NHMLAC Announces Fall and Winter Programming for the Natural History Museum, La Brea Tar Pits, and Hart Park

Spider Pavilion, Sloth Soiree and more fill the calendar for the upcoming seasons

Los Angeles, CA (October 12, 2023) — The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announce the slate of fall and winter programming for the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Exposition Park, La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park and Hart Park. This mix of family-friendly and adult events feature a wide range of exhibitions, activities, talks, and performances both in-person and online. In addition, NHMLAC community scientists will spearhead a number of research initiatives and expeditions, highlighting the Museums’ ongoing impact and discoveries.  

See below for a list of currently scheduled programming and exhibitions, and stay tuned for future updates with more information and activities.

Natural History Museum 

L.A. at Play: Dolls & Figurines (Ongoing Web Series) — This online series is an exploration of creators and collectors of figurines and dolls that connect to L.A. history, culture, and fandoms. Fun, imaginative play—that is what many of us think of when we reflect on childhood memories of our favorite figurines, dolls, or toys. These objects range from collectible action figures to play dolls, and even creatures or monsters created for the silver screen. Dolls and figurines have captured our imagination and are collected by adults and children for their beauty, nostalgic value, financial value, or historical importance—and they transcend generations. The online series concludes with an in-person L.A. at Play Day on December 2. More information at nhm.org/LAatPlay

  • Schedule: Continues through December; L.A. At Play Day on December 2

Boney Island — NHM is hosting Boney Island, the popular L.A.-based immersive Halloween light-up attraction, in its mesmerizing Nature Gardens. This hauntingly whimsical interactive experience for all ages features familiar sights for long-time Boney Island fans — skeletons performing rope tricks and levitating through hoops, shadow puppetry, and more. NHM added its own spin with artistic performances, real fossils, live animal presentations, trick-or-treating and other ghoulishly glowing installations. More information at nhm.org/boneyisland

  • Schedule: Thursdays through Sundays through October 29, plus October 30 and 31 from 6 pm to 10 pm
  • Admission: $25 ($20 for Museum members) (Note: General admission not     required; the Museum’s indoors are not open during Boney Island)

Spider Pavilion — This one-of-a-kind seasonal pavilion gives you a rare glimpse into the secret life of spiders. Stroll through to see hundreds of orb weavers and their amazing webs all around you, and then enter the den to peer into enclosed habitats housing species ranging from tarantulas to jumping spiders. More information at nhm.org/spiders

  •  Schedule: Now through November 26
  • Admission: $8 per person + museum admission or free for Members;          timed ticket  required

Haunted Museum — NHM will play host to the annual Members-only Halloween costume party known as Haunted Museum. The premium family-friendly event embraces a Southern California theme this year and will feature an elaborate scavenger hunt, dancefloor, cash bar, food trucks and more. Help the citizens of Autumn Valley solve a spooky mystery and meet some of NHMLAC’s top researchers and scientists at the one-of-a-kind annual event. For more information, visit nhmlac.org/haunted-museum-2023

  • Schedule: October 28 from 3–8 pm
  • Admission: Open to Discoverer, Naturalist, Explorer and Fellow level Members only and includes tickets to Boney Island; reservations mandatory 

Día de Los Muertos — Join us as we honor the customs and heritage around Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a cultural tradition observed in Mexico and throughout Latin America to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones. Enjoy live music, participate in hands-on art activities, get an up-close look at NHM’s interpretive ofrenda (altar) for commemorating the dead in the Becoming Los Angeles exhibit, and more. Come together as a community and take part in this celebration of life!

  • Schedule: November 5

100 Carats — This brand new special exhibition will take place in NHM’s iconic gem vault, featuring the famous Jonker diamond, which is one of the world’s largest and purest cut diamonds, and other spectacular 100+ carat gems. 

  • Schedule: On view December 8, 2023 through April 21, 2024

Nature Gardens Exploration —  Swing by the Nature Gardens to dive into Nature Garden Explorations, tours led by Museum Educators and focused on topics such as birding, bug netting, nature journaling and ponding. Tour topics rotate over the course of the year, so be sure to check online to see which explorations are currently available. More information at nhm.org/naturegardens

  • Schedule: 11 am on weekends, meet near the pond in the Nature Gardens

Dinosaur Encounters* — Fun, educational, and interactive, Dinosaur Encounters features NHM's life-size dinosaur puppets. Each presenter focuses on a different topic, including theories on dinosaur behavior, extinction, adaptation, and the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. Dinosaur Encounters is family-friendly, and each performance is about 20 minutes long.

  • Schedule: Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 and 11:30 am, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm
  • Admission: $6 per person + Museum admission or free for Members

*Please note: Puppets are very large, realistic interpretations of wild animals and may be frightening to some children. 

