I may look like an adult, but I do in fact jump for joy any chance I get to see anything dinosaur related. Which makes me a cool mom in the eyes of my children #momwin. When we decided to make Sternberg Museum of Natural History our first episode for Good Day Kansas, To The Stars Series, I got some serious airtime (ha, double pun).
Sternberg truly is a museum for all ages. They have their 6 permanent exhibits and showcase temporary and traveling exhibits throughout the year. There are many sensory opportunities available such as going into the deep, dark ocean, digging for fossils in the sand pit, or feeling the grooves on a large, fossilized log. Here’s a deeper look into their main exhibits.
The Fossil Gallery
This is my favorite exhibit. Not only does it house the famous fish-within-a-fish specimen, but it also has a huge gallery of fossils found across Kansas that are just wow-worthy. This exhibit helps dive into what the Great Plains looked like 65 million years ago, which is nothing shy of pure dino-awesomeness.
Bringing Fossils to Life
This exhibit shows you the transformation the world and its creatures have undertaken throughout time. You can see modern animals in comparison to their ancient relatives. Sneak peek, most species were much larger than they are now in the world. If you think coming face to face with a grizzly bear now is terrifying, imagine them being 2-3 feet taller. You will also learn about the progression of evolution and the motivations behind these changes.
Rattlerssss: From Fear to Fascination
This live exhibit features some of the most poisonous snakes in the world. From the large Eastern Diamondback to the Tiger Rattlesnake, you will get to learn about their habitats, behaviors, and adaptations of each species.
The Ice Age Hall
Um, life sized woolly mammoth, does it get any cooler than that? The Ice Age Hall displays prehistoric and modern mammals. You’ll discover how the earth’s climate changed during Pleistocene Epoch (fancy term for Ice Age) and how life adjusted to the dropping temperatures and larger formations of ice.
Exploring Earth Science Hall
Rock lovers rejoice! This gallery explains the work and purpose of geoscience. From Sternberg family finds to the display of different rocks, minerals, and meteorites. You even get to explore how different minerals can look with UV lighting changes.
You’ll step back into time, 65 million years to be exact, to see Kansas during the Late Cretaceous Epoch. You can “swim” in the Western Interior Seaway and walk amongst the dinosaurs as you explore the sandy shorelines. Move quickly past the T-Rex, this animatronic beast enjoys a good scare!
You can find Exploring Extinction: The Dodo exhibit until May 18th, 2022. Shortly after, Sahara Sea Monsters will be on display from May 28th, 2022 to September 18th, 2022. This new exhibit takes you back 600 million years when the Sahara was a warm, rich ocean bursting with marine life. These creatures defy imagination and make up the basis of myth and legends that you’ll need to see for yourself.
Expect to spend at least a couple hours at the museum. If you are looking to expand your visit, they have phenomenal education and outreach programs. Their science camps range in age from 6-18 and they also offer natural history programs for preschoolers or the entire family.
I recommend making your trip into a weekend getaway. Hays makes for a fun destination. Home to Fort Hays State University, this college town is family-friendly and fun for all. They have several walking and biking trails to explore. A visit to the Fort Hays State Historic Site can get you up close to a bison herd. As the locals say, “hit the bricks” and spend an afternoon dining, drinking, and shopping your way through the historic downtown. If you do, have a stout at Gella’s Diner & Lb. Brewing Company or Defiance Brewing for me. Local foodie favorites are the Taco Shop, Vernie’s Hamburger House, The Press, and The Golden Q.
You can find more Hays attractions, events (such as their famous Oktoberfest) dining, and lodging here!