It’s easy to see why a day out at the National Museum in Cardiff would be one of the top things on our 101 things to do in Wales with kids list. There is such a wealth of information there from discovering more about sea life to getting up close to dinosaur bones to wandering around one of Europe’s finest art collections. And on top of that, entry is free!
If you are planning on visiting, why not download our FREE activity sheets to make the visit with kids that little bit more fun.
Download your free printable museum quiz and spot sheetClick here for your free Cardiff museum quiz pack
We found that there wasn’t a lot there for kids in terms of hand outs so we have created our own, as our kids love a quiz and scavenger hunt.
When we visit with the kids we tend to concentrate our visit around the evolution of Wales and the natural history galleries. We have visited so many times and yet the kids never get bored of them, especially as it has dinosaurs and a humpback whale.
There is something there for kids of all ages. Since mine were toddlers they loved visiting, just to see the various animals. My youngest who is 3 enjoys visiting now, although she was a little scared of the mammoths.
My boys who are 10 and 8, are now much more interested in the facts and in learning how the landscape had evolved over millions of years which is great. The exhibition has a range of information to read with lots of visual stimulation too which keeps it interesting. Read on to find out what’s there.
The Evolution of Wales
The evolution of Wales exhibition tells the story of Wales from its earliest geological origins up to the end of the Ice Age.
It takes you on a journey through time as you meander through the various rooms learning about volcanoes, glaciers and coral reefs. During the exhibition you come face to face to skeletons of dinosaurs and woolly mammoths. There are many impressive artefacts from the oldest rocks in the world, to various fossils.
If I’m honest some of the replica animals are now a little dated, and are looking a little worn, but the kids didn’t seem to notice.
There are also a couple of short films that you can watch. The big bang and the volcanoes video clips are short but informative, especially ideal for shorter attention spans.
For dinosaur enthusiasts there is an impressive collection of skeletal dinosaurs to see. We spent ages in this section with my boys trawling over all the facts. When you’re there don’t forget to look up and see the T-Rex skull.
Natural History Galleries
After the evolution of Wales, it is then time to head into todays world. When you first walk through the doors of the natural history galleries you come face to face with a woodland scene, showing the various wildlife found in our countryside. You will see foxes, badgers, owls and buzzards.
There are some interesting sections here where you can look at the different footsteps and fur of the various animals and where you can find out what happened to our red squirrels.
The next room takes you through our sea life, with its sea cliffs and rock pools. It is based on Skomer Island (an another one of our 101 places to visit in Wales with kids) and has Puffins, Gannets, shells and starfish to spot.
Hanging above the gallery is the enormous Basking Shark. The largest fish to be found around the Welsh coasts. It might only eat zooplankton but I’d have a fit if I saw a real one in our waters!
The steps then take you to a whole room dedicated to sea life, with the skeleton of a Hump Back whale at its the centre. The whale was apparently washed ashore near Barry in 1982. Thought to have been killed by a large piece of timber during a storm in the Atlantic while accompanying its family south for the winter.
Also, interesting, was the information on the effects of plastic and pollution on the lives of leatherback turtles. The kids had studied some of the effects of plastic at school and so it was good for them to find out more at the Museum. There was a video clip showing the the damage caused to turtles along with information boards. Leatherback turtles particularly suffer as they mistake plastic bags floating in the water as jelly fish with dire consequences.
There is a huge Leatherback Turtle on display which is the largest ever recorded and is in the Guinness Book of Records. We also found out that you can follow the journeys of tagged turtles by checking in at www.cccturtle.org
Our Verdict of the National Museum in Cardiff
A trip to the museum is definitely worth a visit, with or without kids. There is an abundance of information and visually stimulating exhibitions to explore. Our kids and we love it there and have visited so many times and never get bored.
We have yet to make it to the art exhibition, as after spending around 3 hours in the museum the kids have typically had enough. Although I am hoping to go back in time to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition which is on until 6th May 2019. Maybe next time we should start in the art section!
Whilst the evolution of wales and natural exhibitions are always on display, there are plenty of changing exhibitions on through out the year. There is currently a poppy exhibition there too which was fascinating and a great tribute to World War One. They also tend to run kids events and activities throughout the school holidays.
Good to know before you go to the National Museum in Cardiff:
The museum often has events and one off exhibition’s such as the Tim Peake’s exhibition and Leonardo Da Vinci. They often have events running through out the year and during school holidays for kids.
Remember to download your FREE activity sheets to take with you. Download your free printable museum quiz and spot sheet below:Click here for your free Cardiff museum quiz pack
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Closed Mondays (but open most bank holiday Mondays)
Address: National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NP
Buggy friendly / accessible: There are lifts and most of the walk ways are flat.
Facilities: There is one larger restaurant and one small cafe. We have sampled both and they are decent enough. However, you will probably experience nicer by venturing into Cardiff. There are toilets with baby changing available.
Parking: There is parking in the neighbouring side streets with pay and display meters. Closer into Cardiff there are plenty of options for parking in the various multi storey car parks.
Also in the area – if you are combining with a trip to Cardiff, you are close to Cardiff Castle and Bute Park which are both worth visiting. For rainy days, why not combine with the Tree Top Adventure Golf in St. Davids shopping centre.
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