Somewhere in all the traveling we did last month we stumbled upon another really cool children’s museum, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. I can’t take the credit for finding it, as it was suggested by our hosts as a good place to let the children run free for a bit to give them a change of pace from sitting in the car. We had discovered the joys of driving during late evening/night, as the three boys would mostly sleep in the backseat and the miles would pass with far less stops, and so it happened that we spent the afternoon in the Dayton museum with our hosts and their daughter Annalija, taking some time to relax before another five hour drive and the real beginning to the holiday craziness.
The Dayton Museum of Natural History began in 1893 as a part of the Dayton Public Library and Museum, and over the years grew with local natural history collections added in addition to international material, with a new planetarium added in 1991. When a movement to create a Children’s Museum of Dayton gained momentum in the early nineties, the Dayton Society of Natural History was brought aboard in a collaboration, resulting in a merger that was renamed Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in 1999 (in recognition of Oscar Boonshoft, a friend of the Museum).
Like so many of our favorite children’s museums, Boonshoft is a combination museum, in this case a zoo, aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum all in one. The zoo aspect was a definite plus, as our membership to the Greenville Zoo had reciprocal benefits reducing the cost of entry. Because of hours of operation, our first stop was the tidal pool, where tucked into a rocky display were sea stars, anemones, cucumbers and chitons. We were able to touch the sea stars and learn a little about tidal life before continuing on.
The tidal pool is considered part of the Discovery Zoo exhibit, which is home to over one hundred animals and insects ranging from river otters and prehensile-tailed porcupines to one of the biggest snakes I have ever seen - Rajeev, the Museum’s 16-foot-long Burmese python weighing in at 155 pounds! We got to see Rajeev on the move – a bit disconcerting with only glass separating us from its giant coils.
The Explorer’s Crossing was also a popular exhibit. The grocery store could be compared to our own Children’s Museum of the Upstate, except the food items were of a healthier variety. And in Cassano's Pizza Kitchen the kids made their own pizzas.
In the court house area the kids had a chance to experience what it’s like to stand in the jury box, or bang the judge’s gavel. Of course it was one of the dads that ended up in jail. Guilty of having too much fun?
A veterinarian clinic and a landfill were both super realistic, but the recycling center was a huge hit; possibly the lure of the truck?
The boys’ favorite portion of the museum might have been a tie between the giant water table and the climbing tower. Two stories high, the tower is crisscrossed by rope ladders and was an ideal spot to exert the last of that energy. And my favorite? The Mead Treehouse, a space extending into the forest canopy surrounded by birdfeeders providing a lovely space to read, birdwatch, or listen to one of the informative presentations put on by museum staff. There’s no doubt the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery was worth the side trip on our trip through, and I know that we’ll be back in the future when we are visiting Annalija!