We had a fantastic day out at inatura in Dornbirn. This is an interactive museum focusing on nature, humans and technology. It is a truly interactive museum, where touching, trying, playing and experiencing is encouraged. I visited with a sixteen month old, but I think there would be something here for everyone. We went on this day trip as part of our #Take12Trips challenge. It is apparently considered one of Europe’s most modern natural history museums, but I had never heard of it before.
inatura in Dornbirn: Our mountains
The museum is split into four main zones. The first is all about our mountains. The architecture of the museum is very impressive throughout. This section is built out of steel to represent a mountain range. There is a collection of fossils and stuffed mountain animals from the Vorarlberg region, as you would expect in a natural history museum. But there are also live small mountain creatures on display, such as lizards. There is also a 360 degree projection of an avalanche, complete with wind effects, and a climbing wall. Although I have to say I think Daisy preferred the interactive touch screen games to the other exhibits in this section. Even though it was in German. There are plenty of English translations, but not on absolutely everything.
inatura in Dornbirn: Our forest
The next section uses lots of wooden pillars to give a woodland atmosphere. Here you will find all sorts of exhibits to climb on, through and under. A wolf pack greets you at the entrance and there are other large animal specimens, which you are free to touch. Also, there is a recreation of a badger set to crawl through and over. And a live ant colony to study. Daisy loved running around between the ‘trees’ and exploring the tunnels and steps. I think this was her favourite section as there was so much to see and do.
inatura in Dornbirn: Our water
The water zone focuses on the region’s rivers and lakes. You are greeted by a waterfall and an aquarium full of huge carp. The cinema takes you to the depths of Lake Constance. Unfortunately when we visited the ‘glass river’ – an aquarium under a glass floor – was not filled. But Daisy found standing on glass over a dry river bed mind-blowing enough. You could almost see her brain working as she tried to figure out how she was hovering over the ground.
inatura in Dornbirn: Our bodies and health
In the final section we learnt all about the human body. Daisy enjoyed rolling different sized food molecules through a tube representing the digestive system. She wasn’t quite so sure about the life sized pin-art board. And I think I was more impressed by the mirrored room representing the inside of the brain.
inatura in Dornbirn: Other activities
Throughout the museum there are interactive science areas, focusing on topics such as optics, mechanics, energy, water, electricity and magnetism. You can try out various experiments to understand the links between science and nature. And helpfully there are explanations in English. I thought these looked interesting, but Daisy was too young really, so I would like to go back with another adult and get a chance to play with the experiments. They would be great for older kids.
There was also a section displaying small animals. A couple of the cases that were supposed to contain snakes were empty though. This always gives me an irrational fear that they have escaped.
Outside there is a garden and playground. For me, this was the only slight disappointment, as the playground did not really have anything for toddlers.
The restaurant was excellent. We had a huge, good quality lunch at a reasonable price. It looked as though it was popular with locals popping in for lunch.
And I’m going to give a special mention to the changing facilities. They even had nappies and wipes which I very rarely see.
inatura in Dornbirn: Visiting information
When we visited on a Friday afternoon we were the only people there. This made it fantastic value, at 11 Euros for me and Daisy was free. That has to be the cheapest private visit to a museum ever. I have no idea why it wasn’t packed with people. We thought it was brilliant. I would go as far as to say that it is the best museum I have been to for a toddler. I have no hesitation in recommending a visit if you are in the area. We were there about 4 hours but could easily have stayed longer.
We walked to the museum from the station, which took about 20 minutes. Dornbirn itself was a nice looking town for a stroll, with a pretty pedestrianised town square.
For up to date information on opening times and admission fees see the inatura website.