Hi friends! I'm super excited to share a fun museum today for a few reasons: 1. our family really enjoys it. 2. I totally think it's a hidden Eugene gem. 3. it's rarely ever crowded, which is so very nice with littles.
Maybe you've already been there? It's the Museum of Natural and Cultural History on the University of Oregon campus. If you've never visited, or if it's been a long time, here are some reasons that I think you should check it out soon.
The MNCH is a nice smallish size, which makes it feel very do-able. There are plenty of hands-on things for littles to manipulate, as well as lots of interesting reading material for grownups. With exhibits on topics like archeology, ecology, and paleontology, there is something interesting for everyone to check out. High powered microscopes, stuffed animals (the kind that used to be alive, not the kind you can snuggle), high interest artifacts, and the world's oldest shoes (true story!) are all part of the fun. Littles can put on lab coats to collect rocks and dig for fossils, and there are backpacks at the front counter that you can check out for free. They have some fun extension activities in them, although my 3.5 year old was mostly interested in wearing the vest and carting around the puppet.
Even though we've visited the MNCH four times in the past six months, my kiddo was very happy to spend a solid hour exploring the exhibits. I can hear you thinking, "who wants to drag their littles down to fight the campus traffic for an hour long activity?" I know. Not me. So here's how we like to extend our visit and make the trek down to campus (sort of a lot of work) more worth the while: we pack a picnic lunch and spend the morning wandering around the UO. There is so much excitement to be found: plenty of green spaces to run, lots of people for people watching, steps and ledges to climb and balance on, and there's always some construction if your kiddos are into that (and whose aren't, really?) The museum plus a meal plus a ton of wandering could make for a very long nap - wahoo! Or at least some happy and cultured kiddos. :)
One special highlight for preschoolers is the MNCH's 'Little Wonders' program. It's on the second Friday of each month at 10:30, and it costs $5 per family (2 kids) or free for Science Factory members. Each month is a different theme, such as butterflies, volcanoes, or teeth. They read a story (caution: it's usually pretty wordy, but they project the pictures up on a wall), then do some really fun and very age appropriate crafts. It's a very well organized event, and I've never seen more than a dozen kids there. We love it!
Parking: The MNCH has it's own little lot on 15th Ave, which is free. However, you have to go into the museum, get a pass, and go back out to put it on your dash, which is sort of a pain when you're corralling littles.
Food: no food to buy, and they don't let you eat inside anyway.
Resting/nursing spots: lots of benches throughout the building
Cost: general admission $5, kids 3-18 $3, kids 2 and under are free
***There are tons of opportunities to visit the MNCH for free:
*The first Friday of every month is free
*Every weekend with a home Duck football game is free
*Science Factory members get in free anytime
Time Frame: 60 minutes, 90 if you have littles who are old enough to read
There is a gift shop, but I don't really know what's in it since I avoid it like the plague - no need to ruin a perfectly lovely museum trip with my toddler breaking some expensive artifact replica. I DO know that they don't sell food. :)
With all of the material gathered in this little museum, this is an educational yet fun outing, even if you (like me) don't know anything about the giant sabertooth salmon (it's for reals!) Grab some friends and go! Happy Adventuring!
Just The Facts:
Museum or Natural and Cultural History
1680 E. 15th Ave. Eugene, 97403
Tuesday through Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
General Admission: $5
FREE admission to the public on the first Friday of the month
Seniors (62+): $3
Youth (3-18): $3
Families (2 adults and up to 4 youth): $10
Children (2 and under): FREE
Museum Store only: FREE
MNCH Members, UO Students, Faculty, and Staff, and ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) Members: FREE (with ID).