SoCal Families | The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology
By: Jamie Durante
As the most influential people in children’s lives, it is important for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and guardians to introduce youth to the worlds of wonder, knowledge and amazement.
When I first discovered that there is a museum of paleontology located only minutes from my house, I was in disbelief. I immediately set up a day trip with some family, which included two of my sisters and three happy kids, one who is a fanatic about dinosaurs and reading. We drove up to The Webb Schools in Claremont—the picturesque location of the interactive and educational attraction, The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.
Parking was free, and the grounds were peacefully quiet. We walked onto the campus, and climbed the stairs up to the large double doors of the stone textured building. My sister and her daughter pulled open the large doors together to enter the Alf Museum. Almost instantly my nieces were overcome with questions and excitement at the various exhibits that surrounded us, while the rest of us slowly started to take it all in.
We set off on our journey into this two story exhibition of archeological finds, compelling information and activities—all of which are engaging to everyone, regardless of age. The ground floor consists of the newly renovated Hall of Life exhibit, which takes guests on a exploration through the vast and complex history of life, from examples of the first single celled organisms to human skulls and dinosaur skeletons. My three-year-old niece was initially drawn to the touch table, which had an assortment of textured fossils, and this was definitely a relief considering most kids are curious to touch everything.
We continued through the exhibit, and it is safe to say that we were all absolutely blown away by this museum’s collection . . . I had to keep reminding myself that I had not traveled out of my way for this enlightening experience. We spent a decent amount of time making our way through the Hall of Life, reading and learning as much as we could with energetic young ones. The Tyrannosaurus skull, telescope, fossil alligator skull, and many other works were absolutely amazing, however it was the giant Allosaurus skeleton that made our jaws drop. Naturally, this also became our first photo-op for the three girls we had in tow.
The museum is set up in a circular fashion, so we were led to walk through the various exhibits on the ground floor, just to end up back where we started. From there, we went downstairs into the Hall of Footprints, where the excitement for everyone in our group heightened—partly because The Hall of Footprints is recognized for having the most diverse collection of animal footprints in the United States, which includes extinct dinosaur, spider and scorpion footprints. However, a lot of the acclaim to this museum is due to its fun children’s activity area.
After scurrying down the stairs, my two nieces skipped a few awesome displays, because they saw something that resembled an art project. They picked up large stamps with footprints of various creatures and made impressions on a piece of white paper that was provided for this purpose. Then, they were able to lift the corresponding wooden flaps to reveal which animal belonged to each footprint. Not only was it a cool learning experience, but it gave the girls something to bring home as a simple memento. Other great activities included the Dig Pit, where our little aspiring archaeologists were completely entranced. They spent time digging around to uncover each fossil or ancient bone buried within the pit. Other exhibits allowed us to fill the museum floor with loud dinosaur noises, illuminate dinosaurs hidden in dark caverns, discover footprints by pulling out drawers, see large-scale skeletons like the Bear Dog, Camel and more.
While the history told by the artifacts in the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology is fascinating, the museum itself has brought culture along with a unique and valuable learning experience to our community since 1936. It doesn’t matter if you have curious little ones, middle-schoolers or teens, this museum has exhibits that are not only stunning, they will spark intrigue for visitors young and old.
Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont. Visiting hours are Monday thru Friday, 8a.m. to 4p.m. and Saturday from 1p.m. to 4p.m. Admission is $6 per person and free for children four and under (cash or check only).