Fernbank Museum of Natural History

So my 4 year old is coming up on his third year of being obsessed with dinosaurs. Last year he only wanted to go to the ‘dinosaur museum’ for his birthday instead of having a traditional party. He’s been begging to go back since so we ventured back out today.
It is a good hour drive from Cumming, so plan accordingly regarding your commute. Also, take it from someone who goofed today, there is NOTHING to eat around the museum – nada! My boys were starving for lunch when we left and I had planned to run through a trusty CFA on our way home and we were out of luck. So bring snacks or pack a lunch. There is a diner in the museum, but it is typical museum high-priced food.
I will say the museum is very ‘mom’ friendly in that there are true changing tables for babies (not just the kind you pull down from the wall in the handicapped stall of the bathroom), nursing rooms, and is very stroller friendly. However, I wouldn’t consider all the exhibits to be ‘kid’ friendly – or maybe ‘pre-k kid’ friendly (see below).
The most breath-taking part of the whole place is the ‘Giants of the Mesozoic’ that takes up the entire Great Hall. It can be seen from all vantage points during your entire visit.
On the main floor is the ‘Georgia’ exhibit. It has a lot of animals on display that we quickly walked by. It leads to the only dinosaurs on exhibit (five large ones). That’s the only exhibit on the main floor.
We headed downstairs for the exhibits that change seasonally. Right now there is a ‘Creatures of Light’ exhibit and ‘Wild Music’ exhibit. The light exhibit is completely dark and then they have on display replicas of different organisms that ‘light up’ (mushrooms, fireflies, jellyfish, etc.) The boys thought this was pretty cool. The music exhibit you have to put headphones on for each display and maybe it’s just me but that grosses me out. Then a lot of the displays were broken which was disappointing. They had a jam room with lots of buttons and instruments and maybe two things worked.
We moved onto the ‘Sensing Nature’ exhibit which has been there for years. A lot of the displays are broken or don’t make sense and it’s not geared for young ones. There was no way for me to read the instructions and make it work fast enough to keep the attention of my kids. The only thing they enjoyed about this exhibit was a balcony that you can look over to see the dinosaurs again.
The last thing was the NatureQuest exhibit. Which is actually a fun playground-type atmosphere for the kiddos. My boys spent the most time here and loved seeing the real alligators, turtles, and snakes. There are a lot of nooks and crannies hidden around this room so make sure to explore it all. You can also pick up a scavenger hunt list at the front to help you explore all the areas.
We did not choose to see the IMAX movie (they offer two different shows that also change seasonally), but if I had older children I would have.
Overall, we spent not quite two hours at the museum. I think they enjoyed it and had fun. But I will say as a parent to drive an hour there, an hour back, and spend $34 for tickets (and one of us was Free!) it’s not an outing I’m looking forward to doing again really soon. They do have a new WildWoods outdoor experience opening up late summer (this will be a permanent exhibit) that did look pretty cool and the new ‘World’s Largest Dinosaurs’ exhibit will be open September thru January. So, both of those things may just lure us back this fall. Something always does.
One last tip I’ll provide – Fernbank offers an awesome date night experience if you are ever in the search for something. Every Friday night from 7-11pm they have Martinis & IMAX. It’s makes for a fun and unique date!