Dinosaur Train and The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

The Jim Henson Company invited our family to “stomp around and hobnob” with Buddy the Dinosaur at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles on Saturday. The event was part of “Big Big Dinosaurs Week,” which is going on this week on PBS KIDS. Buddy, for those without children obsessed with dinosaurs, is a character from the cartoon Dinosaur Train. He is a young Tyrannosaurus Rex living with his adopted Pteranodon family. Because Buddy is adopted and lives in a mixed-species home, he hops on the Dinosaur Train with his family and travels around learning everything he can about other dinosaurs. Adventures ensue.

No one paid me to say that. I just have the major plot points burned in my brain because I’ve watched almost every episode several thousand times.

It’s rare for me to get invited anywhere, and it’s especially rare for an invitation to come that seems tailor-made for our family. We have dinosaur dig vacations planned, a goal of visiting The Smithsonian and every Natural History Museum in the US and abroad, 11 lovingly abused dinosaur encyclopedias (and counting), and almost every dinosaur documentary/movie/cartoon created. We counted down the days and got up at 5:30 in the morning for this one. It was worth it.

I wanted to visit the National History Museum last year after watching a special on their dinosaur puppets. They are incredible, like the guy on channel 7 news promised, as were the shows. The Triceratops show featured Mary Anning as the narrator, which thrilled me.

[soapbox]

If I may geek out on you for just a minute, Mary Anning was a fossil hunter from the early 19th century. When she was only 12 years old, she discovered the first prehistoric skeleton, an ichthyosaur, while fossil hunting along the coast in Dorset. She hunted fossils to then sell to tourists, as she came from a poor family and was scrappy enough to figure out a way to make money. Although the ichthyosaur was an incredible contribution to earth science–to say nothing of her later discoveries–the British science community shunned her. She was not allowed to call herself a paleontologist (hence the title fossil hunter) or join prestigious geological/paleontological societies. Even more insulting, her work often went uncredited. All this, of course, was because she was a woman. I wanted to burst with pride when “Mary Anning” introduced herself and Mikey turned to me and said, “Mom! She’s the paleontologist who discovered pterosaurs!” That’s my boy. I was even more happy when “Mary” later encouraged all the girls in the crowd to become paleontologists.

Last piece of trivia: Mary Anning is the inspiration behind the tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore.”

[/soapbox]

We had such a fun time, we stayed and watched the Tyrannosaurus Rex show. It was great, but it was no Mary Anning.

Fossils, teaching moments, and a walk in the Butterfly Pavilion to identify as many butterflies as we could. I wasn’t sure the boys would like the butterfly exhibit, but in the end it was one of their favorite stops. I always wondered why people would go on bird watching vacations, but if they are as fun as butterfly watching, I understand the desire to sit on your haunches in the forest and look in the trees. There were a couple of moments where Mikey and Nico were about to go to blows arguing over which butterfly was which thanks to that butterfly chart (“Dude. That looks nothing like an Anise Swallowtail. Where are the blue spots?”), but whispering “Museum Gift Store” into the air was all it took for them to suddenly become agreeable.

We had a great time. For our next adventure, I would love to hit up a good space museum, since that’s Nicholas’s preferred obsession.

Comments
23 Responses to “Dinosaur Train and The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles”
  1. Amy says:

    What a grand adventure! And how did I go this long without knowing about Mary Anning? It’s positively criminal!

  2. Kathryn says:

    Have you read the book that’s the fictionalized story of Mary Anning? Its good. The name has fallen out of my head right now after a night of night terrors from the tall one, but I’ll come back with it.

  3. gabbie says:

    there is a Stuff You Missed in History Podcast about the early life of Mary Anning and her discover and selling of fossils to support her family. Good stuff.

    Seriously if I could get my kids invited to meet Buddy I would be the coolest mom ever LOL

    • Jules says:

      I need to check out this podcast! It sounds awesome.

      As for the boys, I don’t think they thought I was all that cool–though that’s what I was hoping would happen. :-/

  4. Miss B. says:

    The L.A. Natural History Museum was one of my all time favorites! What a blast for the kids And Gabbie is right the podcast about Mary Anning is terrific, I highly recommend as well;)

  5. Susan G says:

    What fun! If you liked the butterfly garden, we have an amazing one here at UF if you ever make it to Florida. We also have one of the largest butterfly specimen collections in the world. And we’re really close to Kennedy Space Center. :)

  6. Karen F says:

    that sounds like it was so much fun! And very interesting info about Mary Anning!

  7. Amy says:

    Okay, now I’m ready to grab my family and head off to Chicago to the Museum of Natural History!

    • Jules says:

      Do it! Chicago actually has some great dinosaur exhibits, and I believe the Paleo Joe books are based in Chicago. I think Paleo Joe works at the Chicago museum. Mikey loves those books and rereads them often. He doesn’t have Mammoth Mysteries, though, as he just reminded me when he saw the page over my shoulder.

  8. Kathy says:

    Aww! That tidbit about the tongue twister made me tear up. Thank you for that knowledge. :)

  9. Kelly says:

    Great, fun post. Very cool that you were invited to an event!

    I’m a little jealous of Mikey’s enthusiasm — the only subject my little guy is “encyclopedic” about is monster trucks. Which have inspired much different (and much louder) family outings. On the space note, we are excited about the shuttle that will soon be coming to L.A., and hope to visit it in its permanent home (I think at the space museum near USC?).

    • Jules says:

      I lucked out with the dinosaurs and space, definitely. I keep waiting for it to die out–over the summer he was super into Pokeman–but so far we’re good. They’re outside right now “hunting fossils.” I’m kind of a bad mom, though, because I’m pretty sure Mikey would be all over Monster Trucks if he went to a show or saw them on TV. I’m practicing avoidance measures. ;)

  10. Kat In Canada says:

    I live 90 minutes from one of the richest dinosaur deposits in the world, which has a museum dedicated entirely to dinosaurs. Come to Canada, bring the boys, and I will put on my science nerd/chauffeur hat and we will HAVE A BALL. True story: a few weeks after meeting the man who became my husband, we went here for a date, and we both consider it the best date we have ever been on, EVEN THOUGH I WAS A GIANT NERD who corrected his pronunciation of dinosaur names. Also true story: one of my University professors has several trilobites named after him, and they are displayed at the museum.

    P.S. Come in summer, winter is cold.

  11. LauraC says:

    Wow, your soapbox was great! Love trivia like that about the tongue twister.

    Sophia likes Dinosaur Train as well. I’m not as well versed as you are though, as I’ll sit next to her and read/browse and tune out her PBS. But I do ask for summaries once in awhile. ;-)

    I also must add, your boys are so so so cute. Absolutely adorable. They really give my two a run for their money on the cuteness scale, and there aren’t too many kids out there that I’d say that about! ;-)

  12. t says:

    Love that very first picture of you and your boys–so cute and happy!

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.