Sensory-Friendly Dinosaur Encounters — NHM’s sensory-friendly Dinosaur Encounters performance provides a warm welcome to guests who need a little less stimulating environment and the opportunity to move around during the show. House light levels remain brighter and sound levels are turned down. Guests are welcome to come and go as they wish throughout the performance. There is a relaxation zone in the back of the hall if guests need a break. Everyone is welcome to attend these performances with the understanding that the theater is “shush-free” and there may be a certain amount of sound and movement in the audience. The monthly event will feature ASL Interpretation provided by Pro Bono ASL.

  • Schedule: 2nd Saturday of each month at 11:30 am
  • Admission: $6 per person + Museum admission or free for Members

First Fridays — NHM’s annual music and science series First Fridays return in February. This season’s theme:  “From Feelings to Pheromones.” Come by each month for an evening full of dancing, drinks and one-of-a-kind presentations you won’t find anywhere else. Stay tuned for more details to come.

  • Schedule: February 2, March 1, April 5 and May 3
  • Admission: $20 per person or free for Members

La Brea Tar Pits 
Queer Family Day — La Brea Tar Pits will present Queer Family Day, a (now spooky-themed) day of festivities featuring Drag Queen story time hosted by L.A.'s Drag Laureate Pickle, a costume contest complete with a sabertooth cat catwalk, queer history pub trivia, and hands-on activities. It’s sure to be a fun and welcoming event for the whole family. Queer Family Day is free with paid admission or for Museum members.

  • Schedule: October 13, 3–8 pm

Sloth Soiree — Celebrate International Sloth Day at the La Brea Tar Pits! Did you know that giant ground sloths once called Los Angeles their home? Come explore the Museum after hours to view the unparalleled fossil collections of Ice Age sloths, enjoy a reading of the newly released book The Upside-Down Book of Sloths with author Elizabeth Shreeve, meet a real sloth and learn how you can support their conservation, and so much more. Hang out with us for an evening of all things sloth past and present.

  • Schedule: October 20, 6–9 pm

Excavator Tour — The Excavator Tour explores the Fossil Lab where real paleontologists work, our historic excavation sites and Project 23, where live excavations can be seen. More information about excavations at tarpits.org/experience-tar-pits/excavations

  • Schedule: 1 pm on weekdays; 10:30 am & 1 pm on weekends

Discoveries from the Tar Pits — Drop by to learn some of the lesser-known stories of the Tar Pits, including active research and recent discoveries. Topics change daily.

  • Schedule: 3:30 pm, daily

Ice Age Encounters — Encounter the Ice Age as we dig into the past to uncover the mysteries of some of the extinct creatures who roamed Ice Age Los Angeles over 10,000 years ago. Experience this dynamic, 15-minute show featuring a life-size adult saber-toothed cat puppet, a live performance, and film projections that bring the distant past to life. Don't miss this one-of-a-kind, multimedia performance that transports guests back in time to come nearly face-to-face with a moving, roaring extinct saber-toothed cat. Performed in an intimate theater setting, this show is great for the whole family and children of all ages.

  • Schedule: Thursdays and Fridays at 10:30 and 11:30 am, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm
  • Admission: $6 per person in addition to museum admission or free with membership

Museum Admission - NHM and La Brea Tar Pits
Members - FREE
Adult — $15.00
Senior (62+) — $12.00
Student — $12.00
Children (3 – 12) — $7.00
Children 2 and under – FREE
Unless otherwise noted, all events are included in the price of admission or free for members.

Admission is always free for NHMLAC Members, California Pre K–12 teachers with ID, Active or retired United States military with ID, CA EBT cardholders with ID, and USC Students and Faculty with ID. In addition, L.A. County residents receive free Museum Admission 3–5 pm Monday through Friday.

Hart Park*

Acorn Harvest — NHMLAC and the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians’ Education and Cultural Learning Department will host the Annual Acorn Harvest at William S. Hart Park. Native youth and their families who reside in the traditional Tataviam homelands (Tataveaveat) will experience the traditional steps of acorn processing including gathering, sorting, storing, grinding, and leaching. They will leave with ingredients and supplies to bake their own acorn bread at home.

  • Schedule: November 4
    *The William S. Hart Museum remains closed.

Community Science Volunteer Opportunities

Big Bee Bonanza: Bee populations have been decreasing in numbers and diversity all over the world. Exactly why is a global mystery, but museum collections like NHM's might have some of the answers. You can help researchers understand just what's happening to these insects that are so crucial to food production in the human and natural worlds in the Big Bee Bonanza. We need your assistance in digitizing more than a century's worth of bees. Together, we can help scientists and policymakers get the data they need to keep bees buzzing.

