Our kids always enjoy good museums, so for this post I have invited other bloggers to give me their recommendations and reviews of the best Natural History museums worldwide.
Here you will find some hidden gems as well as the biggest and most famous. Read on and enjoy this collection as much as we have.
The Best Natural History Museums in Europe
London Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in London is one of the most iconic places to visit in the city and it’s perfect for a family day out. The museum takes you back through history all the way to the big bang. You can explore how different life forms came to be and how humans eventually evolved. There are life-size skeletons, models and stuffed animals to look at, as well as interactive displays so you can touch, hear and see these creatures. It’s a very visually appealing and well-curated museum, which makes it perfect for kids and parents alike.
The most popular section with families is the dinosaur walk where there’s a giant interactive T-Rex and the bones of lots of other dinosaur species. There’s lots of information about the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and you can touch real fossils and imprints to get a sense of just how ancient and enormous these creatures were. After this, you can check out the mammal hall which is like a real life Noah’s Ark. There’s a giant whale in the centre of the room and life-size models of lots of other animal favourites. You’ll likely discover some new creatures in here! Outside, there’s a Wildlife Garden which holds free events for families throughout the summer. There are all sorts of plants and insects in here to discover and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported away from central London and into the countryside.
The museum is completely free to enter though you may have to queue at the weekends. There are lots of additional activities for children held throughout the year, such as “Dino Snores”, a kid’s sleepover in the museum. Perfect for fans of Night at the Museum!
Contributed by Laura from What’s Hot?
The National Museum in Edinburgh
When we were in Scotland, we had so much fun visiting the National Museum in Edinburgh that we went twice. The National Museum is free and full of interactive, hands-on activities. Because it is free, we were able to duck in for an hour or two at a time between other Edinburgh explorations. There are so many things to do in Edinburgh with kids, that it’s nice to be able to spread out your museum visits.
The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland. Collections relating to Scottish antiquities, culture and history combined with the adjacent Royal Museum’s collections covering science and technology, natural history, and world cultures. The result is more than a natural history museum and more than an art or history museum.
They say, “Our diverse collections will take you on a journey of discovery through the history of Scotland and around the world, taking in the wonders of nature, art, design and fashion and science and technology – all under one roof.”
The museum is home to both a T-Rex skeleton cast and Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal ever to be created from an adult cell. Make sure you visit the 7th floor rooftop terrace to get a panoramic view of Old Town Edinburgh.
Free tours are held daily (no reservations required). Check the website for special events or download their highlights app. They also offer “family trails” which are question sheets kids can fill in as they visit the museum.
Contributed by Mel from Traveling Mel
The Yorkshire Museum is located in the gorgeous Museum Gardens in the centre of the historic city of York. Entry costs a very reasonable £7.25 for adults with up to four children under 16 gaining free entry with each paying adult. It is an affordable family day out! The museum is easily accessible by public transport and parking is available a short walk away. The Yorkshire Museum charts the history of York through Viking and Roman times as well as an extensive biology and geology collection. It is also very popular for its Jurassic exhibition in which interactive, hands-on exhibits allow children to explore the age of the dinosaurs in Yorkshire. There are life-size dinosaur and skeleton models and even a dig zone where children can dig for fossils. Children under five can borrow a Dinosaur Backpack with an age-appropriate trail and activities. Furthermore, there are regular, free family-friendly talks, tours and workshops on offer, particularly during the school holidays. After your visit, give the kids a run around in the beautiful Museum Gardens and explore the adjacent ruins of St Mary’s Abbey or the medieval building, the Hospitium. There are daily free tours of these pretty gardens which are a popular meeting and picnic spot for local residents.
Contributed by Sinead from Map Made Memories
The Tring Natural History Museum in Hertfordshire is one of the best/ most unusual museums we have ever been to. Me and the kids have nicknamed it the dead animal museum well because its full of dead animals. Its a taxidermist’s dream.
Its free to enter and free to park making it an absolute win for parents. The fact that its highly educational is another bonus.
Its one of the smallest Natural museums we have been to but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. They have utilised every inch of the museum from hidden fleas dressed as Mexicans (Still not found these they’re so teeny) right up to Sharks suspended from the ceiling.
I’ve always thought it was like a zoo only with the guarantee of seeing the animals every time you visit.
