In a nutshell

A thrilling temporary exhibition at this world-famous institution, exploring things that live in the dark

What we tested

  • Fun for kids
    A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
  • Fun for parents
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
  • Worth the money
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
  • Facilities
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
  • Family friendliness
    A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
Overall Rating
A star rating of 4.1 out of 5.

This exhibition is now closed

COVID-19 safety update

Some facilities and attractions may be closed or restricted this year, due to COVID-19 – and there may be extra safety rules, pre-booking requirements or one-way systems in place. Please check Natural History Musuem's website before travelling or booking.

How much does it cost in 2018?

Life in the Dark exhibition:

  • Adults: £11.50 (online) £12.50 (gate)
  • Up to 3 accompanying children (16 and under): free
  • Additional children: £7.50 (online) £8.50 (gate)
  • Entry to the Natural History Museum only: free

What did you think of the Life in the Dark exhibition?

A welcome relief from the crowds, heat and chaos of the rest of the museum! And an illuminating and stimulating way to educate yourself and your family about living things that exist in the dark.


How do you find the entrance?

Escaping the throng of visitors to the dinosaur gallery, we entered the cool, calm and uncongested corridors of the exhibition.

Read our full MadeForMums family review of the Natural History Museum

What’s it about?

The exhibition is divided into 3 sections, covering nocturnal creatures, cave-dwellers and underwater inhabitants. The displays are back lit and well-thought-out, with just the right balance struck between visual stimulation, written information and interactivity.

Our highlights were:

  • The 5 year olds I took in adored the smelling stations, which featured handheld devices, rather like a soft showerhead, that emit various scents from animal and vegetable origin, not all of them pleasant
  • Another hit was the sound station, where visitors have to guess which animal makes a particular sound
  • Wandering through the gloomy corridors, you can stroke replicas of furry nocturnal creatures, see yourself through the eyes of a cave boa constrictor, which uses infra red to visualise its prey, and observe Mexican blind cave fish who have no eyes and use their other senses to navigate
  • Our favourite display was towards the end of the exhibition, where hundreds of tiny lights and their reflection simulate the phenomenon of underwater bioluminescence. It’s mesmerising and awesome

How dark is it inside?

Outside, bright sunshine filtered through the museum’s multitude of windows but in here, everything was dimly lit – just enough to see where you’re going and keep an eye on the rest of your party. The lack of light both heightens your senses and makes the whole experience more evocative – for the 1.5 hours we were in the exhibition, it felt like we were in a subterranean world, cut off from the busy daytime crowd outside.

How long will we spend inside the Life in the Dark exhibition?

All in all, the Life in the Dark exhibition is a spellbinding way to spend at least 45 minutes and quite easily a lot longer.

Who is the Life in the Dark exhibition most suitable for?

The displays are compelling and broadly accessible for children of all ages, although under-3s will probably struggle to see many of the displays without adult help. It’s also unsuitable for kids who are scared or nervous of the dark, though very young children and babies might be lulled to sleep by the lack of bright lights and soothing atmosphere.

NB. The exhibition contains flashing lights and flickering shadows. No strobe, but those sensitive to flashing lights may want to skip this part of the experience.


Opening dates and times:

Natural History Museum – open daily from 10am until 5.50pm Last entry at 5.30pm

Closed – 24-26 December


Intro to me:

This was a family affair; I visited the Natural History Museum with my 2 boys, aged 2 and 5, along with their cousin, also aged 5, her mum (my sister), and our mum


Gabrielle NathanContributor

Gabrielle Nathan has been a journalist for 20 years, writing lifestyle features for publications including Red, Women’s Health, Wildflower and Condé Nast Traveller. She has been writing about parenting since 2012, the year she became a mum.