Looking for fun and inexpensive things to do in New Jersey? Got a rock hound or budding paleontologist in the family (or maybe you are one yourself)? Check out the Rutgers Geology Museum, which happens to be one of the oldest collegiate geology collections in the United States. Founded in 1872, its exhibits showcase the natural history of New Jersey, focusing on geology, anthropology, and paleontology.
My boys and I recently visited the Geology Museum, which is located on the picturesque Rutgers campus in the heart of New Brunswick. The kids were thrilled to stand in the shadow of a huge mastodon skeleton that was found in Salem County NJ in 1869. They were also really excited to see a real Egyptian mummy and we all found the “glow in the dark rocks” (fluorescent minerals, many of them unique to New Jersey) to be really cool! The museum provides kids with a scavenger hunt sheet to young visitors which will help guide them through the exhibit. When the scavenger hunt is completed, museum guests can turn it in at the museum shop for a prize.
If you are or have a collector in your family, you can also bring your mystery rocks, minerals, fossils, shells, and other artifacts to the museum and a geologist will attempt to help you identify your discoveries and tell you a little bit about them.
The collections of the Rutgers Geology Museum include minerals, fossils, and geologic specimens, specifically highlighting the geology of New Jersey and nearby states. Some of the highlights of the museum collection include:
- A dinosaur trackway found in Towaco, New Jersey, along with a model of a small carnivorous dinosaur believed to be linked to the Grallator footprints found in the rocks.
- A fully articulated mastodon (Mammut americanum) skeleton found in 1869 in Salem County, New Jersey.
- A 2,400-year old Ptolemaic era Egyptian mummy.
- Mineral exhibits including rare fluorescent New Jersey minerals.
The Rutgers Geology Museum is a small museum. You should be able to see all of the exhibits in less than 2 hours, which makes it a great place to visit for young kids with short attention spans or on a day when you don’t have a full day to spend at a museum. However, if you do have more time, the Zimmerli Art Museum is just across the lawn.
The Rutgers Geology Museum hosts a variety of fun and educational things to do for visitors of all ages. Most events are free or require a minimal fee. Some of the fun things to do at the museum include the annual Open House (highlights include hands-on activities for children, arts and crafts for all ages, and a gem, mineral and fossil show and sale), themed Late Nights at the Museum (some of the upcoming themes include Dinosaurs, Egypt, and the Ice Age), and special Rutgers Day activities. The museum also hosts children’s birthday parties.
The Rutgers Geology Museum is located on the second floor of Geology Hall at 85 Somerset Street in New Brunswick NJ. Museum admission is free. The museum operates throughout the academic year, but is closed on Sundays and Mondays, during Rutgers Winter and Spring Break, during the month of August, and on major holidays. Visit the Rutgers Geology Museum online for more information on hours and dates of operation, as well information on directions and parking, and things to do at the museum.
Featured Photo Credit: Dmadeo via Wikimedia Commons