If you’re taking the kids then you wont have to worry about lack of activities. For £1 you can pick a trail from one of 2 on offer each one suited to an age group. We went for the letter eye spy one which was perfect for my nearly 3 year old.
When you first enter they have a free cloakroom for your belongings (own risk). Next to this you will find a huge rack of clipboards, pencils and paper for free. Lots of Children were walking round drawing the animals.
The one room which never fails to creep me out is the pet room. If you’ve recently lost a dog it’d be best to avoid this room because the likelihood of seeing a close likeness to your dog is high.
Contributed by Lisa from The Family Ticket
When you are visiting Belgium, a visit to Brussels Natural Sciences Museum can’t be missed! It is located in the Europese Wijk and you can use many ways of public transport to reach it.
Recently renovated (2016), the museum now offers an amazing experience for both young and old! You can choose whether you want to visit the permanent collection (adults/children 6-18: €7/€4.5) or the permanent and the temporary exhibitions (adults/children 4-18: €9.5/€7).
Exhibitions include the evolution of mankind and the functioning of the human body, minerals and shells and a collection about biodiversity in the city.
The main part, however, is reserved for the dinosaurs. The more than 3000m2 gallery (the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe!) allows you to submerge into the world of the dino. You can listen to the sound of the Parasaurolophus, touch T-rex teeth and match the type of poo with the correct species. Interactivity at its best!
A separate room is dedidated to the Iguanodons of Bernissart: 30 almost complete skeletons that were discovered in a Belgian coal mine at the end of the 19th century.
If you are visiting with kids, make sure to stop at the PaleoLAB! In this interactive paleontological lab, kids between 5 and 12 get to experience what it’s like to be a paleontologist, anthropologist or geologist. A ticket costs an additional € 2 and there are three 45-minutes sessions a day but only during the Belgian school holidays.
Contribiuted by Babs from Travel Gear For Kids
The Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki
One of the best Natural History Museums we’ve had the pleasure of visiting has been the one in Helsinki. Located in the city centre, within walking distance to the main train station, we spent a few hours thereafter arriving into Helsinki after our visit to Santa in Lapland.
Spanning no less than 3 floors, you’ll find so many interesting displays. As soon as you enter the museum you’re met by an imposing elephant, just one specimen of the 13 million held by the Finnish Museum of Natural History. There are animals, mineral, fossil, insect and fungal samples within the full collection. Zoological, botanical and geological samples are on display to the public.
There are even some interactive displays for children to feel and smell the fur and scents of animals. My personal favourite was the African displays. And there is a very impressive room with dinosaur skeletons on display. You can also view animals and other species native to Finland in the Finnish nature room. Audio-guided tours are available and there are museum maps available at the entrance to guide you around the building, just return them before you leave.
The entry fee for 2019 is €15 for adults and €7 for children between 7 and 17 years of age, under 7’s visit free. Opening times vary depending on the time of year, feast days and there are free days at certain times during the year, so it’s best to check the website before your visit. If you are visiting Helsinki, especially with kids, I highly recommend a visit to the city’s Natural History Museum.
Contributed by Cath from Passports and Adventures
The “Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History in Bucharest, Romania
The “Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History in Bucharest, Romania is one of the best museums to visit in Bucharest. It was renovated a few years ago, so you will enjoy the best this museum has to offer.
Home to two million specimens of invertebrates and vertebrates, this museum takes you back in time to the dinosaurs times – the skeletons are quite impressive. You can learn about species from all over the world – underwater and on land, of course, including insects – and there is a comprehensive section dedicated to the human body and to people from all over the world.
What I love is that there are interactive panels (Romanian and English) where you can learn more, and there is even information for the vision-impaired people, in braille, for each item exhibited.
There is a permanent exhibition, but almost all the time there is also a temporary exhibition. Preschool kids have free entrance, while the admission price is 20 lei (around 5 Euro/USD) for an adult and 5 lei (1 Euro) for children and students. There is also an audio guide available – in Romanian, English, and Spanish – it costs 10 lei (around 2 Euro). There are also guided tours available – the one in English is 200 lei and needs scheduling in advance. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 AM to 8PM (the last visitors enter at 7 PM).
I admit that I go here quite often with my son – he really likes it, and we discover, each time, something new, interesting. If you are in Bucharest and in the mood for a natural history museum, I highly recommend this one.
