on May 25, 2011
I lived in London for a time as a kid, and I remember being taken here as a child on a few occasions, however I don't think I really appreciated this museum for all it holds until I went back as an adult and really took in properly everything that they have there, and all the work that's gone into the place.Travelling to this museum is nice and straightforward if you’re able to do so by bus or on the London underground. There are quite a few buses which come here, and the nearest tube station is South Kensington. If like me you come in by car, this is a bit of a pain to do and you need to note that you WILL be within the congestion zone. Car parking is limited, but there is disabled parking available - however, it’s advisable to look on the museum website and google maps to see what you’re dealing with I’d say as my husband who’s not an experienced London driver did find it rather stressful driving here.Getting into the museum is now free, and it’s open from 10am till 5:30pm daily except for a few high days and holidays such as Christmas and the like. There are two entrances – one on Cromwell Road which is the main entrance, and a second on Exhibition Road. If you’re a wheelchair user you’ll probably find the Exhibition Road entrance the preferable one to use as it’s free from steps unlike the main entrance. You are asked if you’d like to make a donation when you come in, and I have to say I personally like to do this as I feel it’s very worthwhile paying a bit towards somewhere as impressive as this – after all, this museum holds the most comprehensive and impressive collection of natural history in the UK. When you enter, there are maps available which you can take to help you plan your route around all the exhibits, and everything is colour coded so you can clearly tell which zone you’re in. They do search bags when you go in - sad, but true, but I suppose it’s not surprising really with the thousands of people who come here that they have to be careful today.I suppose what I remembered from being a kid visiting here, was the big stuff... the giant skeletons of dinosaurs, and the life size model of a blue whale and other really big stuff like that. Going back as an adult you see so much more though. There are exhibitions here covering all aspects of life – animal and plant development, human history and pre-history, fossils, rocks and minerals, and much more.The zones I mentioned on the map relate to how the museum is laid out and you have blue, red, green and orange. Blue ZoneThis covers the animal kingdom – real stuffed, realistic models, skeletons, and even some animated creations of dinosaurs with sound and movement that show their power and domination. From sea to land and even air all types of animal life are covered here including human life and it’s beginnings. There are loads of hands on things for kids (buttons to press so you can see a moving exhibit, or things to watch about how the human body works) and there is an excellent amount of facts given about everything so that although the younger kids can just enjoy the exhibits, us older folk can learn about what these creatures ate, how they lived, died, and so on. Green ZoneThis area is about the planet and its ecology. Rocks and minerals and even conservation information explaining how the destruction of the balance of nature affects us and how we can rectify things. This zone also covers birds and insects oddly, and there are quite a lot of different sections within the zone. The Vault (not there when I was a kid) was very interesting and there were some beautiful items in there - it's all about gemstones from diamonds, rubies and gold to quartz marble, copper, amazonite, blue john and more, and I honestly didn't know they came in so many colours! The display is fascinating, and some of the facts even more so.Red ZoneThe red zone is about the earth – how it works, and what it’s made up from. There’s an earthquake simulator here and lots more rocks and minerals too. Orange ZoneThis bit is outdoors and is only open at certain times of year. It is well established pond and wildlife garden which shows a lot of really interesting things, however being in London it’s not the calmest place in the world and the smell and sounds are still sadly very much ‘London’ and kind of distract from the tranquil beauty of the place.Foodwise there’s a restaurant, a café bar, and down in the basement tables where you can eat your own sandwiches, I don’t recall this being so organised when we were children, and I’m sure we took sarnies and crisps and ate them sitting on the grass outside before wandering off to another museum to be honest. This isn’t really so practical here now, and although we’ve had the odd cuppa or snack, the prices here are generally quite expensive.The museum shop sells all the normal bits and pieces you’d expect – books, toys, novelty items like plastic dinosaurs and so on, as well all the things like mugs, badges, bookmarks and so on that you expect to find. It would be impossible to tell of everything there is to see here, and to be fair, I think it’s almost impossible to see everything there is to see even by spending the whole day here. There is just so much to take in and look at, that I’m always happy to re-visit this fab museum as I never seem to find I’ve seen everything.
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