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In Travel & Visitors Guide

What's crack-a-lackin', kraken?

In Travel & Visitors Guide

Anyone who was a 12-year-old girl will appreciate the life-sized unicorn.

In Travel & Visitors Guide

Skeleton of a mermaid? Nope, monkey head and torso sewn to a fish tail.

"Mythic Creatures" exhibit worth the trek

Mythic creatures aren't just drawings in Napoleon Dynamite's notebook anymore. Now, you can check out larger-than-life models and vibrant artworks of fantastical creatures in a new show, called "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids," at the Field Museum in Chicago.

The show features a 17-ft. dragon with a wingspan of 19 ft.; a 10-fr. unicorn; a mammoth "Roc" with a 20-foot wingspan hanging from the ceiling; a monsterous kraken with 12-ft. tentacles; a 120-ft. Chinese dragon and more. (Unfortunately, no "ligers.")

Plus, "Mythic Creatures" borders on the bizarre with its inclusion of a "Feejee mermaid," a skeleton that P.T. Barnum advertised as the world's only real mermaid that was later identified as the head and torso of a monkey sewn to the tail of a fish.

"In a world where we know so much, and information is often discovered in the click of a mouse button, we are still fascinated by those things that are unknown," says Tom Skwerski, project manager for exhibitions at the Field Museum. "The exhibition presents the myths and legends behind these creatures."

Small children will most likely be absolutely delighted or completely terrified by this show. The interactive aspects of the exhibit are a preschooler's delight, including touch screens that allow kids to create their own cyber dragon, and bones they can touch.

However, the exhibit is dimly lit and filled with "monsters" like the afore-mentioned kraken, so prepare to make a quick exit if need be. Before taking a young child to this exhibit, consider introducing images of various mythic creatures to familiarize them prior to the big visit.

Eric Carle, author of the famous book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," illustrated an amazing book of creatures called "Dragons, Dragons and Other Creatures That Never Were." This is a good read for a pre-exhibit brush-up. It is also available for purchase in the Field Museum's gift shop.

Chicago's Field Museum is well worth the 90-minute drive. Aside from "Mythic Creatures," the "Evolving Planet" exhibit will delight most little people, with numerous mammoth dinosaur skeletons reminiscent of the museum visited by Curious George in the book "Curious George Goes to the Museum."

One warning about the Field Museum: There is a McDonald's on the lower level. Some may find this convenient, but others might want to come with snacks from home and / or accept that kids might pine for not-so-magical Happy Meals.


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