Have you been to the Museum of Man since your junior high field trip where you giggled at the naked man? Now that you’re a little more mature, plan a day to take the kiddos to this Balboa Park treasure. The hands-on exhibits – including the new Monsters! feature – are sure to excite curious minds. Keep reading for your insider’s guide to the Museum of Man.

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Get Ready for Monsters!
The Museum of Man boasts a new, colorful “Monsters!” exhibit that explores monsters in cultures throughout the world. Before the kiddos run and hide after hearing the word “monster,” rest assured this family-friendly exhibit features innovative and fun ways for kids and adults to come face to face with the types of monsters that humans have dreamt up over time.

Your family will enter the exhibit through a giant monster’s mouth. Don’t fear, though. “Monsters” mixes the fantastical and creepy with whimsy to keep the tone light. Even preschoolers will take delight in looking for unicorns and characters from Monsters, Inc. alongside werewolves. Young guests enter into a bright, cheery bedroom setting where they can peer under the bed if they dare, or cozy into a beanbag chair to look at picture books highlighting monsters.

Next, journey to the forest and meet Big Foot and other monsters of forest lore. Here, kids have the opportunity to create their own monster on a giant magnetic board with colorful eyes, ears, and tails. Older siblings can help piece together a puzzle and read about all kinds of monsters from stone giants to the Theban sphinx. There is even a puppet theater where kids can put on their own monster show or watch one on tree stumps- great for a play date!

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“Monsters” will also take kids on a voyage to meet creatures of the deep seas where they can play in a boat and create their own monster story using magnetic words in mad libs fashion. The words are color coded so even little fingers can help put the story together.

Wrap up your tour in a cave where the you’ll view some beautiful artifacts displaying monsters from far away places like Bali. Finally, record your favorite monster facts in the “field notes” notebook. Or make a feather for the dream catcher to keep monsters away from future dreams.

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Explore Evolution
Enjoy the beauty of this grand old building as you climb the stairs to the second floor which holds treasures sure to hold youngsters’ attention. Little ones will enjoy following the footsteps on the staircase to the “Footsteps through Time,” which highlights human development over four million years. Find the red toolbox and open the drawers to compare tools that humans have used today over time. Meet Lucy, perhaps the world’s most famous early human ancestor, and see a reproduction of her skeleton. Enter a cro-magnum cave and look for pictographs together. Yes, you’ll pass by a naked man and giggle. Then, travel to man’s future through a time tunnel and see examples of cyborgs and robots, including a replica of C3PO from Star Wars.

Insider’s Tip: Outside these doors you’ll find a “Dig.” While it sounds kid-frindly, skip it. Kids can’t reach these boxes without assistance. You’ll find a much more kid-frindly dig in the Egyptian section.

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Real Mummies and Adventure Kids in Egypt
Cross to the other side of the building and view a vividly painted sarcophagus or two. Here you’ll feel the thrill of unearthing a San Diego gem that your little ones can truly enjoy: Adventure Kids in Egypt. Once inside the doors, school aged kids who are tech savvy will enjoy playing the computer game where they plan like an archeologist for a trip. With a budget, kiddos decide what tools they’ll buy for digging, preserving, and survival and read tips from real scientists about the tools of the trade.

Much of the rest of the exhibit is geared toward toddlers and preschoolers. They can dress up as an ancient Egyptian, put together a puzzle of a life sized sarcophagus, unearth glittering treasures in a dig box, and pretend to run an ancient market.

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Insider’s Tip: Depending on your kids, you may want to stay on the outer edge of the mummy exhibit and not venture too far in. There are shriveled mummies that could be too scary or gruesome for some.

Don’t miss: a family photo op sitting in an Egyptian “throne.”

Other Reasons to Visit
Who invented beer? Maybe this is the carrot you need to get dad out of the house after soccer on a Saturday or on a football Sunday. The museum’s exhibit BEERology looks like a bar and contains interesting tidbits about the history of brewing throughout world cultures. There are even special beer tastings held in this exhibit. Check online for specific upcoming events.

Museum of Man
1350 El Prado
San Diego Ca 92101
619-239-2001
Online: museumofman.org

Admission: $12/adults; $6/kids (3-12 years); Residents admitted free the third Tuesday of each month

Have you been to the Museum of Man? What’s your favorite part of the museum?

— Written and photographed by Cherie Gough