Experience?

After paying the small admission fee at the front desk, we made our way through the display rooms.  It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the man at the front desk that greeted us was the same man pictured on the wall and in a lot of the pictures with the fossils on display.

smaller exhibit in earth experience display room

First display room at Earth Experience. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

He came over and chatted with us for a bit and told us about the lengthy process of finding dinosaur bones. Then he showed us several of the pieces in the display cases, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex femur pictured below. It was collected on a dig in Dawson County, Montana in 2013.

T-Rex femur from Montana. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers

T-Rex femur from Montana. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

While many of the fossils in the natural history museum are from all over the world, a large number are local to Tennessee. Every piece is noted with details about species, location and time period.

What Kind of Fossils are at the Natural History Museum?

The kids were immediately drawn to the Allosaurus statue near the front of the museum. My oldest was so happy to see fossils from the multitude of dinosaurs he knows and loves. The display cases are packed. We saw a Spinosaurus tooth found in Egypt, a cast of a Mosasaurus skull, and mammal pieces like Saber Tooth and Rhinocerous skulls.

A volunteer came and talked to the boys, impressed with how much they knew about the different species of dinosaurs. He even handed them a chunk of Coprolite, which is fossilized dinosaur poop. They laughed and talked about that one all the way home. It is a ‘natural history museum’ after all.

Earth Experience staff member talking to kids about coprolite, fossilized dinosaur poop

Learning about dinosaur poop! Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

Most of the items on display are Do Not Touch, but there are a few places where they encourage it. This is a Brachiosaurus vertebrae (tailbone), it was very porous yet smooth.

Brachiosaurus vertebrae discovered in Utah on display at the Earth Experience Museum

A Brachiosaurus tailbone found in Utah. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

After that we saw a small children’s play area and made our way to see all of the minerals and gemstones on display. We were invited into a small workshop where they clean and process all of the rocks. We also watched people in another small workshop making jewelry out of the gemstones to sell in the gift shop.

What Is The Biggest Surprise At Earth Experience?

I made it a point to keep the surprises I read about online to myself because I really wanted to see their reaction as we made it to the final display room. We didn’t watch them make the jewelry for long because the kids became privy to another big item down the hall and they just couldn’t wait…

Happy to find a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on display

What a wonderful surprise! A very happy dinosaur fan. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

They both ran ahead of me and I heard a squeal and an “Oh my gosh!!!” as I walked in. We saw a full-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in all of it’s beautiful splendor and historical glory. I got major bonus mom points all weekend, it was a serious wide-eyed, cover-your-mouth kind of moment for my big dinosaur fan. He couldn’t believe it.

The T-Rex is a cast of the original specimen found in Fort Peck, Montana by Louis E. Tremblay in 1997. It easily qualifies as the highlight of the trip. He’s 38 feet long and as high as the ceiling with over 300 bones. A big surprise, indeed.

We saw Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex skulls directly behind us in the same room. Definitely two more super-cool, Do Not Touch items. I am not much of a history buff, but even I felt amazing standing here, wanting to learn more about these creatures from 66 million years ago.

Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex skulls side by side at Earth Experience

Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex skulls. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

What Else Is There To Do At The Museum?

There is a small work area in the T-Rex room and a volunteer was there making casts of various pieces. She called the boys over and let them touch the items she was making. She also explained how the casts are made, which was the same process it took to make the T-Rex.

Volunteer explaining how a cast of dinosaur bones are made

Volunteer explaining how a cast is made. Photo Credit: Audra Rogers, Encouraging TravelingMom

I’m impressed with how much each of the volunteers and staff members cared and took the time to teach. My oldest is a little shy but jumped right in to learn as they initiated contact. They also talked about how much they love seeing kids’ reactions to their big attraction.

That’s a pretty cool job, I think I’d love it too.

She was getting ready to make Velociraptor claw Christmas ornaments, so the on-site gift shop is worth checking out year-round! They also have workshops and activities for kids with other hands-on activities.  Check the Earth Experience website for details.