Contributed by Loredana Pascal from Earth’s Attractions
The Museo di Scienze Naturali museum in Bergamo, Italy is a great natural history museum. It is smaller than many other museums of its type but we feel that this is a benefit in many ways as you have a chance to see all of the exhibits without feeling the need to rush on to other attractions.
Generally, when you visit a natural history museum with kids they are only interested in one thing – dinosaurs! The Bergamo Museo di Scienze Naturali doesn’t disappoint on this front and one of the highlights of the museum is a fantastic, life-sized cast of an entire Allosaurus skeleton. This is sure to delight (or possibly scare) your kids!
There are a number of other dinosaur fossils in the collection and the huge woolly mammoth that greets you at the entrance is another great exhibit.
The museum houses interactive elements that kids will enjoy like a collection of birdsong samples and some tactile exhibits, there are also electronic microscopes that can be used.
The majority of the museum’s collection is not on display and is reserved for scientific study, but what there is here is well worth a visit during your stay and we think that it is one of the best things to do in Bergamo.
Contributed by Chris from More Life in Your Days
This old-school museum proved to us (as if we needed proof) that a museum doesn’t have to feel like a cross between a food court and a gaming arcade. The Natural History Museum in Vienna is simply room after room of rocks bones and stuffed animals. Did our kids like it? We could hardly drag them out after three hours inside.
The magnificent building opened its doors to the public in 1889. It is one of the most important Natural History museums in Europe with tens of millions of items available for scientific research. A hundred thousand or so of which are on public display.
Why did they like it so much? This place gives the simple pleasure of exploring big old rooms full of stuff. The first three rooms, for example, have nothing but small rocks in glass cases. “Hey come and look at the colours in this . . . Hey, this one is from near where we used to live . . . What’s “fool’s” gold daddy? If it’s salt can we lick it?” They spent almost an hour at this before we even reached the moon rocks.
If we were showing any hint of flagging by the time we found the dinosaurs, the revival was immediate. Fossilised bones prompted the instant invention of a game called “Ï bet I can guess what that came from.”
Now our girls usually enjoy museums. But this particular museum was one of our family’s high points for city attractions worldwide.
Don’t go to Vienna expecting touchscreens (though there are some) and cafeteria food (table service only here.) Go for an old-school museum trip to enjoy the dying art form of seeing real things in glass cases at its very best.
- Google Map Location and How to Get There
- Opening hours
- Thursday – Monday 09:00am – 6:30pm
- Tuesday closed
- Wednesday – 09:00am – 09:00pm
- Typical Entry and Other Prices
- Adult: €12
- Child (below 19 years old): FREE
Contributed by Ania from The Travelling Twins
The Best Natural History Museum in United States
The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is one of the finest museums in the world. It houses millions of specimens, from gems to mummies to dinosaurs. Its beginnings date back to 1893 and the World’s Columbian Exposition. At the time, it was located in what is now the Museum of Science and Industry and was called the Columbian Museum of Chicago. In 1905, they changed the name in honor of Marshall Field, who had bequeathed $8 million to the museum in his will. In 1921, the Field Museum moved to its present location near the shores of Lake Michigan.
One of the things that makes this museum special is that it has something for everyone. The exhibits help visitors dive into humanity’s past and go as far back as four billion years. Kids are fascinated to learn what it was like to hunt a woolly mammoth and the story about the man-eating lions of Tsavo. Children have their own section of the museum at the Crown Family PlayLab. Kids can hear animals that live in Illinois woodlands, “harvest” corn in the Pueblo, and create art projects.
If you’re planning a visit to Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Natural history museum should be on your list of places to visit with kids.
The National Museum of Natural History is one of the most visited museums in the world and the best part is that it is completely free to enter!
The museum has a collection of over 126 million specimens of different plants, animals, fossils, minerals, and human remains and artifacts. Our little ones favorite was the mummies!
There’s so much to discover on your visit to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The kids will especially love the Hall of Dinosaurs and the life size T-Rex and Triceratops, Its absolutely amazing! Let them discover bugs at the Insect zoo and explore their habitats, or visit the Ocean Hall and explore sea life!
When the kiddos need a little break, they can visit the Q?rius room. This exhibit is the museum’s interactive and educational area, with various activities and many opportunities for hands on learning! They can play with microscopes, or just sit and color. It’s the perfect place to let the kids unwind after a long day exploring the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.
