Academy of Natural Sciences

Dig up dinosaur bones, admire gemstones, discover botany and see butterflies at the oldest natural sciences museum in the Western Hemisphere.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University includes a museum, library and special exhibits. This is the perfect family outing for those wanting to teach their children more about nature’s history and present-day environment. The museum recreates the habitats of extinct species and uses interactive learning tools.

Founded in 1812, the academy is focused on scientific research of the earth. The museum itself opened in 1828 with the aim to make remarkable archaeological finds relevant to modern-day people. Shortly after World War II, long before the loss of precious ecosystems became a widespread concern, the academy started to educate the public about water pollution and other environmental issues.

Audio tours guide visitors through the four levels of the museum. The first floor presents North American natural history with animals such as the giant American bison. Walk the large diorama halls to see how in prehistoric times now extinct or protected creatures once roamed free. The flora and fauna of other continents are covered on the museum’s remaining floors.

In the Dinosaur Hall kids will be thrilled to stand next to a reconstructed Tyrannosaurus rex, and they can dig for dinosaur bones on a simulated archaeological field. Children under 11 can try the program Outside-In to see if they dare to pet a Madagascar hissing cockroach or crawl through an enormous log. In the Butterfly Garden they’ll learn about the life cycle of these winged insects.

The building faces Logan Circle Fountain, so follow the signs to that major landmark. There is limited on-street parking. Phlash buses provide cheap and quick connections between the academy and other Philadelphia attractions and hotels. The museum is open daily, and there’s a nice gift shop as well as a café. Special exhibitions are included in the admission and children under three are free.