Wednesday March 23rd my family and I went to discover what mythical creatures would be on display at Fernbank Mysuem of Natural History.

We have been fans of Fernbank for many years and this exhibit really intrigued us.  What would we see?  Mermaids?  Unicorns?  We were excited!

On view from February 19 through August 14, 2011, this fascinating exhibition includes eye-popping models, paintings, textiles, and other cultural objects from around the world to reveal the ways people throughout time have been inspired by nature to envision and depict these strange and wonderful creatures. Along the journey, visitors will encounter life-sized models of some of these creatures, including a mermaid, a unicorn and a kraken.

For many centuries, humans have brought mythic creatures to life in stories, music and works of art.  Today, these creatures-which were sometimes inspired by unusual fossils or living animals-continue to delight us. The exhibition reveals the relationship between nature and legend throughout history from Pliny the Elder, who, in 77 c.e., asserted that mermaids were “no fabulous tale,” to the current sightings of Scotland’s renowned but unsubstantiated Loch Ness Monster.

“Cultures have been inspired to create stories about the natural world’s mysteries for centuries. This exhibition taps into our curiosity and fascination with mythic creatures by investigating the origins of some of our most fabled beliefs and examining the most recent research separating fact from fiction,” said Dr. Bobbi Hohmann, an anthropologist and curator of Fernbank Museum’s McClatchey Collection. “With mermaids, dragons, unicorns, griffins and more, this exhibition explores a topic that intrigues visitors of all ages with very enriching content that is both educational and enjoyable-a cornerstone of all Fernbank’s programming.”

Mythic Creatures features preserved specimens and fossils of prehistoric animals to investigate how they could have-through misidentification, speculation, fear, or imagination-inspired the development of some legendary creatures. Visitors will discover how narwhal tusks from the North Sea, introduced to continental Europe by Scandinavian traders, lent credence to the centuries-old belief in the unicorn, and how dinosaur fossils uncovered by Scythian nomads may have been mistaken for the remains of living, breathing griffins. Persistent tales of undersea monsters may simply be sightings of real creatures such as the oarfish and giant squid, which are just as wondrous as any imaginary denizens of the deep.

Mythic Creatures offers a variety of interactive stations throughout the exhibition inviting visitors to touch casts of a narwhal tusk, the lower jaw of Gigantopithecus, and a life-size reproduction of the talon of a Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei). Hands-on activities include rearranging scale models of mammoth bones to look like a giant human skeleton and Protoceratops bones to look like a griffin skeleton. Visitors also can build their own dragon in an engaging touch-screen interactive and watch it come alive before their eyes in a virtual environment. Videos include interviews with experts, including Fernbank’s Curator of Native American Archaeology, Dennis Blanton, in various fields discussing the significance of mythical creatures and their possible real-life counterparts. Other video highlights include Christopher Paolini, the young author of the best-selling books Eragon and Eldest; award-winning artist Takeshi Yamada, who creates “mythic creatures” today; and artists from motion-picture visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic (founded by George Lucas) demonstrating the process of creating dragons for popular movies.

Other highlights include “life-size” models of mythical creatures, including a 17-foot-long dragon, a 10-foot-long majestic unicorn, a Roc with a 20-foot wingspan and talons that swoop above the heads of visitors, a kraken with 12-foot-high tentacles that appear to be surfacing from the sea; a 6-foot-tall, extinct primate called Gigantopithecus; and the largest bird ever to have lived, the 9-foot-tall extinct Aepyornis.

Mythic Creatures:  Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (, in collaboration with The Field Museum, Chicago; Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau-Ottawa; Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; and Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta.

It was non stop for my kids! Discovering another creature just around the next turn! I loved that they showcased so many mythical creatures, including my personal favorite, The Chupacabra.

Our favorite thing at Fernbank, and where we literally spent hours was The NatureQuest.  This just opened last weekend and is nearly 7,000-square-feet.

This all-new $8 million exhibition will offer Fernbank’s youngest visitors a different kind of museum experience, where children will be engaged through over 100 interactive encounters on a journey to explore an immersive, nature-inspired environment filled with live animals, hands-on learning, the inspiration to discover, and the thrill of following curiosity’s path.


Fernbank NatureQuest invites visitors ages 2 through 10 into a world that belongs to the young (and the young at heart) with a working clubhouse built among the giant trees. Visitors can climb up a tree and cross elevated rope bridges for an aerial view of the immense expedition that awaits. Special interactive opportunities exist in every nook and cranny. Highlights include “night vision binoculars” that reveal the  landscapes and inhabitants in the twilight hours; a realistic archaeology dig with layered artifacts for exploration; a traversable cave filled with fossils, geodes, echoes and speleothems; a magic mirror that brings objects placed in front of it to life, including an acorn that grows into a tree and a fossilized trilobite that suddenly stirs again after 500 million years; a simulated river that ripples as you cross and scatters with fish when you “splash;” and much more.  The rivers were definitely my favorite. I am still trying to figure out how it moved as I was in it.  My kids enjoyed trying to catch the fish!!

“When we set out to design a new children’s exhibition over four years ago, our goal was to create an experience where visitors would be challenged, engaged and able to explore in ways that cultivate curiosity-just like real scientists,” said Fernbank’s President and CEO, Susan Neugent. “This was our opportunity to create a museum experience like no other, where children are part of the exhibition, not just observers. The sophisticated experiences in NatureQuest will inspire further investigation year after year.”

As visitors set off on their journey, they’ll be able to explore the clubhouse as well as six diverse ecosystems: the ocean/estuary, swamp, pine flatwoods, forest, waterfall/river, and caves. Each region offers an accurate reflection of what can be found in Georgia’s ecosystems while revealing the habitats they provide for a variety of animals.

The learning experience provides many unique layers of content for children of all learning and skill levels as well as opportunities for families to explore together.  Unlike traditional exhibits, Fernbank NatureQuest appeals to the senses, using sound, touch, and sight instead of didactic text to immerse and engage kids in the natural world.  As children explore the habitats of Georgia, what might seem like play is actually a rich educational experience.

Fernbank NatureQuest speaks to visitors in a way that children’s exhibitions haven’t typically done in the past. The exhibition empowers children to learn without directions by featuring activities that are open-ended with something to see, something to investigate or something to do literally everywhere you go with no set path on how to get there,” said Cindy Sheehy, Fernbank’s Director of Family and Children’s Programming and a key member of the exhibition design team.  “This exhibition truly inspires an appreciation for nature and awakens a quest for uncovering the hidden treasures of the world around us.

There is so much to do, see and experience in Fernbank NatureQuest.  This is something I would come back to several times and never get tired of it and I am certain my kids feel the same way.

As always, we loved the other places to explore and find things we might have missed before.  There is a cafe inside so you can plan your whole day at Fernbank including lunch!

Purchase your tickets now or better yet Become a Member and keep this wonderful Museum and The Backstage Beat’s pick for great family fun going!