LA BioBlitz Challenge—The #LABioBlitz Challenge, between October 1 and 31, uses the iNaturalist community science platform to photograph, record, and map the biodiversity (i.e., wild plants, animals, and insects) around homes, neighborhood, parks, on hiking trails and other natural areas in L.A. City. These observation photos and sound recordings will be important data to support the City’s biodiversity research and efforts to conserve wildlife and protect their habitats in our communities. The Challenge, designed for all ages, is a partnership between Los Angeles Public Library’s Neighborhood Science Initiative and Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment’s Biodiversity Program and NHMLAC Community Science Program. For more information,visit LA BioBlitz Challenge | Los Angeles Public Library

Project Phoenix Investigating Bird Responses to Smoke — This inaugural bird community science project will ask participants to monitor bird activity for ten minutes a week in an effort to understand how wildfire smoke is impacting birds. While the health effects of smoke inhalation in humans have been well-documented, we do not know how our increasingly intense and frequent smoke events are affecting birds, and this new project seeks to fill the gaps in our knowledge and help protect these beloved animals.

State Park Insect Collections — Austin Baker will visit state parks across California, collecting insect specimens for his work barcoding every insect species in the state for the CIBI program.

SnailBlitz  NHM’s annual community science slugfest returns from February 1 to March 31. The search for snails and slugs known as SnailBlitz asks for volunteers to scour Southern California for snails and slugs during the two-month run and share photographs of as many of the slimy critters as they can find. Past contributions have uncovered non-native and endangered species. Whether they’re in your backyard, at the local park, or along the trail of your favorite hike, every snail or slug photographed will help NHM scientists like Twila Bratcher Chair in Malacological Research and Associate Curator of Malacology Dr. Jann Vendetti learn more about the biodiversity of Southern California. SnailBlitz is part of the larger SLIME (Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments) project on iNaturalist

Alligator Lizard Mating Season Alligator lizard love is in the air and on the sidewalk in the early spring (the season can vary with weather patterns, and wetter winters have meant more observations of mating). NHM’s Curator of Herpetology Dr. Greg Pauly asks everyone to watch where they’re stepping and have their phones ready to capture this intense and sometimes days-long mating behavior in photos—preferably video. Observations from community scientist volunteers continue to shed new light on this unique that could not be otherwise studied.

Fly School After an extended hiatus due to the pandemic, Fly School is back. From August 1–12, 2024, budding fly entomologists (aka dipterists) will travel to the Soltis Center in Costa Rica to learn all there is about this crucial insect order and take that knowledge back to institutions focused on research and conservation. Pollinators, pests, incredible mimics, and vastly understudied flies are buzzing with research potential and urgent questions in our changing globe. Enrollment begins December 1st.

New Research Initiatives

Marine Biodiversity
Leslie Harris, NHM's Senior Collections Manager in Polychaetes, is participating in research about marine biodiversity off the coast of Ilo, Peru. Harris and fellow researchers in the U.S. and Peru are surveying the populations of coastal marine invertebrates—crabs, worms, starfish, clams, and other spineless critters—using the power of iNaturalist to share observations and identify species living in the intertidal and subtidal areas there. Harris has also created an iNaturalist project with the aim of assembling observations of species living within the temperate current stretching from southern Ecuador through Chile.

Understanding Nature and Los Angeles Biodiversity (UNLAB) — This mentorship program centered on equity in the sciences welcomed its first 8 mentees in early July. Part of the NSF RAMP program, the UNLAB program is for post-baccalaureates who did not have an opportunity to conduct research during their undergraduate degree program, with a focus on those who have been historically excluded and are underrepresented in the natural sciences. Mentors from NHM and La Brea Tar Pits will guide mentees through research projects exploring the history of Los Angeles biodiversity or the impact of humans and urbanization on Los Angeles biodiversity. Mentees will also participate in professional development activities and have opportunities to learn more about museum careers.

Microplastics and Fish
Two NHMLAC scientists, Bill Ludt, Assistant Curator of Ichthyology, and Aaron Celestian, Curator of Mineral Sciences, have been awarded a $357,564 two-year grant from California Sea Grant and the California Ocean Protection Council to study microplastic consumption over time in California fishes using the museum's specimens. Ludt and Celestian will be looking at potential differences in microplastic consumption in southern versus northern California from 1940 to the present, and analyzing the chemical composition of the plastics and, potentially, identifying their sources. This is believed to be the first study of microplastics in museum fish collections going back in time that focuses on the Pacific Ocean.

Media Contacts
Amy Hood

Josh Chesler