Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dino Week: Academy of Natural Sciences

If one is looking for the full Dinosaur experience in Greater Philadelphia, then make sure you do not miss the Dino capital of the region: The Academy of Natural Sciences.  Founded in 1812 with the mindset of creating a place "for the encouragement and cultivation of the sciences, and the advancement of useful learning", the Academy opened to the public in 1828 and expanded in leaps and bounds ever since, outgrowing its buildings three times until the current location was constructed in 1876.  The modern-day Academy is one of the most impressive locations in Philadelphia with fascinating, hands-on exhibits that will get even the most unenthusiastic person excited about the sciences.
The mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, measuring at up to 42ft long and weighing about 7.5 tons, greets you at the door of Dinosaur Hall near the entrance of the Academy.  If you see nothing else but this at the Academy, you will leave suitable impressed with this enormous creature.  But there is more - a lot more!  Dinosaur Hall boasts almost 30 different species with nearly half of them being completed skeletons.  Also on display at the Academy is THE Hadrosaurus foulkii.  "Haddy", as he is affectionately nicknamed was discovered in 1858 right in Haddonfield, NJ, making it the very first full dinosaur skeleton to ever be found and assembled (EVER! really!).  English artist, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, and Dr. Joseph Leidy of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia assembled the bones on an iron framework, carefully adding casts of the missing pieces.  The first year they put the Hadrosaurus foulkii, measuring about 9ft tall and 25ft long, on display, almost 100,000 people came to see it!  This skeleton is a one of a kind, as many other Hadrosaurus species have been discovered, but no other foulkiis.
Make your way around the room and discover incredible animals such as the Avaceratops, Chasmosaurus, Corythosaurus, Deinonychus, Pachycephalosaurus, Tenontosaurus, and Tylosaurus.  Find out who these amazing reptiles really were and how they survived and eventually died.  At every corner and turn in the entire Hall, one marvels at exhibits from the terrifying dinosaurs to the eerie sea creatures (as we were informed that prehistoric sea reptiles do not actually count as dinosaurs - sorry Megalodon).  For intereactive dinosaur fun, head to the Mezzanine (for more information on this, follow Daily Vacation's DINO WEEK Jr next week).
Be very careful not to miss one of the most amazing locations in the entire Academy tucked away in the corner of Dinosaur Hall: the Fossil Prep Lab.  Watch volunteers as they work on real dinosaur fossils and prep them for study and possible display.  And when we say real, we mean just discovered and still being cleaned off real.  Daily Vacation was delighted to find a volunteer working on the skull of Hadrosaurus!  A little over halfway through DINO WEEK, and we just can't get enough of this particular dinosaur.  The volunteers in the Fossil Prep Lab are eager (as they are everywhere in the Academy) to answer any questions you might have about the fossils in the lab, the creatures in the exhibits, and dinosaurs in general, so don't hesitate to take advantage of their knowledge.
We were fortunate enough to visit at very opportune moment for dinosaur hunting.  Right now the Academy is hosting the special exhibit, Dinosaurs Unearthed.  This exhibit is absolutely amazing and well-worth a visit before it leaves in March.  Experience animatronic dinosaurs literally come to life before your eyes with realistic movement and sound.  See and hear more than a dozen of these fantastic beasts from the peaceful Ruyangosaurus to the massive Tyrannosaurus.  Look for special points in the exhibit where you can control the movements of certain dinosaurs.  Make sure you take the time to stop in between animals to view incredible discoveries and get your hands on the interactive elements, including a fun dig site.
Basically, if you love dinosaurs (or even if you just love exciting places), make tracks for the Academy of Natural Sciences.  No other place in Greater Philadelphia has the amount and variety of dinosaurs on display.  Discover and interact with dinosaurs in a whole new way.

More photos from Daily Vacation's VISIT.

 Day 1 - Delaware Museum of Natural History
 Day 2 - Philadelphia Zoo
 Day 3 - Adventure Aquarium

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