See Dinosaurs, Critters, Minerals and More When The Schiele Museum of Natural History Re-Opens This Week

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Have you visited the Schiele Museum of Natural History? Located in Gastonia, North Carolina the museum makes a great day trip. Kidding Around’s Melanie had a lot of fun visiting the museum with her children. They enjoyed exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should definitely add it to your museum bucket list.

Thank you to the Schiele Museum for providing admisison to the museum so we could bring this review to our readers! The words and opinions in this article are that of the writer.

The museum is re-opening Friday September, 11th after being closed due to Covid-19. They will be open with modified operations and enhanced safety protocols for thge forseeable future and some of what you can expect includes:

  • Reserved time tickets must be pre-purchased online.
  • Memberships will be honored, but other discounts will not be permitted. This includes the museum reciprocity discount.
  • an additional seven months has been added on to the length of memberships, to make up for the closure, plus extra.
  • Masks will be required by all guests age five and up, per the NC Governor’s executive order.

The modified operations of the museum include temporarily closing off access to some of the exhibits deemed “high touch”. These include:

  • Dino Safari Lab
  • Planetarium
  • Gift Shop
  • Water Fountains
  • The Pirates Lair (Permanently Closed)

Despite some of the popular features not being available right now, there is still a lot of fun to be had. Including special events scheduled for the outside at The Farm.

  • Pumpkin Patch
    September 26th – October 31st, 2020
    Discover the wonders of fall’s most popular fruit! Every ticket includes a pumpkin from the patch to take home.
  • Scarecrow Walk
    October 17th – 31st, 2020
    This fun fall adventure includes scarecrows decorated by different local teams, as part of a museum fundraiser.

Original Review Begins Below

Just an hour from the Upstate is the Schiele Museum of Natural History. We recently asked readers where we should visit on a trip to Gastonia, and this was the number one response!

The Schiele Museum of Natural History is wonderful!


I’ll be honest, I thought I was good at my job here at Kidding Around. I thought nothing got past me. Well, that illusion recently got shattered. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say I had never heard of the Schiele Museum until we were invited.

I also thought I was headed to Western North Carolina. Guys, I learned so many things on this trip! I learned that Gastonia, North Carolina is just south of Charlotte and has a bunch of cool places and things to see! I also learned that this little museum that I had never heard of was AWESOME, and I couldn’t believe we hadn’t been yet.

Read our Guide to fun In Gastonia, NC for more fun you can have while visiting the museum.

The Schiele Museum of Natural History

The Schiele Museum is named for Rudolph “Bud” Schiele, a botanist and naturalist. Bud worked with the community to establish the Gaston County Museum of Natural History in 1961. He needed somewhere to house his vast collection of specimens. This museum was a dream of his since the age of only 17. Boy Scouts will find it interesting to know that Bud turned down the opportunity to be the sole wildlife official in the entire territory of Alaska to be an executive with the Boy Scouts of America organization. Although he passed away just 13 years after the museum was dedicated, his legacy lives on through the museum whose name was changed to honor him.

Outdoor Exhibits

The outdoor exhibits alone are worth a trip to the museum, especially on days when they have special events and programs offered. Check their website regularly for information on upcoming events.

On the day we visited there was a wetland education program down at the pond. We were able to make paper binoculars, a really cool little nature journal, and see some animals that were native to the pond’s ecosystem! This was all in addition to the regular programming the museum offers.

A new exhibit this fall will be a working farm exhibit called, “The Farm Experience.” The exhibit opens in the fall and will include displays of agricultural equipment, gardens that display different growing techniques and live animals. The livestock will include a milking cow and (we’re hoping) goats! Anyone who follows Kidding Around knows how we love goats! All animals really, but goats are up there!

Past the farm and along the nature trail, you will see a mill powered by a stream, a Catawba Indian Village, a stone age exhibit, a wildlife garden, a pond and a play area for children called the “Playscape”.

