Things to do

The Cook Museum of Natural Science

I recently had the pleasure of joining my kindergartener on a field trip to the Cooks museum in Decatur. The last time I visited the museum was before the pandemic, and I was still amazed by the facility and all that they had to offer. My son and the rest of his class all seemed to have the best of time getting to play and learning new facts about Earth.

The Cook museum of Natural Science is a state-of-the-art natural science museum located downtown Decatur, Alabama. The facility host 62,000 square feet of hands-on experiences and exhibits for people of all ages to explore and learn about nature and science.  

The nonprofit museum is owned by the John Cook family, who also own Cook’s Pest Control in Huntsville. In the 1960s, the Cooks Natural Science Museum began with a few bug collections used to train employees. Then, in the 1970s, John Cook Sr. took the growing collection of insects and mounted wildlife on the road to share it with others. In 1980, the traveling collection’s popularity had increased so much that the family decided to construct a 5,000 square foot museum and open it to the public. Over 750,000 visitors have walked among its walls. The family later decided to reinvent the museum once again, and it temporarily closed in 2016. The museum reopened in 2019 with even more engaging and educational experiences in natural science for all ages.

The museum now features nine amazing exhibits, including a crowd favorite, a huge recreated Alabama cave where children can walk and see the elements and creatures that exist within it. The Wonderful World of Insects exhibit showcases both live and pinned bugs, featuring an ant colony, tarantula, and termite terrarium, as well as showing what termites have done to nature and wood products. There is even a little insect-themed playground for toddlers to play in.

The Ocean exhibit boasts a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium featuring a coral reef, jellyfish, and fish. The Looking Up exhibit is all about Earth and its place in space, featuring its own Earth globe where kids can see the layers of the Earth and a real meteorite that kids can touch.

The Foundations exhibit explores the different conditions on Earth, such as weather and geography. Kids can make their own erupting volcanoes and flowing rivers using the kinetic sand table.

After exploring all of the museum’s exhibits, hands-on activities and live animals, guests can also visit the gift shop to purchase educational toys and memorabilia. Additionally, the museum offers a café for visitors to enjoy. The Cooks Museum is the perfect place to spend the day letting kids play and learn about the world around them, and adults may even learn a few things too.

Museum Info:

Location: 133 4th Ave NE, Decatur, AL 35601

Ticket Prices:

Age 15 + : $20

Child (Ages 3-14): $15

2 and under: free

Senior and Military: $17

Groups of 15 or more: $17 adult; $13 child

Hours of Operation:

Monday- Saturday: 9 A.M.- 5 P.M.

Sundays: Closed

For more information on the museum and upcoming events, visit their website.

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