Dinosaurs seem to have a universal appeal with young children, especially little boys. My 4 and 5 year old are no exception to this phenomenon. We've had dinosaur birthday parties, dressed up as a paleontologist for Career Day at school and read more dinosaur books than I can count. Yet, we had somehow not made it to the local Natural History Museum, or as my boys now refer to it - The Dinosaur Museum.
Bank of America offers a great promotion for debit and credit card holders the first full weekend of each month, providing free admission to select museums across the country. One of those museums is the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. I finally took advantage of this special a few weeks ago and we had a lot of fun.
First, I should say that I grew up in Washington DC so in some degree being raised with Smithsonian as your "local" museums has jaded me for life. I do try to look at museums and attractions relative to the location and the age of my children. The Las Vegas Natural History Museum is a Smithsonian affiliated museum. It is small and definitely shows signs of age but for a town like Las Vegas and most children it is a great experience.
The Museum is open 9am - 4pm daily which makes it convenient for families. The museum offers free interactive programs on the weekends on topics related to their exhibits, check out the Weekend Science page for current topics and times. When we went the traveling exhibit was Sea Trek and the program we attended was about to Creature Camouflage. The presenter did a good job of keeping it interactive and involving the participants (there were about 3-5 families with kids ranging in age from 2-12 would be my guess). After the presentation there was a craft activity and then a chance to get up close with two smaller animals - a mouse and a lizard. My four year son especially liked that part.
In addition to a traveling exhibit the museum has wildlife, early Nevada, Egypt and of course Dinosaur exhibits. My kids favorite parts were the Dinosaur Area and the Young Scientist Area which is the interactive part of the museum for kids. They loved digging for fossils, creating rubbings and checking out the computer stations. A fun little mini-aquarium let them "get inside" and find Nemo; big hit with my Disney loving children. The Dinosaur exhibit features a variety of different models including a large Triceratops and T-Rex that are animated by push of a button.
We arrived about 10 am and stayed for a few hours, which included attending the presentation and animal interaction. The museum was very quite when we arrived and got busier by the time we left about Noon but was by no means crowded. There is a smaller playground located on the same property, just "behind" the museum. We checked that out after our visit and the kids enjoyed being able to really run off some energy before getting back in the van. Overall a great low key museum that provides interactive opportunities for the kids and is affordable, especially if take advantage of the Bank of American promotion, or the two for one coupon they generally have on their website.
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
900 Las Vegas Blvd N (by Cashman)
Las Vegas NV 89101