What To Do: A time before dinosaurs

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

The Academy of Natural Sciences

During normal times, a visit to a museum was a great way to break up the winter doldrums that accompany January, February and March. This winter, COVID-19 restrictions forced area museums to shutter their doors in late 2020.

Fortunately, restrictions on museums have just been lifted by the state. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the area museum scene is springing back to life — starting this weekend.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, www.ansp.org) reopens today (January 8) with a new exhibition, the continuation of a wildlife photography exhibit, and virtual programming for Environmental Justice Week starting January 11.

Most people think of dinosaurs as the oldest creatures on earth — but they weren’t. The Academy’s new exhibit – “Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs” – shows the species that predated dinosaurs.

Visitors to the museum can step back in time 290 million years to when bizarre-looking creatures dominated life on land and sea, and dinosaurs had not yet evolved. They can also learn about the most devastating mass extinction the world has ever seen when “Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs” takes up a year-long residence at the Academy. 

The exhibit blends vivid artwork, amazing fossils and full-size scientifically accurate models of moving beasts to recreate this relatively unknown period that ended with the most devastating extinction of life. Visitors will explore odd-looking sharks, strange reptilelike precursors of mammals, a vicious giant saber-toothed gorgonopsid, and other extinct creatures that ruled the world millions of years before the dinosaurs.

The Permian period lasted from 299 to 251 million years ago and produced the first large plant-eating and meat-eating animals. The period ended with the extinction of over 80 per cent of all life on earth. What caused this mass extinction had baffled scientists for the last 20 years, but a recent discovery shed new light on the cause — global warming.

“The Permian is a really interesting time in the history of life and the history of the earth” said Ted Daeschler, PhD, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Academy and professor at Drexel University. “This is a great opportunity for kids and adults to explore an unfamiliar part of the fossil record.”
Visitors will learn how this now familiar phenomenon — the long-term warming of the planet — was triggered millions of years ago in another geological period by a huge volcanic eruption that set off a chain of events that led to the vast extinction of plants and animals.

“Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs,” which was developed by Gondwana Studios, Tasmania, Australia, features a collection of new vivid artwork created through the vision of award-winning paleo-artist Julius Csotonyi. Visitors will see casts of fossilized skeletons, scientifically accurate 3D sculptures, and full-size beasts including seven that move with animatronics.

“Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs” will be on view through January 17, 2022.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year,” which is located in the museum’s new natural-light-filled gallery, will be on view through February 15. Organized by the Natural History Museum in London, WPY is one of the world’s longest running and most prestigious photography competitions. The exhibit features 100 winning images that relate thought-provoking stories about the natural world and the future we want to create.

The museum’s new hours are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a members-only hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. each day. In addition, the Academy will be open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a members-only hour from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Admission is $22 for adults, $19 for seniors and $18 for children (ages 2-12).

Philadelphia has once again become a place to go for a great museum experience.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, www.philamuseum.org) is reopening today (January 8) with new hours.

The museum posted this message on its website:

“The Art Has Missed You—And So Have We.

Our iconic main building will reopen to the public on Friday, January 8, with new hours following its recent temporary closure mandated by state and city officials to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The museum will be open Friday through Monday. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. Tickets are available for each half-hour time slot, up to two weeks in advance of today’s date, with new tickets released every Tuesday.”

The museum now will be open from 10 a.m.-8:45 p.m. on Fridays and from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. It will be closed from Tuesday-Thursday each week.

Some of the featured exhibits are “Expanded Painting in the 1960s and 1970s,” “Art of Care,” “Fault Lines: Contemporary Abstraction by Artists from South Asia,” “Horace Pippin: From War to Peace,” “The Gross Clinic” by Thomas Eakins,” “Kōgei: Art Craft Japan,” “Baroque: The Art of Drama” and “Ghosts and Fragments.”

Admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $14 for students and free for Youths (18 and under).

Elijah Pierce’s America

The Barnes Museum (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, www.barnesfoundation.org) is also reopening on January 8 with “Elijah Pierce’s America” as the featured exhibition.

