A surprisingly large number of people in Aylesbury have never heard of Oxford Natural History Museum but it’s such a good family day out. Firstly it’s free to visit. It’s really family friendly as well. Even the entrance is spectacular – the building itself is stunning and there are dinosaur footprints on the front lawn. We’ve visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History many times and I regularly update this review with any changes.
The ground floor
Oxford University Museum of Natural History is a fantastic place for anyone who loves dinosaurs. The Oxford area is a hot spot for them and they have loads on display. There’s a huge triceratops skull, a t-rex and edmontosaurus to name a few. You’ll also find various skeletons of animals such as giraffe and elephants as well as taxidermy specimens. Smallest Child was quite out out that these were all dead and why couldn’t I make them alive again?
In a cabinet towards the back you’ll find glow in the dark rocks which are always popular with the kids.
It’s worth mentioning here that the museum is currently undergoing major work on their displays. They’re moving things around and updating the caninets. At the moment there is only one fully complete new cabinet which is the icthyosaur. There’s now a hands on exhibit as well as a video and audio. It will be interesting to see what else they do.
The upper floor
There are two floors to the museum. One of the highlights has to be the beehive on the first floor. It has glass sides and its own entrance so the bees can get in and out. It’s an amazing chance for children (and adults) to see up close how a beehive works. Sadly they’ve now removed the steps at the side of the bee hive. It means you have to hold the kids up to see what’s going on.
They also have live tarantulas and cockroaches. As well as the exhibits behind glass there are lots of hands-on experiences for the kids and there is a display of glowing rocks which the children think are incredible. There’s also a giant ammonite, an actual meteorite and a huge hunk of fools gold. There’s also a fox and a bear they can stroke without losing a finger. In their current exhibition about the earliest animals they’ve also got a microscope that the kids can use to investigate lots of different specimens.
Being a natural history museum, there are animal specimens but there are a lot of geological exhibits and of course dinosaurs. Oxfordshire is a great area for budding paleontologists so there are lots of dinosaur related things for the kids to see. You can even touch some fossilised dinosaur eggs which is pretty cool. (n.b. I didn’t spot them on my last visit but I may have just missed them)
You won’t spend a full day out here as it’s a relatively small museum, but they do on put trails and activities, particularly during the holidays. They also have a number of activity sheets available at the entrance. Keep an eye out on the website for the activities and workshops they regularly run. You can extend your visit by combining it with a visit to the Pitt Rivers museum which is accessed through the back of Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
It can get quite busy, and as I’ve said it is quite small, so it can be a bit cramped at times, particularly weekends. It’s a fantastic rainy day activity and you’ll enjoy it as much as they do.
Access is a bit of an issue – the get into the museum you have to go up some steps although there is an accessible entrance at the side. You are encouraged to leave pushchairs in the lobby. During the summer holidays they have a covered buggy park outside. It always has a member of staff there are you’re given a ticket so you don’t need to worry about security. Getting one around the museum would be a pain in the pushchair so we took the carrier when smallest child was younger.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History covid review update
The museum has now reopened on a ticketed basis. Masks are required and there are sanitiser stations throughout the museum. When we visited Oxford University Museum of Natural History to update this review the upper floor was closed and they’d moved some of the exhibits around to allow for social distancing. Visitor numbers are significantly reduced, to the point where it felt like almost no-one else was there!
Free but donations are welcome
Parking / How to get there
Address – Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW
Parking – None on site. There is on street parking on the road opposite the museum but it’s expensive (£7.40 for 2 hours). You can park in one of the city centre car parks and walk or get the park and ride. Prices updated for the September 2020 Oxford University Museum of Natural History review
On site. They are down some steps though but there is a lift. There is also a baby change
There is a little cafe on the first floor. It does children’s boxes, hot food and some nice cakes. You could have a picnic on the lawn if the weather is decent.
Our review of Oxford University Museum of Natural History
We go here regularly and have always had a good time. It will be really interesting to see what the improvements bring. Even though the exhibits don’t really change and we’ve been a ton of times the kids have never been bored here. They love it!