Adventure Us: Museum of Natural History

The onset of cold weather in a pandemic year brings extra challenges for families – such as how to get out of the house with kids, and how to stay in the house with kids! Fortunately, the Virginia Museum of Natural History provides help in answering both these challenges.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is one of southwest Virginia’s hidden gems. Nationally acclaimed, the museum houses millions of natural history specimens, performs ground-breaking research, supports dozens of staff members, and offers diverse exhibits and educational programs. While its collections include specimens from around the globe, it particularly specializes in local discoveries from the rich natural history of Virginia.

The museum is a great place for kids. From the model dinosaur skeletons to the multitude of intact animal fossils to the arrowhead collection to the display of big cats, its exhibits seem tailor-made for our kids’ wide-ranging interests. Many of the collections have been excavated from local sites – including an American Indian excavation from Salem, and a dig site in Pittsylvania County that unearthed the only known complete Triassic insect fossils.

And not all their displays are dead! Downstairs, the turtle and snake displays and the huge ant colony are fascinating to explore. Also, you can stand by the glass and watch very-much-alive scientists at work in their labs!

Currently, the museum is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Although some of their interactive facilities are unavailable, there is still more than enough to captivate a family for a visit.

The other aspect of the museum is its online and remote resources, which are especially valuable for schooling during a pandemic. Besides its classroom distance learning programs, the museum offers online homeschooling resources such as a virtual science academy (sessions offered every other week), home activities, kits, and weekly videos featuring museum specimens and Virginia reptiles. Check out the museum’s facebook page and register for online programs here!

Also, if you visit the museum in person, make the trip even more worthwhile with a stop at Fairy Stone State Park near Bassett. Though it is off-season, there is still plenty of opportunity for adventure with hiking, picnicking, and hunting for fairy stones.

Name: Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Ave, Martinsville, VA 24112 

Time from Roanoke: 1 – 1.5 hours

Activity Options: History, fossils, science, animals

Nearby Food: The Wild Magnolia, Rania’s Restaurant, and other options in Martinsville 

Nearby Attractions: Fairy Stone State Park, Piedmont Art Museum, Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center & Museum

More Adventure Us

Cristy Carr

Cristy and her family keep busy writing, tutoring, homeschooling, homesteading, and adventuring in the beautiful Appalachian mountains.
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