“Elijah Pierce’s America” presents the exceptional work of self-taught woodcarver Elijah Pierce (1892–1984), known best for a tour-de-force volume of biblical scenes. His carvings depict remarkable narratives — religious parables, autobiographical scenes, episodes from American politics — and sometimes include figures from popular culture and sports.

A barber by trade and a preacher by calling, Pierce reacted to life in 20th-century America through his handcrafted works, which also reflect his experience in one of the first generations of African Americans born into freedom. Pierce’s rich and varied sculpture is celebrated in this landmark exhibition, held in the Roberts Gallery.

Admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and $5 for youth.

The Penn Museum (3260 South Street, Philadelphia, www.penn.museum) is presenting exhibitions for live visitors and in virtual format for those who prefer to stay home.

The Penn Museum

Some of the museum’s featured exhibits are “Living with the Sea – Charting the Pacific,” “The Artifact Lab,” “Community Spotlight,” “Invisible Beauty – The Art of Archaeological Science,” and “Ancient Egypt.”

There are also a variety of specialized galleries devoted to Egypt, Greece, Africa, Mexico & Central America, Sphinx, Native America Voices, Asia, Rome, Canaan & Ancient Israel, Middle Est and Etruscan.

Admission is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and $13 for children (ages 6-12).

The Franklin Institute (222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, www.fi.edu) is up and running again.

The museum’s posted this message on its website:

“Welcome Back!

Open for Fun. Open for Science. Open for You!

Our world has changed, but our mission and purpose have not. We’ve reopened with a modified museum experience designed to celebrate science in a safe and welcoming environment—and we’re excited to see you!
Advance tickets are required for all guests — with no online fees.

New Hours: Wednesday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday & Sunday 10am-6pm; closed Mondays* & Tuesdays
While the museum is normally closed on Mondays, the museum WILL be open for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 18) from 10am-5pm

Face coverings and no-touch temperature checks required for everyone ages 3+ and up
Enhanced daily cleaning protocols, lots of hand sanitization stations, reduced capacity, and streamlined spaces for ease of movement.”

Admission is $23 for adults, $21 for seniors and $19 for children.

If you can interact with reptiles and snakes without getting squeamish, there’s an event you might enjoy this weekend at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center (Station Avenue, Oaks, 800-677-4677, www.phillyexpocenter.com).

East Coast Reptile Super Expo

On January 9, the huge convention hall is hosting the East Coast Reptile Super Expo featuring hundreds of live snakes and reptiles.

A wide array of reptiles will be on display as part of the popular exhibition. One of the show’s main attractions is a sales exhibit area featuring a large number of vendors with live reptiles, amphibians and arachnids as well as food items, supplies, books, cages, and related accessories.

The roster of very diverse vendors includes AZO Reptiles, Rose’s Reptiles, Blake’s Exotic Reptiles, Reptile Kingdom, DHA Pythons, Gecko Haven, Hunger Reptiles, Jungle Emporium, Blackheart Reptiles, Delaware Turtle, Just Lizards and Outback Reptiles.

The list also includes RKZ Rodents. Monstar Reptiles, Turtle to Turtle, Delaware Valley Herpetarium, Newville Dragons, PM Herps, Jay Jacoby Serpent Propagation, Black Jungle Terrarium Supply, VSCV Ventures LLC, Dachiu Dragons, Tom Rogan Reptiles, Native Exotics.

Other featured vendors will be Heath’s Frog Farm, Corralus Creations, Rogue Reptiles LLC, Jason R Bartolett Captive Bred Reptiles, Fowler Reptiles, Dragon Fortress, Turtle Towns, Garden State Tortoise LLC, Reptile Addicts, MCO Reptiles. A.M. Snakes, Charm City Glam Charms, Dragontown Reptiles and J&R Constrictors.

The East Coast Reptile Super Expo, which is always a well-attended event, will run from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. this Saturday. Tickets are $10 with children (under five) admitted free.

Christmas is over. New Year’s Eve has come and gone. Epiphany/ Día de Los Reyes/Day of the Magi/ Theophany/Three Kings Day was on January 6.

Even though some people refuse to admit it, the Christmas holiday season for 2020/2021 is history.

