Saturday, April 9, 2016

University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

The week of my kids' Spring Break from school was dreary filled with cold and wet weather conditions, so we looked for something indoors to do that would get them out of the house for a bit.  Our family accomplished that goal by taking an afternoon road trip to the city of Ann Arbor to check out the University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History.  The facility is open Monday through Saturday 9am - 5pm and on Sundays from Noon to 5pm.  A very attractive aspect of this museum is that admission is FREE.

The University of Michigan's Museum of Natural History is located in a 1930's era building located on the college's campus.  Walking into the Ruthven Museums Building is like stepping into a scene from an Indiana Jones movie as you make your way into its entrance rotunda.  Visitors head up a set of stairs to make their way to three upper levels of exhibit halls.

The second floor houses The Hall of Evolution which is full of fossils, models and dioramas featuring prehistoric life.  As you first walk into this display area you are greeted by the skeletons of two huge mastodons.  For my kids though the highlight of this area, and our visit overall, were the fossils of dinosaurs on display here.

While this area has some impressive dinosaurs on display, you can also view the fossils of other prehistoric creatures including a saber tooth tiger and giant lizards while exploring the Hall of Evolution.

The building's third floor is a Michigan Wildlife Gallery devoted to showcasing a collection of taxidermy mounts consisting of native Great Lakes amphibians, birds, mammals,and reptiles.  This area also showcases a long line of mastodon tracks that had been preserved and fossilized in mud which is the largest such display in the world.

Of course they have a wolverine on display!

The fourth floor has a variety of exhibits that allow scientific hands-on experiences plus hosts a geology display of various local rocks and minerals. While we were visiting the museum, my kids agreed to help out with the Living Lab program where they were interviewed for a psychology study being done by college students and earned a small toy for their participation.  They were shown cartoons of various types of robots and were asked survey questions regarding their impressions of the video being shown.  The goal of this study is to determine ways new smart technology can be designed to make it user-friendly for children. My kids felt very important to be able to contribute to this experiment which they talked about quite a bit during our car ride home.

A planetarium is also located on the upper floor of the museum.  It provides a 45 minute show several times per day.  Tickets are a flat rate of $5 per person to take in the planetarium show.

We had a nice time exploring the museum and I'd recommend if you are ever in the Ann Arbor area making some time to check it out.  There is an underground parking deck located a block north of the building that charges $1.40 per hour which isn't bad when you consider admission to the museum is free.  Click here for directions on getting to the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History and information on parking when you get there.

If you want to check out the pre-WWII architecture of the museum building don't wait too long for a visit.  The university is building a new state-of-the-art facility next door to house its Biological Science department where the museum will also be relocated to upon its completion in 2018.


  1. This is my kind of museum! Wish I was closer so I could take me son. Looks like you had a great time.

  2. What a cool place to hang out. My son would love this place. He really loves learning. Oh and your little ones are just too adorable.

  3. What a fun place to go! It looks like an awesome museum. It looks like your kiddos had a great time.

  4. I didn't know about the museum. What a great time and you can't beat free!! Thanks for sharing.

  5. At times, rainy weather can be a good thing. It looks like you all had a great day and that you also learned a thing or two. Some of my families favorite times have been visiting great museums. Also, love the free part!

  6. Wow, you are making some super fun memories this Spring Break! Your kids are very lucky and this museum looks so cool, I would love to spend some time here too!

  7. Oh man, looks like they have some really good fossils! :) So cool! And you can't beat free admission!

  8. It looks like a great museum. I love that it is hands-on and interactive for the kids.

  9. What an amazing museum. Great place to visit. Kids and adults will enjoy it.