Dinosaurs And The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

The stages of growth of the T-Rex. The baby is standing under the adult on the left and the guy on the right is a juvenile T-Rex.
Photo by Osie Turner

When you have a little guy that is obsessed with everything dinosaur, you eventually have to start branching out to find new places to go. To our surprise, there was one place we had overlooked with a startling collection of dinosaur fossils as well as a multitude of other creatures—the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. So we packed up for a nice adventure earlier this week and embarked westward to our neighbor city.

The museum turned out to be easy enough to find and makes an impressive first impression. The Gothic architecture gives it an aura of distinction and respectability and once you step through the front doors it immediately feels more laid back and easy going, in true California fashion.

The main feature of the Dinosaur Hall has got to be the T-Rex growth series. This is the only place in the world where you can see a baby, adolescent, and adult T-Rex on display together. A baby T-Rex is quite a sight! They’re still rather large, but so little compared to the adult.

Naturally they had quite a bit more than just the T-Rexs. Complete Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and many more than most of us could name are all to be found in the Dinosaur Hall. In total, they have over 300 fossils and 20 complete dinosaurs on display and all with interactive kid-friendly learning stations and videos.

This diorama shows the muskox, a species of yak native to the Arctic regions, how it would appear in the wild.
Photo by Osie Turner

One shocking bit of information found there is that the Triceratops actually lived closer to our time than it did to the time of the Stegosaurus. This is also true of the T-Rex since they lived at the same time period as the Triceratops; both lived 66 million years ago or thereabouts and the Stegosaurus lived over 84 million years before that (150 million years ago.)

There were many more non-dino related halls as well. Early mammals up to modern spiders and birds are spread out among the 2.5 floors at the museum. The bird halls, which take up most of the second floor, are almost easy to miss, the mezzanine spans the Dinosaur Hall and early Mammal Hall and can be confused with being the second floor.

The diorama display rooms were also quite impressive. The African Mammal Hall and North American Mammal Halls were both captivating and unlike any other museum display I had seen before. The displays are like looking through a window into another world; taxidermied animals are set inside of meticulously recreated scenes of their natural habitats. The halls were first built in the 1920s and were the first of their kind. Many of the animals were already facing extinction and their environments were already changing due to human interference, so this was a conceived of as a way to preserve both the animals and the worlds in which they lived. The displays have changed over the years and the halls were refurbished in 2006.

Walt Disney’s desk.
Photo by Osie Turner

The Becoming Los Angeles exhibit is a break from the ancient past with various artifacts from the earliest inhabitants of Southern California up to the Hollywood era. Walt Disney’s desk which gave birth to Mickey Mouse was an unexpected find. Artwork and statues form the Spanish Missions, various items from the Mexican rancho period rounded out this hall nicely.

All in all, it is a lot to take in and the museum can definitely fill an entire day. There’s an outdoor botanical garden but it was already closing time. A future visit will more than likely be in the cards though. The only thing not to love about the museum is of course the downtown Los Angeles traffic surrounding it, but that is another story!

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90007. They’re open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and only closed four days a year—New Year’s Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Go to nhm.org