United Kingdom

Planet Earth at London’s Natural History Museum

I think we just went somewhere touristy in London for the last time until September – holy crowds! The difference between the Natural History Museum when we visited in November to two weekends ago was astonishing. By mid-afternoon it felt like we were being shuffled through like livestock – I half expected museum employees to be holding cattle prods! The deluge of people made it difficult to actually see much of anything, so we cut our day short, but luckily still had time to check out the remaining two zones inside the museum that we hadn’t yet seen on our other visits.

We arrived only half an hour after the museum opened, but already there were long lines of people standing at the front to get in. Luckily, right before we joined the queue, an employee started alerting people that we could enter through the back of the museum on Exhibition Road. I had no idea visitors were even allowed to enter that way, but if we ever return, I’m definitely making use of that little bit of information again! Even better, this entrance welcomed us straight into one of the unexplored territories we were planning to check out that day – the Red Zone.

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

The Red Zone is all about Planet Earth and, appropriately, it all begins with a ride into the core of our precious planet. Not to make you prematurely click away, but this was my favorite part of the whole Red Zone. There would be cool things to see and do later, but nothing quite as unique as this. If it hadn’t been so crowded by the time we finished making our way through the exhibitions, I’d have ridden up through it again!

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

The first thing we did was hit the newly reopened Volcanoes & Earthquakes exhibition. This is definitely the most popular part of the Red Zone, so I’m glad we saw this section first. It meant we got to ride the earthquake simulator twice! (Someone was happy about that – can you guess who?)

The simulator recreates what it would have been like to experience the Great Hanshin earthquake from inside a convenience store in Kobe, Japan. A TV screen played actual footage while the lights flickered on and off and the ground underneath our feet shook and tossed the shelves around. The simulator lasts about 20 seconds, the length of the actual earthquake. Definitely worth a second go if you didn’t get the full experience the first time.

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

After that we hit the Restless Surface exhibition (rock formations) before making our way down a level to the From The Beginning gallery (Earth’s evolution). I’m not going to lie to you, I felt like I was back in college at my Geology night class again. I struggled to stay awake through chapters about Earth’s formation then, and I still do now. I’m more of a see-things than read-things person at museums, so this area was a bit boring for me. However, I did see quite a few people intently reading the information provided in here, which means this is probably a pretty cool exhibition if you’re into this kind of thing.

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

Planet Earth At London's Natural History Museum

Next we headed over to Earth’s Treasury which we found quite a bit more interesting than the previous two sections. Tons of precious stones and unique rocks are displayed in cases throughout this small museum. Lex and I did what we always do when there are cases of pretty things to look at – we picked our favorite out of each and every case. We’ve played this little “game” since she was tiny, and I love that she still enjoys doing it.

All that was left to see after the treasury was a completely under-appreciated exhibition called Earth Today and Tomorrow. I love anything that is trying to help bring awareness to the importance of taking care of our planet and living more sustainably. Sadly, this was the only spot in the whole museum that wasn’t crowded. I’m hoping it was because this section was sort of tucked away from everything else on the ground floor, and not because people just don’t care. (Because that would be sad!)

For more information, check out my guide to London’s Natural History Museum. So far our favorite areas have been the dinosaurs and the Darwin center. They’re all worth a peek, though!

Natural History Museum: Website
Address: Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD

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  • Mandy Southgate
    June 23, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    I live this section and I love the earthquake simulator. I took my friend’s daughter there just before it closed a couple of years ago.

  • Jo
    June 19, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    I really should take my kids on more museum trips.

    • Sarah Shumate
      June 19, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Are there many museums in Brussels? I should really look that up considering we’ll be there in about a month…

      • Jo
        June 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        Here is a link to a list of all the museums http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_museums_in_Brussels
        I can honestly say I haven’t even been to 1/3 of them. Have a look & let me know if you are interested in any of them.

        • Sarah Shumate
          June 25, 2014 at 3:28 PM

          I didn’t expect there to be so many for such a small place! Wow! Judging from just a quick glance – none of them look more interesting than going to Waterloo. If I had to pick, I think I’d rather do that!

  • Emmymom
    June 16, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    That escalator is awesome!! Thankfully most earthquakes seem to be little and short. We had one a bit ago that wasn’t really strong but it was well more than 30 seconds long and that was freaky as you just begin to wonder if it is ever going to stop.

    • Sarah Shumate
      June 17, 2014 at 8:09 AM

      I didn’t realize they were normally so short! Have you ever been in a bad one?

      • Emmymom
        June 17, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        Yea, most are over by the time you realize there is one, but they are also smaller too. Thankfully have not been in a really bad one yet.. there have been some bad ones but they were further away, so still felt the shake just not nearly as much as if we were closer. We live pretty close and on the wrong side of the San Andres fault though.

  • Rachel
    June 16, 2014 at 5:32 AM

    Wow, the earthquake simulator.. I think I must ride on that too! sounds exciting! :)

  • Liz
    June 15, 2014 at 5:47 AM

    Ohhhh that looks like such fun! You guys are always on the go, I love it!! Not trying to compare your super cool adventures to our Disney experience at all ;) But your herd of cattle comment totally made me think of our Disney trip. It truly felt like we were just being herded around there were so many people there! Kinda takes a bit of the fun out of it. Hugs to ya!

    • Sarah Shumate
      June 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      I know exactly what you mean about the crowds at Disney – it’s absolutely ridiculous. There should be a limit to the number of people they allow in the parks every day. When we lived in Orlando and were Disney season passholders, we’d get to Magic Kingdom and only stay for an hour b/c we just couldn’t handle the amount of people. Just crazy! It’s worth it for the kids, though. :)

  • Kelly Michelle
    June 14, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    I didn’t realise they had an earthquake simulator at the Natural History Museum – there is one at Te Papa in Wellington that everyone loves. Thanks for the tips, the queues always put me off visiting xx

    • Sarah Shumate
      June 14, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      I’m not sure how big the simulator is at Te Papa, but the one here at the NHM is pretty small. Still very cool to take a ride or two on, though!

      • Kelly Michelle
        June 14, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        It’s only small as well and it’s actually a little house but it’s trying to teach visitors to the Museum about earthquakes as we have so many of them in NZ xx

        • Sarah Shumate
          June 15, 2014 at 1:11 PM

          I didn’t realize NZ was prone to earthquakes. Do they get big ones there?

          • Kelly Michelle
            June 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

            Yes we have a few fault line running through both our main islands, there was a big one in Christchurch a few years ago that killed 185 people. We have some pretty big quakes and have a number of active volcanoes xx

  • Nicole @ Treasure Tromp
    June 13, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    oh man, this would have been a dream come true for me! I love natural history museums!

  • Keith Wynn
    June 13, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    As a lover of nature and science this place would absolutely fascinate me. I shall add it to my ever-growing bucket list :-)

  • Katrin
    June 13, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    Such a fascinating place. Every time I travel to a new place I want to visit all the museums. And It is even better that the admission is free. :) I would love to see the Earth Today and Tomorrow exhibition!

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    June 13, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Sooo cool! We have yet to make it to the museum :( Thanks for posting all your tips!