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Donkeys, Dinos and Dirt: A Visit to the NC Museum of Life and Science

November 09, 2012 3 min read

In the heart of Durham, the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science offers hours of fun over 84-acres of beautiful, tree-filled land. There’s a train, dinosaurs, a barnyard, playground, butterfly house, wild animals, and a wind and water exhibit–plus a full indoor museum! We’re members, so I usually try to go once a week. During the Fall, Winter and Spring they are closed on Mondays, so be aware of that. And every Wednesday from 1:00-5:00 p.m. admission is free for Durham residents. If you live in Durham, it’s a great opportunity to check it out. Here are a few photos from our most recent visit on a cold and grey November day.

The first time I went was with a first-grade field trip. When my son first started crawling, we would go and play in the baby/toddler room. There’s a miniature staircase with a slide. Also they provide an assortment of soft and wooden toys. Now that he’s a ‘big boy’ he loves the outdoor exhibits. He loves running down the pathway to find out what’s next around the corner.

 He has a book with illustrations of a petting zoo with donkeys. It’s one of his newest words and he’s been talking about them for a few days. We stopped by the barnyard to say hey, but in real life the donkey was a little intimidating. When he let loose with a full-throated “hee haw!” my brave boy dissolved into tears. He’s a bit fearful of live animals. I understand it’s typical for toddlers to become afraid of things so we just take it easy and look from afar.

He was too scared to stop and look at their new alpacas, but we did see the cow.

He may be frightened of the barnyard creatures, but the gigantic, plastic dinosaurs are his ultimate favorite.

The Dinosaur Trail has several dino vignettes and one that the kids can actually touch and climb on. The treetop-tall Alamosaurus gets the biggest reaction from my little paleontologist.

There are also Mama and Baby dinosaurs, which he is happy to point out.

In the trail, there’s an excavation area where kids can dig in the dirt for shells and small stones. My son enjoyed going with an older friend. He’s in kindergarten, so, you know, he’s a total hero/role model. My little guy wanted to do everything just like him!

We also walked out to see the wild animals–bears, lemurs and wolves–but it’s a bit of a hike. If you’re planning to go out there, bring your stroller to give the toddler legs a break. We never go anywhere without our Planet Wise Sandwich Bags for a little snack pick-me-up. Sometimes I even get one for myself.

The black bears are amazing. Members can even get a backstage tour to see the bears up close. I thought about signing up, but thought it might be better to wait until my own little bear isn’t so scared of large animals.

How ridiculous is this sleepy Red-Ruffed Lemur? Look at that tooth!

I mentioned that it was a chilly day, so we eventually decided to head inside. They have lots of opportunities for building and hands-on learning.

A space exhibit.

And some neat math activities that were slightly over my toddler’s head. He still enjoyed the tactile experience.

There’s so much more inside: more animals, a block room, health and weather exhibits. Every time we come, we have a different experience. Sometimes we ride the train or dig in the sandbox or visit the poison dart frogs in the Butterfly House. For the upcoming holiday season, the museum has several special activities like the Santa Train and a Carolina model train exhibit. This is my favorite time of year with the crisp air and spectacular leaves!

Have you been to the NC Museum of Life and Science or your local museum? What does your little one love to do there?


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