|Bigger is better. Just ask Thomas the T-Rex and his extinct friends at the Dinosaur Hall in the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. Judging by those big, toothy millions of years old grins, T-Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Struthiomimus seem very happy with their new digs.
The newly expanded Dinosaur Hall opened in July, 2011 and at 14,000 square feet is twice the size of the former galleries. Centered on the growth of the T-Rex from its infancy to its juvenile (and we’re sure quite the rebellious teenager) stages up through adulthood, the Hall includes 300 fossils, some found within rock, as well as unusual aquatic life. Interactive videos and fairly in-depth signage add history and significance to the displays. Kids will get a kick out of solving touch screen puzzles, while adults can appreciate the finer details of context and evolution.
Upon entering, one comes face to face with the Triceratops but it is the impressive 68-foot long neck of the Mamenchisaurus gazing down at guests that elicits an audible reaction. Strewn about the ‘Big Mam’s’ huge feet are baby versions with a model detailing its actual appearance. In this first room, emphasis is paid to the marine reptiles like the Morenosaurus with its spiky neck and flat, narrow flippers. These sea creatures along with tortoises swam the ocean that once covered California.
The second room contains a fascinating assortment of predatory dinosaurs with a pair of T-Rexes posing for dramatic photo ops in a menacing stance. Fans of Jurassic Park can feel like they’re Jeff Goldblum when he says, “Must go faster” as the main T-Rex excavated from Montana is one of ten of the most completed specimens in the world. In its leering stance, it’s hard not to feel preyed on when gazing up at its open mouth lined with flesh-shredding teeth. Towards the end of this room is an encased exhibit featuring Struthiomimus, a gangly, bird-like fellow paired beside an ostrich and a flamingo—it’s contemporary relatives.
Between the Dinosaur Hall and the Age of Mammals is a considerably immense rotunda with a stained glass window on the ceiling. In the center of the room is a sculpture of three muses holding an orb of softly glowing light, but the purpose of this space seems somewhat mysterious in its design. Entering the Age of Mammals is an awe-inspiring moment replete with a sensation of entering a sacred space. Its bright window-lined walls and lofted glass ceiling allows for ample natural lighting. The white space and pristine glass exhibits lends a reverent atmosphere. Those looking for a quiet place to sit can find a bench in the heart of the room surrounded by a Wooly Mammoth, horse-like creatures, a polar bear and a couple of our humanoid cousins.
The theme of this room is simply told: Continents move. Climates change. Mammals evolve. A flat-screen monitor shows the cyclical shifts that left an indelible impact on the earth and history. There are life-sized taxidermy animals mixed in the other 38 articulated skeletal mammals. One of the most photogenic of the bunch is a reclining polar bear, but there is a zebra and a cheetah for those who can’t afford to go on safari. It’s difficult to top the Dinosaur Hall but Age of Mammals is definitely not one to miss and the tranquil space encourages visitors to closely examine the detailed illustrations and elegantly displayed recreated scenes.
With the expansion of the Dinosaur Hall on the first level and its second level featuring Birds, Insects, North American Mammals and the Dino Lab (where visitors can watch paleontologists in progress), the Natural History Museum is an easy and modestly affordable place to spend the day and still not see and experience everything it has to offer. A really hip way to sample the museum is their First Friday evenings that brings a club-like atmosphere with live music, DJ spinning in the Diorama Hall and bars located throughout. Cocktails and beer are reasonably priced. Food trucks located just outside the entrance steps provides dining options.
Note that drinks are not allowed in the exhibits but this gives folks a chance to walk off that buzz when need be. And seeing Thomas the T-Rex snarling down does have a sobering effect. You can read more about our visit to the First Fridays here.
We keep returning to view these old bones and always walk away having learned something new. Whether it’s First Fridays or just any weekday, the Natural History Museum continues to evolve. Now make like a homo sapien and see it for yourself. You’ll be wiser for it.
Natural History Museum - located in Exposition Park (where you will also find: the California Science Center, African American Museum, the Rose Garden and other things to do).
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Phone: (213) 763-DINO
Ride the Metro to the Expo/Vermont station or Expo Park/USC station. Show your Metro pass or TAP Card receipt and take $1.25 off adult admission.