One of the best museums you’ve never been to….and it’s FREE!


Okay, so you can’t take the kids outdoors everyday…especially with the type of weather we’ve been having lately here in New England. But we stumbled upon what may be one of the most underrated museums that I’ve ever been to – and a new favorite spot for the boys!

Upon the advice of my friend Bonnie, we took Andrew and William over to Harvard’s Museum of Natural History in Cambridge. To be honest, I’ve never heard of place before she mentioned it to me. I don’t ever remember hearing about it when I was younger.

After doing a little research, I found out that Harvard formally established the Museum in 1998 after combining a number of separate natural collections on campus. Also, the other reason I’ve never heard of it may have to do with the fact that it only draws 180,000 visitors per year compared to the huge numbers at the Museum of Science  (1.7 million) or the New England Aquarium (1.5 million). My guess is that Harvard doesn’t really need the money or the visitors….but that’s just a guess.

However, small crowds were just the thing we were looking for this vacation week. Parking can be a bit tough around Harvard, but the museum itself was relatively quiet. If you go, be prepared to walk several flights of stairs and keep the stroller at home – it’s not worth it. If you go on Sundays before noon, the museum is FREE for Massachusets residents, which is another cool thing about this place!

For two little boys under 4, the museum was a perfect fit. We spent a surprisingly long time in the Mineral Hall, which has a great collection of minerals and gems from around the world as well as a 1,600 lb amethyst and a few meteorites. The colors, sizes and shapes were pretty impressive. Yes, the boys love rocks! I’m pretty sure Will was thinking up ways to pull some out of the case to whip at his brother…

Next, we passed through the extinct animals (have a dodo bird on exhibit) to the Fossil Mammal Hall and Dinosaur exhibits.  This is where my kids lost it…they literally jumped up and down screaming around the place at ever dinosaur they saw, from the 42 foot long kronosaurus to the large triceratops.

Don’t believe me? Check out our video. Note how empty the place is…and this is on a FREE Sunday during school vacation week!

There was also a great exhibit about antlers and horns with videos about how animals use them to ram each other…another smart move by the museum to keep my two interested in the program.

The great mammal hall is also pretty wild with a ridiculous display of large preserved animals from all over the world. And the Harvard Mastodon is pretty badass.

There are some sections that you may want to avoid, though. For us,the kids were pretty bored with the “glass flowers” exhibit, which is an extensive collection of glass replica plants (yawn). Seeing that pretty much everything in the museum is dead and stuffed (except for a few small blue frogs on display), there’s not a lot of fun things to touch…in fact some of it is downright creepy, including lots of old fish preserved in big jars of fluid. I guess that’s what some Harvard curators consider to be their idea of fun.

Finally, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology is also connected…and worth visiting. It’s free with your admission.Be sure to check out the cool Decapitator mural on your right when you first enter the Peabody. It’s a great replica of an ancient aztec mural with a deity holding a severed head in one hand and a knife with the other. This became an instant favorite of ours. We took a picture next to it…


Given how long we spent in the Natural History Museum, we whizzed through some sections to get to the exhibits about the Native Americans. The boys could not get enough of the Indian dioramas, teepees, head dresses, bow & arrows, and totem poles.

Total visit time for us was about 2.5 hours…a good chunk of time that left the boys very happy but totally wiped!

It’s a great museum that will leave you pleasantly surprised…at least if you have boys. Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Christian

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