Established in 1920, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has been an elementary school field trip destination for as long as we can remember, and always a family favorite . We’ve been lucky to have experienced various updates and expansions to the museum, but it had been a few years since our last visit. PrettyWife has been wanting to see the museum’s recently opened Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center and Woods Garden, so a (sorta’) pleasant April Saturday afternoon seemed as good a time as any to head downtown to University Circle.
The museum immediately feels comfortable and familiar, despite years of change, and my 12-year-old self approves! It was a bit tough to see children climbing on the brightly-colored stegosaurus on the front lawn, remembering it as weathered bronze for years- but it does look great, and is still cool kids can climb upon its back. Skeletons of giant dinosaurs are still a major draw for visitors, including a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is a fascinating special exhibit appearing through August of 2018, with full size replicas of the flying beasts overhead, and the interactive opportunity to flap and “fly” as a soaring giant. Beyond the dinosaurs, there are fossil fish from the Devonian, a huge collection of plant fossils, and the bones of monkeys, apes and humans, including a cast of Lucy, one of our earliest ancestors. Interactive displays depict the workings of Mother Earth, and The Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium & Ralph Mueller Observatory to add perspective to our place in the cosmos. But none of that was reason for our visit today- PrettyWife was here for the wildlife!
The Perkins Wildlife Center is an elevated outdoor walkway surrounded by various rescued wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild. Sibling coyotes run below the walkway, with open tunnels that allow them to climb nearer to visitors. A passing ambulance siren set the coyotes to full chorus, much to the delight of all! Owls and eagles, cranes and ravens rehab in habitats throughout the center, allowing closeup viewing and a chance to hear the calls of the various birds. Continuing around the garden, beautiful foxes and playful river otters, and even a rare white raccoon(!) round out the walk. If you’re lucky, one of the caretakers might be feeding or caring for the animals, and you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions, perhaps get an even closer view of a resident. Even on a chilly, overcast day it was easy to spend an hour or so enjoying the beautiful Wildlife Center. We love the Museum of Natural History, but PrettyWife could easily visit just for the Perkins Wildlife Center!
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has something for everyone, and can easily fill the better part of a day exploring. The museum is located in the ever-enjoyable University Circle, about 5 miles east of downtown Cleveland, with plenty of easy parking options nearby. If the weather is good, be sure to enjoy a picnic lunch in the grass, or a walk around the circle.
Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global – see you on the road!