Contributed by Skylar from Skylar Arias Adventures
The Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, FL is great for kids of all ages! Known to the locals as MOSH, I took my toddler several times during a recent stay. Not only was I was surprised at all the toddler-specific exhibits, there were plenty geared to older kids that he enjoyed, too. With the typical short attention span of a 3-year-old, I assumed he’d get fussy after a short period of time. But we spent hours there each day (even skipped nap time!) because he was so engrossed in so many displays.
Adults cost $15 and kids cost $12 to get in, with kids 2 and under being free. Their Kid’s Space is right inside the entrance, and specifically geared to under 5s, with toys, building blocks, and a climbing “tree.” We hit all the daily programs, which included animal encounters at the Florida Naturalist’s Center (we got to interact with a possum!), invertebrate encounters at the museum’s touch tank, and a science show with fire, ice and electricity demonstrations. It had us both squealing with excitement.
They have both permanent and traveling exhibits. Jack loved the dinosaur bones (permanent), and Backyard Adventures (temporary). They were both educational, fun, and offered lots of interactive opportunities. This museum is as hands-on as it gets, and is so family-friendly. We can’t wait to go back and see what they have next!
Contributed by Mary Beth from a Reluctant Mom.
In addition to the dinosaurs, you can also find several animals of varying species and climates at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. A few of the wildlife displays include the Bird Hall and the halls of African Wildlife and North American Wildlife. There are also displays on Ancient Egypt, American Indians and beautiful gems, to name just a few.
Aside from the wildlife on display, there are a few exhibits dedicated specifically to those visiting the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with kids. The Discovery Basecamp is an exhibit where even the littlest explorers are encouraged to touch everything and apply hands-on learning. Some of the highlights of his exhibit include a tented area with dozens of animals, a table of dinosaur replicas, and tackle boxes filled with contents for kids to learn about wildlife and plantlife. There’s also a bug-themed playing area, a display for kids to make their own diorama and animals including a lion and bear that kids can touch. Next to Discovery Basecamp is the Bone Hunters’ Quarry, which offers fossil digging for kids up to age 10.
Entree Fee: Tickets cost $19.95 for adults and $11.95 for children ages 3-17. Your ticket will get you admission into both the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Contribiuted by Amanda from Toddling Traveler
One of my kids’ absolute favorite things to do in Denver, Colorado is to visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. There’s absolutely something for every member of the family to enjoy and share with the others.
At 6 years old, my son can give you a lecture on almost every single organism, fish, dinosaur in the impressive Prehistoric Journey exhibition. His favorites are, of course, the banana-sized teeth of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Diplodocus skeleton with its giant whip-like tail.
My daughter is fascinated by the Gems and Minerals exhibit and loves to learn about the mines and rocks found in her home state. For adults especially, I enjoy the traveling exhibitions like the recent Dead Sea Scrolls and the newest on Leonardo da Vinci.
The best area for kids, especially toward the end of the visit when they want to run around, is the Discovery Zone. The Discovery Zone is a hands-on kid area where they get to dig up dinosaurs, explore water movement, and tons of other activities where they get to move around and be a part of science.
Current on-line museum pricing: Adults $18.95, Juniors (3-18) $13.95, Seniors (65+) $15.95.
Bonus Tip: If you visit the museum more than twice a year I’ve found it’s a great deal to get a museum membership. The DMNS participates in the ASTC Passport Program. This means we can also get free general admission to any other museum in the USA (or the world!) that also participates. When we travel, I always check the website to see what museums are in the area in the program to check out!
Contributed by Lauren from Explorer Momma
The Field Museum has different levels of tickets based on how much of the museum you’d like to see. Prices range from $17 for children ages 3 – 11 and $24 for adults, to $27 for kids and $38 for adults. There are also many free days at the Field Museum for Illinois residents.
The Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, might just be my favorite natural history museum anywhere in the world – and our family has visited many of them! What makes it so special? Unlike so many other natural history museums, the Bishop Museum focuses only on Hawaii and its related Polynesian neighbors. There’s also a strong cultural component, as Hawaiian life and land are so closely intertwined. There’s more than enough to explore on that topic alone!
The Bishop Museum has several distinct sections: a Planetarium, the Science Adventure Center, a native plants garden, and a building dedicated to Hawaiian and Polynesian history and culture. All of the sections are worth visiting and you could easily spend 3-4 hours there. The Polynesian history hall provides a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between Hawaii and its other island neighbours, including showcasing the diversity of artifacts, the linguistic ties and how they navigated the region.
