One of the
great things about being a San Diegan is the wealth
of amazing environments that are just a short walk,
ride or drive away. Beaches! Mountains! Deserts! All
course, you are too busy trying to keep living here
to actually enjoy living here. In which case, you
owe yourself a visit to the San Diego Natural
History Museum, where the new
"Coast to Cactus in Southern California"
permanent exhibition lets you check out the glories
of our beaches, mountains and deserts while also
leaving you time to actually visit them.
Torrey Pines bluffs to the sands of Anza Borrego,
this exhibit was made for you and me. Your tour
Meet the greeters: How do you know you’ve
reached “Coast to Cactus” territory? Just look for
the bears at the beach. At the entry of the exhibit,
models of a mother grizzly bear and her two
frolicking cubs are posed in front of a painted
backdrop showing Black’s Beach in the 1920s. The
last known San Diego grizzly bear was shot more than
100 years ago, making this tableau the perfect
reminder of the wild place San Diego once was and
the natural gem it still is. Also, it makes an
awesome photo opp.
amazing,” said Michael Field, exhibits designer at
the Natural History Museum. “Everyone who works here
has 30 selfies from this spot.”
Lights! Camera! Kangaroo rat! With its many
touch screens and interactive opportunities, “Coast
to Cactus” has enough bells and whistles to keep the
multi-tasking masses off their iStuff for many
enriching minutes. Your social-media minions will
have to wait.
suck? The mesmerizing time-lapse look at the
changing tides at Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. Creepiest
soundtrack? The touch-screen guide to bat calls. (Eeeeee!)
Most entertaining educational experience? The wall
display dedicated to the industrious creatures that
live in our mud flats. Mr. Fiddler Crab, we salute
you and your babe-magnet claw.
multimedia? That would be the “Desert at Night”
presentation. This ingenious treasure uses
animation, fanciful projections and a bilingual skit
featuring two kids on a camp-out to show visitors
what happens when the desert sun sets and the stars
and the scorpions come out. Spoiler alert: the
kangaroo rat steals the show.
Beasts with burdens: There are live
crayfish in the Canyons and Streams room and living
lizards in the Torrey Pines nook. But the most
illuminating animal encounters are in the area
dedicated to the exhibit’s “Change Over Time” theme,
where taxidermy and model animals help illustrate
the plight of our endangered and vulnerable
creatures, and how the Natural History Museum has
helped save them.
majestic Sonoran pronghorn haven’t roamed our parts
since the 1920s, so you should definitely pay your
respects to the taxidermy version in the case by the
entrance. From there, you can check in on the rare
flying squirrel, the endangered California condor
and California least tern and the vulnerable
burrowing owl. You can also discover how the Nat’s
research was instrumental in saving the California
brown pelican from extinction.