Kiddin' Around: Academy of Natural Sciences

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The long: Centuries-old establishment keeps it cutting-edge without losing the kitsch (37 circa-1930s dioramas, we're looking at you). Dino bones, bird shows, butterflies, touchable small animals and a simple sandbox star.

The short: Diggers' paradise.

The crowd: Walkers on up.

The dinos: T-Rex's casted bones and story-high Ultrasaurus tower over the hall, ultimate paradise for third-graders.

The butterflies: In humid room of plants and ripe bananas, spectacularly winged insects camouflage themselves among leaves and alight on shoulders.

The critters: Outside In is a bio lab for preschoolers. Rabbit, python, guinea pig, tortoise and hissing cockroach make timed appearances for innocuous fondling. Patrons self-serve science storybooks, animal pelts, blocks and dress-ups - and compete for space in a climb-in eagle's nest.

The main attraction: Got toddlers? Good luck getting them out of the sandbox.

The long haul: Safari overnights channel "Night at the Museum." Ages 7-14 BYO sleeping bags for attempted snoozing near dinos or dioramas. Every three kids must bring an adult. Starts 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Lights out at 10:30 p.m. Lights on at 7 a.m. $45 a person ($40 members).

What you don't see: Lots of the smart stuff - fossil discovery and recovery, ecosystem research - happens behind the scenes.

Moment to yourself: Butterfly House's steamy air feels kinda like a mini facial; the sandbox, Ocean City?

If you SEPTA: Bus routes 32 or 33; Regional Rail to Suburban Station.

If you drive: Discounted parking at

1815 Cherry St.

The basics: 19th Street & Ben Franklin Parkway, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends, $15.95 ages 13-up; $13.95 ages 3-12, free under 3, 215-299-1000, ansp.org.

 


Lauren McCutcheon is a features reporter whose 2-year-old has a thing for the lion diorama.