The Cook Museum of Natural Science is a state-of-the-art natural science museum in downtown Decatur, Alabama. It provides a hands-on, immersive experience where kids can explore, interact with, and learn about nature up-close. From a life-like cave experience and a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, to special birthday and spend the night parties, your entire family will be engaged. Get ready to be amazed, excited, and inspired!
6 Reasons to Visit the Cooks Museum in Decatur
1. Live Animals!
There’s a large variety of live animals including many different species of saltwater and freshwater fish, baby alligators, moon jellyfish, lizards, a hedgehog, bullfrogs, bees, insects, turtles, and more!
2. Hands-On Exhibit Galleries
The exhibits at the Cook Museum are both interactive and educational. This immersive learning experience creates endless learning opportunities that will engage visitors of all ages.
- CAVES – Explore an authentically recreated life-like cave based on real Alabama caves. Look for hidden animals, crawl through walls, and watch out for bats and bears!
- OCEANS – Get a close-up view of a coral reef in our 15,000-gallon salt water aquarium. You’ll also see Moon Jellyfish, live coral, colorful saltwater fish, and a digital sea shell generator.
- FORESTS – Wander through the forest, look up, down, in, and under. Climb “Big Tree,” explore Curiosity Cabin, play in the treehouse, and visit our Birds Exhibit. Learn about the plants and animals of southeastern forests, including carnivorous plants that catch insects for food!
- FOUNDATIONS – Experiment with an interactive kinetic sand table and create an erupting volcano, snow-capped mountains, or flowing rivers. You can also enjoy a marvelous display of minerals and gems!
- RIVERS & STREAMS – Ever wonder what’s inside a beaver lodge? Crawl into ours and find out! Explore various habitats that are made in fresh water. This exhibit includes a 600-gallon fresh water tank with live fish and turtles.
- LOOKING UP – Touch a real meteorite from outer space and learn about the Earth’s unique place in space and its “just right” relationship to the sun- not too close and not too far.
- ARCTIC/DESERT – This exhibit compares the similarities and differences between the Arizona Sonoran Desert and the Alaskan Arctic. See a life-size saguaro cactus, various arctic animals, and much more!
- WONDERFUL WORLD OF INSECTS – Take a close look at both live and pinned insects. Insect terrariums on display include an ant colony and insects that live in water. There is also an area for toddlers to play.
- DISCOVER – This gallery serves as an introduction to the overall museum experience and encourages exploration of our natural world. Inside this exhibit you’ll find live bees, turtles, alligators, a grizzly bear, snakes, and more!
3. Cook Museum in the Classroom
Make your next field trip or group trip memorable, educational, and fun. The unique classrooms at the Cook Museum of Natural Science were made in engage learners!
- MAKER SPACE – While studying the concept of biomimicry, upper elementary and middle school students will be able to use science and creativity to solve a problem. This classroom is focused on STEAM concepts and the natural world while building and creating!
- ADVENTURE LAB – This classroom is designed for middle and high school students. In the Adventure Lab, students will be able to get hands on experience with more in-depth science topics like anatomy by dissecting cow eyes and chemistry by performing experiments that enhance concepts students are learning in school.
- SALAMANDER ROOM – Designed for early childhood education, this classroom is a place of fun and exploration! Younger students will study shapes, patterns, and colors in nature using 4 of their senses. This classroom has live animals that kids will be able to interact with and learn about!
Museum programs and camps will be offered on different days and times of the week. Make sure to check online or call ahead if you are trying to make it to a certain one.
4. Dine at the First Nature’s Table Cafe in Alabama!
Located inside of the Cook Museum, Nature’s Table is open to the public without an admission ticket. Enjoy ‘clean eating’ at its finest with healthy wraps, sandwiches, salads, protein bowls, smoothies, coffee, and more, all made to order with the freshest ingredients. From a quick bite on-the-go to box lunches for groups, Nature’s Table will hit the spot!
5. The Cook’s Museum Store is Awesome
You’ve made marvelous memories at the museum. Now, take home a reminder of the amazing things you saw! Proceeds from your purchase at the Museum Store will support our exhibits and educational programs. Members receive a 10% discount on all purchases from the store.
6. Traveling Exhibits Means There’s Always Something New
The museum will also offer traveling exhibits upstairs in our learning space. Check online for more information or become a Cook Museum Insider to receive updates on museum happenings, family nights, summer camps, special dates, and more.
Plan your family’s trip to the Cook Museum of Natural Science – hours & admission are reasonable, and there are even ways to become a museum member! Buy tickets in advance online here: www.cookmuseum.org/tickets.
Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated with current info.
Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.