Home / Local Stories  / Learn: Education & Enrichment  / Visit with ‘Mythic Creatures’ at the Academy of Natural Sciences

Visit with ‘Mythic Creatures’ at the Academy of Natural Sciences

Unicorns and mermaids and dragons, oh my!

Come face-to-face with a sea monster, build a dragon, and explore worldwide legends. “Mythic Creatures”—opening at the Academy of Natural Sciences this weekend and running through June 9—examines the science and cultural history of fantastical beings that have captured imaginations for centuries.


The exhibit opens on February 16 for an extended Opening Weekend featuring hands-on activities like making “unicorn poop” slime, live science shows, and more.

“For thousands of years, we’ve passed along and told these beloved stories…To me it’s clear that we have always been and will always be deeply fascinated with the mysteries of nature.” Jennifer Sontchi, Senior Director of Exhibits and Public Spaces, remarked at the exhibit’s preview.


“Mythic Creatures” uses science, cultural artifacts, and stories from around the world to explain the basis for creatures like mermaids, unicorns, and dragons.

Uncover the Legends

Stories of mermaids and sea monsters date back as far as people traveled the seas, encountering creatures the likes of which they had never seen. The re-telling (and sometimes misinterpretation) of these encounters led to the fantasies. One interesting feature of the exhibit is the placement of giant globes so visitors can see where these similar legends have popped up throughout the world’s history.

The exhibit pairs the spectacle of a giant unicorn (which is also a fantastic photo op!) with likely explanations and demonstrations of how people may have come across remains of existing creatures (like narwhals) and drew such outlandish conclusions.


“I think our ancestors would have been relieved had they known that the scary and odd-looking creatures they encountered were really just part of our magnificent natural world,” said Academy President and CEO Scott Cooper, PhD.

Build a Dragon

Alongside the ancient artifacts and stories that shed light on our myths, guests can use decidedly 21st Century technology to “build” their own dragon and watch it come to life on screen. If kids want a more low tech and sensory approach to this, a giant chalkboard invites you to “Color the Creature.”

Come Face-to-Face with the Kraken!

Of course, the science is just part of the fun. Giant set pieces like a sea monster rising out of the ground and a “life size” unicorn make for unique photo ops. Even better if you…

Dress-Up Like a Unicorn

Students from Russell Byers Charter School were with us to preview the new exhibit, and the dress-up corner seemed to be one of the biggest hits. Kids can dress up like dragons, unicorns, and sea monsters and pose at a whimsical backdrop.

“Mythic Creatures” is at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, from February 16 through June 9. The exhibit is open from 10 am – 4:30 pm during the week and 10 am – 5 pm on the weekends. Admission is $5 above general admission for non-members, $3 for individual and family members, and free for Family Plus members and above.


Photographs by Laura Swartz.


Contributing Writer