Marvel at a gigantic whale skeleton, see an impressive cyclorama of a Hawaiian bird island and spot the giant panda.
The Iowa Museum of Natural History has a fascinating and varied collection that explores the natural sciences. It was founded in 1858, making it one of the oldest museums of its kind in the region. Reserve a guided tour in advance and chat to the docents about the intriguing exhibits on display.
Make your way through the Iowa Hall exhibit, which stretches back through 500 million years of regional history. Learn of the local ecology and geology and how it came to be, with a focus on the Devonian Coral Reef, the Ice Age ground sloth and the traditions and customs of indigenous peoples.
Marvel at the ancient rock drawings in the Biosphere Discovery Hub, which shows how we humans leave our mark on the planet. See more than 1,000 stuffed birds on display in the William and Eleanor Hageboeck Hall of Birds. Learn about the sounds of the birds as well as how they fly. Watch a century-old 360-degree view of a Hawaiian island formerly filled with birdlife in the Laysan Island Cyclorama.
Stroll through the Mammal Hall to see rare and mesmerizing exhibits, including the preserved skeleton of a 47-foot (14-meter) Atlantic right whale, a giant panda from China and a musk ox from the Barren Grounds region of Canada. This section contains a range of animals on display that were collected by the University of Iowa. See the Diversity of Life Exhibits for its range of scientific themes and taxidermy.
Note that admission to the museum is free. It opens Tuesday through Saturday from morning until late afternoon, as well as Sundays for a few hours from early afternoon.
The Iowa Museum of Natural History is located right in the center of Iowa City. Walk east from the Iowa River for a couple of minutes to get here, passing Hubbard Park on the way. Be sure to see some of its surrounding sights, including the Old Post Office, the Old Capitol Museum and the Opera House Block.