We spent a good deal of time outside and that was with the farm exhibit being closed. We especially enjoyed our time with Mariah during the Wetland activity. Mariah can normally be found working in the animal husbandry and environmental education departments. She was a wealth of knowledge and was even the one who tipped us off to one of the parks we visited while in Gastonia. Look for Mariah when you visit, you’ll learn a lot from her!

Indoor Exhibits

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a huge fella (or gal, we skipped a formal introduction) in the lobby. Here you’ll find the ticket counter. Tickets are under $10 and do not include the planetarium show. Please check the website for current ticket prices.

If you think you’ll be returning regularly, consider the membership. The Museum is part of the same ASTC passport program as Roper mountain Science center. If you are already a member of RMSC, then this won’t help you. Unfortunately, there is a proximity restriction to the reciprocity program and The Schiele and Discovery Place in Charlotte, fall within that distance. However, if you don’t have a membership locally with RMSC, I encourage you to look into a membership. The ASTC Passport program gets you free admission into partner museums all over the world. If you plan to travel, it can pay for itself in just one trip to a partner museum. On a recent trip to Florida, the RMSC membership benefits allowed us to visit three different museums in the Tampa/Orlando area. Admission to just one of these museums would have been more than the membership cost us.

The museum also offers two free admission events a month. On the second Tuesday of every month, from 4 pm – 8 pm the museum offers free general admission.

Once you have tickets purchased, you’ll see the current featured exhibit to your left. “Block Party” is a hands on STEAM exhibit, designed to allow children build and create. There are over 1,000 blocks of different shapes and sizes in this room to inspire creativity. My children played in this room at the end of our visit right up until closing time.

Next you’ll go across the hall to the Dino Safari. Older kids will enjoy the exhibit for it’s fossils and different full sized models. Younger kids will marvel at seeing the characters from their favorite train riding dinosaur show up close and in person.

When you exit the dinosaur exhibit, look to your left and you’ll see a pirate flag. This is a pirate themed play room, complete with a ship to climb on and a slide.

Next you’ll visit the Mineral exhibit. My children love what they refer to as “beautifuls,” so this exhibit was a huge hit. My son was disappointed to learn though, that there were no huge diamonds on display. Me too, son. Me too.

The rest of the exhibits are down the hall and to the right. There is a mixture of taxidermy animal displays and live animals. We got some really good photos with some of the taxidermy animals. I must say though, I hope I’m never that close to a brown bear in real life. The leaf-cutter ant display had my daughter mesmerized. They have the ants set up in little plexiglas ecosystems and have video cameras for you to see what they were doing. The exhibits include the human history of North American Native Indians.

One of the current featured exhibits is Creepy Nature. This exhibit is perfect as we head into the Halloween season. They have mixed actual creepy plants and animals, with fictional creepy things like vampires and other mythical creatures. A word of advice, don’t open the supply closet door. Trust me.

The Planetarium

Admission to the planetarium is in addition to the general admission price. There are several different shows playing on any given day, so be sure to check the schedule before you head out if you had a certain show in mind.

Things To Know Before You Go

  • The museum doesn’t have a restaurant, but there are refreshments available in the gift shop. There are picnic tables outside and you are free to leave to go to your car, have a picnic lunch and return to the museum.
  • Children 2 and under and Active Military members (with proper ID) receive free admission.
  • The museum is stroller friendly.

We enjoyed our visit to the Schiele Museum and we are looking forward to the Farm opening and the fall special programs Mariah told us about!

Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium
1500 East Garrison Boulevard
Gastonia, NC 28054

Have you been to the Schiele Museum of Natural History? What is your favorite part?

About the Author
Melanie is a native New Yorker, who landed in the Upstate by way of Florida. She is the mom to two awesome kids, and the three of them love going on adventures! She enjoys sharing her finds with friends and loves even more that she can share them with Kidding Around readers! She can be found on Instagram @figuringthisoutdotcom
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