The University of Minnesota-operated Bell Museum of Natural history reopened in mid July of 2018 at its new location across Larpenteur Avenue from Gibbs Farm in St. Paul. It houses permanent exhibits on space, evolution and Minnesota wildlife as well as a planetarium and a rotating exhibit.
The Bell continues to follow government advice regarding opening and closing. Check the museum's website for current information. When open, advance tickets are required and are only available online beginning a week in advance of the chosen date. There is still quite a bit of virtual material to take advantage of in 2020. Find it here:
Bell Museum's Planetarium
The new Bell Museum includes a 120 seat planetarium with plush reclining seats below a 16-meter aluminum dome. Presentations are designed to make the viewer feel like they are flying sky and space, inside plants or bodies, or swimming the deep sea. The dome also hosts featured productions and live presentations. The planetarium is the number-one must see, according to the FFTC youth team!
Touch and See Lab at Bell Museum
The Touch and See Lab is back at the new location. Visitors can use identification guides and other scientific tools to make their learning experience more meaningful. So much learning goes on when a child can feel the texture of an object, examine something from all angles, and formulate questions about what they are holding. Museum staff are eager to strike up conversations with kids about the exhibits - which include bones, pelts, building materials, microscopes and live animals.
Bell Museum Dioramas
The venerable Bell Museum Dioramas have also been transported to the new space and look better than ever. Kids will appreciate the new touch screens available to more deeply explore the native animals and their habitats.
Monthly Star Parties at the Bell
The Bell Museum offers free telescope observing nights on its rooftop observation deck monthly during the Fall and Spring semesters. After a brief introduction, bell staff will help visitors observe celestial objects with the telescopes. Indoor activities will be offered in place of telescope observing when weather is uncooperative.
These events are recommended for ages kids 7+ and are FREE, but advance registration is required. Sign up at the Bell Museum website.
Bell Museum Discounts
The former Free Sundays program did not carry over to the new space. Memberships are the best option for discounted visits. Household memberships start at $95/year. Qualifying families can get a needs-based Curiosity Membership for $15/year. Qualification includes enrollment in several assistance programs - including MinnesotaCare and WIC.