Self-guided Visits

the big dig

Take your students on an exciting exploration of the natural world. Our three floors of exhibits, ranging from dinosaurs and dioramas to hands-on interactive stations, are sure to make your field trip to the Academy the highlight of the school year.

Special Exhibits

Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly

September 30, 2015January 10, 2016

Get eyeball to eyeball with live deadly snakes, colorful lizards, bizarre turtles, and rugged crocodilians from around the world in Reptiles: The Beautiful and the Deadly. Nestled in naturalistic habitats, these cold-blooded animals will help dispel common myths and foster a basic understanding of how reptiles fit into the animal kingdom and their native environments. Engaging, interactive components let visitors “milk” a viper, learn to speak croc in less than five minutes, and test their knowledge with Turtle Trivia and Lizard Wizard. Almost 20 species of live reptiles will be on display.

Tarantulas: Alive and Up Close

January 30–May 30, 2016

Tarantulas have a reputation that precedes them—terrifying, fast, hairy, scary—the biggest, baddest, and most fearsome of all spiders. In the Academy’s newest hands-on exhibit, Tarantulas: Alive and Up Close, you will come face-to-face with a stunning array of live tarantulas—fangs and all. Play a guessing game to learn about speedy tarantulas that dwell in the highest treetops and others that live underground, only emerging under cover of darkness to ambush their prey. Find out why certain species prefer the desert and the rainforest, and learn how tarantulas may play an important role in human medicine. Get the facts on why tarantulas are so hairy as you venture through an air current that simulates the sensitivities of a hairy spider. Explore a tarantula burrow and get your picture taken with these live eight-legged beasts!

Art of Science

This gallery features changing displays of artwork that explore the interplay between science and art.

Signature Exhibits 

Dinosaur Hall

Explore the exciting world of paleontology, stroll beneath towering fossil skeletons, and examine dinosaur anatomy up close. Stop by the Fossil Preparation Lab to talk with staff as they clean and prepare real fossils.

The Big Dig Now FREE with your admission!
Let’s go fossil hunting! Become a field paleontologist and dig for dinosaur fossils in a setting straight out of the badlands. Academy educators teach you how to use the tools of the trade, supervise the digging, and help identify fossil finds.
Located on the Mezzanine Level of Dinosaur Hall

NEW! Chaperons, download our Dinosaur Hall Scavenger Hunt! Answer key located here.

Dioramas of Africa, Asia, and North America

Travel the globe without leaving the museum! Our ever-popular dioramas let students get nose-to-nose with gorillas from Africa, pandas from Asia, and bison from North America. Chaperons may also find the following exhibit guides useful: Africa and Asia Diorama Hall Activity Guide and North American Journey.

Science at the Academy

Find out what Academy scientists are up to these days in this multimedia exhibit. Watch video footage from research expeditions, see recently collected specimens, and find out about our latest scientific discoveries.


Live Animal Presentations!

Meet the furry, feathered, and scaly residents of the museum’s Live Animal Center, and explore their behaviors, adaptations, and ecosystems. The museum's Live Animal Center supports a collection of over 100 individual animals and several colonies of invertebrates that make thousands of program appearances annually.

Monday – Friday
Seating is first come, first served.

Auditorium (Subject to change. Listen for announcements.)
11 a.m., 11:45 a.m.
25–30 minutes
All ages welcome. This presentation is open to the public.

Naturalist Presentation

Join our experienced Academy Educators as they explore natural history in these informal and interactive presentations involving live animals or museum specimens. 

  • Presentations are held at 2:30 p.m. weekdays.
  • Presentations are held at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekends. 
  • Topics and locations vary daily; Check in the lobby on the day of your visit for details.
  • Presentations run for 20 minutes.

Carts of Curiosity

When you visit a Cart of Curiosity, you get to talk to Academy experts, touch real specimens, meet live invertebrates, play engaging games, learn special information about Academy exhibits, and discover how to be a natural scientist.