Midwest Living Review
Cleveland's interest in natural history dates to the 1830s, when a two-room building called the Ark stood on Cleveland's Public Square. The city built its Museum of Natural History in 1920 on University Circle, near the famed Cleveland Museum of Art and the Botanical Center. Though the museum announced plans to redesign and expand, and hired an architect to design the project in 2008, no timeline has been set, and no capital campaign has started to raise the funds needed. That's a shame, because of all of Cleveland's attractions, the Museum of National History feels dated. The staff tries. Researchers continue to unearth fine paleontological specimens and participate in important in-the-field discoveries in 11 branches of natural sciences. Kids who visit can enjoy outdoor gardens, animal habitats and a hands-on Discovery Center, and on display, you'll find a T. rex skeleton and Lucy, the skeleton of one of humanity's earliest ancestors. Rotating exhibits work hard to engage children with hands-on lessons in biology, zoology, botany, astronomy and more. But it just feels staid when you walk inside, save for the noisy groups of children on school trips. We did enjoy the planetarium, which reopened in July 2010 with a new digital projection system that allows visitors to see stars' progression and planets in 3-D with cool textural details. The bells and whistles of new projection system are cool, but what makes the planetarium destination-worthy for people of all ages is the running commentary by the on-staff astronomers, there to explain the how's and why's of these celestial beings. We learned why Pluto is no longer classified as a planet and about all kinds of constellations we'd forgotten about since grade school. Admission charged.