Museum of Natural History, Halifax

Frog at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax, Nova ScotiaThink about your hometown for a minute. How many places to go/eat at/experience have you meant to visit for years and yet have never made it to the top of your list? Despite living in Halifax for over a decade, I’d only been to the Museum of Natural History once. I remember liking it, and I remember the bee hive, but somehow I never visited again.

Thanks to my mother, we rectified that oversight on our recent trip. Like most grandparents, she was more concerned about making sure the wee one had a good time than anything else. With just enough time to squeeze in one child-centered stop, and a great many enticing options, the impending conclusion of the dinosaur exhibit (it was over at the end of May, I believe) settled us on the Museum of Natural History.

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Marine hall at the Museum of Natural HistoryAt $18.30 for three adults (one senior) and a preschooler, the Museum of Natural History in Halifax is a bargain. That got us admission for the day, and we were easily able to fill the two hours we had to fill before it was time to head back to New Brunswick.

The museum combines the expected taxidermied animals (usually set up in dioramas) with live animals, including frogs, salamanders, snakes, Gus the tortoise, and best of all – a working bee hive behind plexiglass.

At first, our energetic preschooler ran from exhibit to exhibit, squealing at the roars of the animatronic dinosaurs and pushing all the buttons available to her.

Representation of what the research station on Sable Island might look like.

The museum’s representation of what the research station on Sable Island might look like. Even here there are interactive elements.

I confess that I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for any actual “learning”. Gary and I appreciated the fur and feathers on the dinosaurs, though. With research now showing that dinosaurs had both, these guys were clearly up-to-date… although it did look a little weird given that we’d grown up with the leathery, scaly versions.

The museum does an excellent job of providing options for people of different ages. Even at not-yet-four-years-old, our daughter found plenty to look at, play with, and exclaim over while we read the labels and tried to tell her a bit about what she was seeing. (There was very little listening, but that is not the museum’s fault.)

By the time we worked our way back to the living section of the museum, my poor mother had collapsed and our daughter had slowed down enough to be entranced by the snakes and bees.

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The terrariums, home to small crawling/hopping/slithering creatures of all kinds, were my favourite part of the museum. But the bees held our daughter’s attention far, far longer than anything else.

The giant hive is behind plexiglass, and a plexiglass tube goes from the hive outdoors so that you can see the bees going in and out in pursuit of pollen. Watch them come back, do their little dance, and go about their honeybee business. I think she spent about half an hour there – an eternity for such a small energetic child.

If you’re headed to Halifax, and especially if you’ve got kids in tow, the Museum of Natural History is a great place to visit and sneak in a little science education with your fun. Located on Summer Street, you’re well-placed to make a day of it if you can, as Citadel Hill, the Public Gardens, and most downtown attractions are within easy walking distance.

But make sure you budget some of your time to spend watching the bees.

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