The Science Adventure Center is a highlight for kids. There are hands-on exhibits about oceanography, volcanoes, biodiversity, how waves break and more. There’s even a real lava demonstration! The Bishop Museum is such a wonderful experience for school-age kids that we took our kids several times.
General admission pricing is $24.95 for adults, $16.95 for kids 4-17 and free for those under 4. But there are lots of great ways to get in for less! If you’re a member of your local science museum, your admission is free for four people. Don’t have a membership? The Bishop Museum is also an option on the Go Oahu Card – get all the details here. It’s only an additional $2.95 to see the incredible Wayfinders planetarium show; I recommend the longer afternoon show, which is interactive and includes wayfinding lessons!
Contributed Melisa from The Family Voyage
The Best History Museum – Rest of the World
If you are looking to dive into science and nature, the Canadian Museum of Nature – formerly called the National Museum of Natural Sciences – is the place to go! Known as Canada’s “Natural History Museum”, the museum is located in Ottawa, the country’s capital city. In fact, the Museum of Nature is one of a number of awesome museum attractions to visit in Ottawa.
The museum is located just a short walk from Downtown Ottawa – and would be easy to get to should you choose to use public transit. With a beautiful glass atrium and bright viewing galleries, the historic building itself is lovely to visit. Aside from their permanent galleries on all things “nature”, they also have a number of Special exhibits that run in different seasons – from butterflies to experiencing life as a flying dinosaur or even 3D movies. These tickets are generally a bit more expensive than general admission – but worth it for the experience.
Admission prices to the Nature Museum are $15 CAD for adults and $11 CAD for children 3 –12 years old. That said, there is plenty to do at the museum with kids. Kids can visit the “Bird Gallery” and try their hand at being a veterinarian while they repair a broken wing and care for eggs. In the Fossil Gallery, kids can get up close and personal with a full-sized dinosaur skeleton and in the Water Gallery, they can play researcher and explore the ocean in a submarine – all while near the real skeleton of a blue whale!
Contributed by Eric from Ontario Away
Today, Argentina’s Patagonia is famous for its epic hikes and wildlife. However, millions of years ago some of the largest dinosaurs in the world inhabited this land. At forty meters in height and 20 meters long, the Patagotitan mayorum is the world’s largest dinosaur and it was discovered here, just miles from the Peninsula Valdes. The Museo Egidio Feruglio in Trelew (in the Patagonian province of Chubut) is an excellent paleontology museum highlighting the fossils found in the region.
This is a small but very informative museum. There’s a short video explaining the discovery of the nearby fossils and the history of the museum. One room is dedicated to microorganisms, another to marine life fossils, but the highlight is the room with replicas of the larger than life carnivorous dinosaurs.
There are programs for children, such as “Explorers in Pijamas.” Children aged 6-11 are invited to spend the night camping among the dinosaurs. They can learn as they explore the museum with flashlights and make their own fossil replica. This museum is very affordable at around $7 US for adults and under $5 for children. There’s a cafe in the museum for coffee and snacks after a full afternoon of learning about the fossils. If you’re ready for more, the Bryn Gwyn Paleontoligical Park is only 8 kilometers away. Take a walk back in time, 40 million years to be exact, right where the fossils were discovered.
Contributed by Erin from Sol Salute
The South Australian Museum is one of the most visited museums in Australia and one of the best things to do in Adelaide with kids. With five floors of exhibits covering fossils, mammals, Ancient Egypt, special exhibition spaces and more plus Aboriginal and Pacific Cultures collections, the SA Museum offers plenty for young and old.
With so many interactive hands on activities, kids will absolutely love it here. No doubt they will love checking out the various world mammals, learning about the various South Australian biodiversity and checking out the giant squid which spans across four floors dangling in an elevator shaft!
During the during school holidays, the Museum has free school holiday programs attracting more than 5000 school kids each school holiday period.
If you have any questions, go visit the Discovery Centre Team located on level 1, who are more than happy to have a chat about any of the exhibits. Here you can also see bees making honey, sure to keep little, and big kids busy for a while. The Discovery Centre is open from 11am-4pm weekdays, and 11am-3pm weekends and public holidays.
The Museum is open every day from 10am–5pm, including weekends and public holidays. Entry is free; however some exhibitions may have a cost.
Contributed by Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels