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7 less-famous natural history museums worth a visit

July 1, 2013, 11:03 a.m.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County garden

Photo: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

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Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Established: 1913
Head count: About 1 million projected annual visitors (2013); more than 35 million specimens on display and in the archives
Beyond the fossils: With its satellite museum at the La Brea Tar Pits roping in fossil-seeking tourists by the busload, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has long found its strength not in dinosaurs but in permanent exhibits such as a crazy-large collection of shells, an insect zoo, a treasure trove of ancient Latin American artifacts and enough grade-A dioramas to keep restless sixth-graders preoccupied for hours on end. These days, however, a new, 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall is serving up some fierce competition to existing paleontology powerhouses such as the National Museum of Natural History while boosting the 100-year-old museum’s attendance levels.

For those who prefer flora to fossils, the just-unveiled Nature Gardens is a 3.5-acre urban habitat where visitors can see birds and butterflies, enjoy guided nature walks, take gardening workshops and learn to track and observe different species.