Yet there are people who like to hang on to the holiday season for as long as possible. Fortunately for them, there are still some holiday activities on the events schedule.

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org) is in full holiday mode with the 2020 edition of “A Longwood Christmas.”

The festive holiday display at Longwood Gardens, which is running now through January 17, features spectacular lights, lavish decorations, holiday music and colorful displays featuring thousands of brilliant poinsettias, brightly decorated trees and fragrant flowers — all inside the heated Conservatory.

Inside, you have an opportunity to stroll among beautifully adorned trees and plant palettes of delicate winter whites to rich reds and the greenest of evergreens as you wrap yourself in a nostalgic Christmas morning scene. You can engage your senses with fragrant lilies and paperwhites, and relish in the timeless beauty of Christmas favorites like poinsettias and kalanchoe woven throughout the Conservatory.

Outdoors, you can watch your family’s eyes sparkle at all the wondrous sights and feel like a kid again with Longwood’s whimsical Garden Railway. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Garden Railway is a fanciful blend of horticulture, engineering, and lighthearted fun in a special display located outdoors near the Terrace Restaurant. The Garden Railway operates during regular Gardens hours, weather permitting.

Each fall, members of our Horticulture, Facilities, and Guest Services departments team up to achieve the not-so-small feat of creating this multi-level world in miniature. Longwood Gardens showcases its collection of 31 locomotives, steam engines, diesel engines, and specialty engines – including the ever-popular Thomas the Tank Engine and many of his friends — as they rumble along nearly 500 feet of track amid textural foliage, flowering plants, and woody plants.

When darkness arrives at Longwood, a night-blooming garden of more than a half-million lights strung on close to 100 trees with approximately 40 miles of wire comes to life. A carillon with 62 cast bells plays holiday music every half hour during daylight hours. Longwood’s Open Air Theatre fountains dance to holiday music each half hour — temperature permitting.

As always, admission by “Timed Ticket” — tickets issued for specific dates and times. Timed ticketing limits the number of people in the Gardens at any given time and allows guests to enjoy minimal lines and a better viewing experience.

You may enter the Gardens up to 30 minutes prior and 30 minutes after your designated time. Make every effort to arrive at your designated reservation time. Earlier or later arrivals may not be accommodated.

Admission to Longwood Gardens is $30 for adults, $27 for seniors (ages 62 and older) and college students, $23 for active military and veterans and $16 for students (ages 5-18).

Bucks County seems to like to hold on to its holiday vibe longer than any other area around here.

Peddler’s Village (Routes 202 and 263, Lahaska, 215-794-4000, http://peddlersvillage.com) is presenting its “Holidays in the Village” celebration through this weekend.

The Gingerbread Competition & Display is a feast for the eyes with creative and whimsical entries in several categories.

Slated to run through January 9, the “Gingerbread House Competition” features more than $2,000 in cash prizes in such categories as Traditional and Authentic Reproduction of a Significant Building.

The Gingerbread entries will be on exhibit in the Shop #1 through early January. Admission is free. Guests will be asked to wear masks and to social distance.

With more than 50 specialty shops, Peddler’s Village’s beautiful decorations and one million twinkling lights, set the mood for another holiday season.

Families can participate in Elf on the Stealth, an outdoor walking tour where visitors join Mrs. Claus in search of a missing elf.

“Holidays in the Village” is open now through January 10.

Sesame Place (100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, www.sesameplace.com) is presenting its popular “Furry & Bright Christmas Drive-Thru” through January 10.

Guests take in their favorite furry friends, a seasonal soundtrack, millions of bright lights and more, all from the comfort of their cars.

Tickets for the drive-through activity are $45 per vehicle.

A popular Bucks County attraction is the “Holiday Light Show” at Shady Brook Farm (931 Stony Hill Road, Yardley, www.shadybrookfarm.com)

The farm features a three–million-light Holiday Light Show with “Dashin’ Through the … Lights,” a family-friendly two-mile drive-through on Thursday and Friday nights.

The main display allows visitors to drive or (if weather permits) ride in wagons past post-sundown displays including illuminated tunnels.

The “Holiday Light Show” is open now through January 10.

Timed tickets, which start at $25, are required.

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