November 20, 2011

Super Museum Weekend

I know I keep saying that we're going to stop going on trips and stay home, but Joe just had to get out one last time before the snow came.  Actually, the mega snow finally arrived while we were gone and we came home to a winter wonderland.  I'd say that there's a solid foot out there right now and there's still more glitter falling from the sky.  I love our valley in the winter.  Love it!  While all of my friends get the blues and start holing themselves up for a grumpy season of misery, my heart gets lighter and I feel ready to head out and have some fun!  Well, first I'll have to dig out my snow pants and find my  missing boot, but soon I'm going to be out there digging tunnels and building forts.  My vision for this winter is a series if igloos connected by tunnels dotted with turrets.  Joe rolled his eyes at this vision, but I'm totally feeling it!

Haven as Charlie's Angel???

Okay, back to my original train of thought.  We went on a little mini vacation through Utah this weekend and hit the prehistoric museum in Price and the brand spankin' new Rio Tinto Center's Museum of Natural History.  In between, we spent the night at a hotel with an indoor pool (which is the only realreason Joe wanted to go on this little excursion).

The museum in Price was a modest museum.  From the road, the building looked huge and I felt confident in admitting to Joe, "Oh, phew!  I secretly suspect that you were bringing us all this way to visit some dank little wing of a building used for other things.  This looks like a legitimate museum!"  Just as I said it, I realized that it was in fact a wing of the library building and then I felt horrible for divulging my suspicions.

So, yes, it was small.  But it was big on charm and dinosaur bones!  The best part was the little old fellow who ran the place.  He was a character!  They have a corner called "living fossils" with reptiles that haven't much changed since the time of dinosaurs and the man pulled some of the reptiles out and let the kids touch them.  One was a monitor that had an amputated tail, which everyone thought was adorable!

We loitered around until the Friday Feeding Time, during which the character of a man fed the alligator and water turtle live rats, and the monitors live mice.  This was quite a graphic and exciting show.

After feeding time, we headed back to the hotel and splashed around in the pool before heading to bed.  The next morning we filled up on breakfast, hit the pool again, went back for more breakfast, and finally headed to the premier Museum in Salt Lake City.  This was an architectural wonder that cost millions.  No expense was spared and it totally shows.

Right when you walk in there is a 3 or 4 story glass case with an artistic display of a sampling of items from all the different museum collections.  It was breathtaking and you could walk behind it on the different floors and look through, over the area they called the canyon. 

There was an area called "In your back yard," with caves to crawl through that had lizards and snakes inside, a stream you could splash around in, and little terrariums across the stream filled with little critters native to Utah.
 You could walk on glass above what looked like a dig site full of bones as you walked among the giant skeletons and skulls.

 There were all kind of neat displays where you could guess what the animal would eat, what a particular tool was used for, which kind of animal pollinated each kind of plant, etc. that the kid could use on their own and when they guessed right the animal would make a sound or the tool would light up.  Haven really enjoyed those.  He sent lots of time after the others had moved on, seeing if he could get the sound or the light. 
 You could build a structure and then choose a particular historic earthquake to simulate and see how your structure held up.  We could never quite get the earthquake going so Joe just shook the display, causing a loud collapse and making people look at us like we were destroying museum property! 

This was a neat display of skulls from the pre-human friends throughout history.  I will admit to feeling a bit awkward about discussing this display with Hannah Jane for fear of offending passers by, but the Salt Lake museum crowd seemed a little more science embracing than what we're used to here in the valley, so it could have been worse.  The display was really interesting, with a picture of a reconstructed face beside each one.  Joe kept saying, "What happened to all of those species?  It's just amazing."

The collections rooms and labs were temporarily open to the public and this picture is just one shelf of maybe 15 more filled with specimen jars.  We're talking snakes, lizards, turtles and frog with every kind of deformity, conjoined, pregnant, eggs falling out after years in a jar.  Every kind of gross reptilian oddity you could ask for was here. 

The boys were still a little shorter on attention span than I would like for making the most of this sort of museum.  There was one really cool display with a giant globe and you could press a button to choose a time period and it would shift the continents accordingly.  Haven was annoyed at how long the continents were taking to shift and kept resetting the show because pressing buttons was more fun than watching the slow demise of Pangea.  Joe and I kept pleading with him to stop and let the show progress, but eventually we realized it was never going to happen and moved on.  So, there was lots to learn and this will certainly be high atop our list of places to revisit when the boys are a bit older.  If you are within a few hours drive, this is a must see!!!

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