The hands-on, interactive exhibits at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
give kids plenty of things to do, but the biggest attractions are things to just look
at, from dinosaur skeletons to planetarium shows.
Toddlers through grade-schoolers tend to congregate in the Discovery Center downstairs, and it's fun for parents, too. The folks who staff the Discovery Center are the best kind of interpreters: ready to offer information just when the recipient is ready to learn, and in just the right terms, whether it's for mom, dad, a teen, or a toddler.
The staff will happily (and gently) scoop up one of the hissing cockroaches and let visitors touch it, and just as gently, will explain why they make good pets, and a few other tidbits about the interesting insects.
Inside the Discovery Center, kids can learn the differences between toads and frogs, "dig" (actually, brush) for fossils, and participate in other hands-on activities that relate to various temporary exhibits.
Upstairs, visitors marvel at Lucy, one of the oldest known humans, replicas of prehistoric humans and animals, and can touch actual dinosaur bones
Visitors can eat a healthy snack, or small meal, at Blue Planet Cafe, on the main floor near the admission desks. Children's meals include a beverage, cookie, and a cookie. Also available are all-beef hot dogs, gourmet salads and sandwiches, and homemade soups.
Outside, allow time for the kids to hang out with "Steggie," the ceramic Stegosaurus. (Makes a great photo op!)
The Perkins Wildlife Center and Woods Garden
celebrates Ohio's wild animals and plants in a 2.2 acre outdoor gallery adjacent to the museum. The center is home to bald eagles, owls, deer, foxes, bobcats, hawks and other creatures, who live in enclosures designed to resemble their natural habitats. Staffers regularly hold short shows featuring live animals in the main lobby - call ahead to get the schedule for the day you plan to visit.
Temporary exhibits and class schedules are available at the website
. Subjects vary for kids from toddlers to high school seniors, and one-day workshops are often offered on school holidays. Birthday Party
packages include museum admission and a self-guided scavenger hunt, and the birthday child also receives a special gift from the museum. Themes include dinosaurs and animal safari explorations. Parties may be booked on Saturdays at 10:30am or 2pm, and Sundays at 2pm - two weeks' notice and a nonrefundable deposit are required. The $200 fee covers a party for 20 people (children and adults); additional guests may be added for $5.50 per person, to a maximum of 35 people. The museum supplies a themed cake, assorted juice boxes, and party masks. Discounted tickets are available to a public planetarium show when ordered at least one week prior to the party, and a sheet pizza can be added to the package with advance notice (for additional cost). Planetarium shows
cost an additional $4; the show schedule is available by phone and at the website
Way off site, the museum staff maintains and offers program in a nature center at Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve
. Most of the museum's programs are designed for children and families; see the museum's calendar
for upcoming programs.
The museum is closed on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.