19 things to do this winter for adults

Take the edge off the winter chill with 19 neatly wrapped things to do this winter. 

The festive feeling gets us through December with the Ice Rink and a wild New Year's Eve party. In January, tuck into a fruit salad of a different kind and spot winter-loving animals in the galleries. Come February, welcome back longer days with garden strolls and nature photography.

  • December 2019 - February 2020

1. Can you feel the love?

Join us after hours to explore all things related to love and relationships in the natural world. Ticket includes entry to Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

14 February, adult early bird £30, Member early bird £27

2. Meet new species

From beetles smaller than a full stop to the oldest known stegosaur, discover some of the 412 new species named by Museum scientists over the course of 2019. 

The list includes everything from wasps, lichen and marsupials, to snakes, amoeba and meteorites.

3. See animals in high spirits

Explore the amazing diversity of life on Earth with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum's fascinating zoology spirit collection, which is preserved in alcoholic spirit (much like a few of us come the end of Christmas).

Meet Archie the 8.25-metre-long giant squid, Darwin's favourite octopus and a shark specimen that was transported in a suitcase in the 1950s.

Various dates and times, £15, booking essential

4. Can you find the hidden fruit salad?

It's somewhere you'd least expect. Instead of looking at the blue whale skeleton in Hintze Hall, cast your gaze to the 162 ceiling panels beyond. Arranged in sets of six, the illustrations show the familiar and the exotic. See if you can spot lemons, oranges, apples, figs, grapes and peaches. 

Permanent, free

5. Get close to nature

It may be chilly outside, but the Museum's Wildlife Garden is perfect for a winter visit. The garden is home to thousands of British flora and fauna - more than 3,130 species have been identified here since it opened in 1995.

1 November - 31 March, 10.00-15.30 (closed 24-26 December), free

6. See a giant alabaster bowl

This giant alabaster bowl and pedestal (or tazza) was presented to the Museum of Practical Geology, now the Earth Hall, by the Duke of Devonshire for the museum opening in 1851. The alabaster, originally from Fauld in Staffordshire, was sculpted in 1819-50 by Joseph Hall of Derby, a leading stonemason of the time.

Find it on the landing outside Restless Surface and Volcanoes and Earthquakes.

Permanent, free

7. Marvel at Wildlife Photographer of the Year's cold snaps

See remarkable images of animals in their natural environments, including a long-tailed tit pecking at an icicle, a lone American bison facing a blizzard and a hare in a winter wonderland, all at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Until 31 May 2020, adult £13.95, concession £10.95

8. Blast off on a space adventure

This meteorite was the first in the UK to be seen crashing to Earth. On 13 December 1795, ploughman John Shipley looked up from his work on the Wold Cottage estate in Yorkshire to see this stone fall a few metres from where he stood. 

Most people thought the stones were blasted into the air by volcanoes - but with no active volcanoes in Yorkshire, how could that be? This event sparked the first serious investigation into the origins of meteorites. 

Find out more about the remarkable stories in the Treasures gallery

Permanent, free

9. Get face-to-face with the world's largest carnivore

It's not something we'd usually recommend, but in the Mammals gallery you're safe to stand next to a large polar bear. This species can weigh as much as 720 kilogrammes and stand 1.5 metres at the shoulder. 

As lovers of colder climes, polar bears have a dense, water-repellent coat and a thick layer of fat, making them suitably adapted to the harsh Arctic conditions. They can swim long distances through icy waters between ice floes.

Permanent, free

10. Check out the balcony displays in Hintze Hall

Explore the seabirdpheasantrock and mineral displays on the first-floor balcony in Hintze Hall. 

Seabirds and pheasants can be found to the left of the main staircase, while rocks and minerals are on the right. 

Permanent, free

11. Explore the Museum after dark at Lates

Roam the galleries with a drink in hand, learn something new at a Nature Live talk and gaze at Hope lit up in Hintze Hall at our monthly Lates event. 

31 January and 28 February 2020, free entry with some paid activities 

12. Dance the (long) night away

Make waves on the dance floor under Hope the whale, and curate the soundtrack to your night as three DJs make you move at our silent disco.

31 January and 28 February 2020 after Lates, £22

13. Unleash your inner child

Ride through Earth in the Red Zone, and don't miss the Stegosaurus on your way - it's the most complete skeleton of its species ever found.

Head through the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery and prepare to hold on tight: you're in for a rumble in the earthquake room, where you'll get a glimpse into what life was like for residents of Kobe, Japan, during the 1995 earthquake. Permanent, free

Permanent, free 

14. Spend time with your significant otter

Head straight to the Mammals gallery to find a European river otter. This species eats fish, especially eels, but will also prey on a smorgasbord of crabs, frogs and waterfowl. During the day, it rests in reed beds or in burrows called holts. At night, it may travel great distances in search of food or new territory.

Permanent, free

15. See the largest painting in the collection

It's hard to miss the huge painting of a long-extinct giant ground sloth (Megatherium americanum) - it's about 2.5 x 5.8 metres. It was painted in 1842 by George Scharf, one of the artists who provided scientific illustrations for our founder Richard Owen.

See it at the exhibition Palaeoart - Reconstructing the Past in the Images of Nature gallery, then get up close to the real specimen outside the entrance to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

Until 28 April 2020, free

16. Spot a frozen bolt of lightning

A searing flash of forked lightning struck the surface of a desert and melted sand along its sparking trail. The sand's minerals melted and fused to create this fulgurite, a hollow tube of glass. You'll see this fine example of the power of the atmosphere to instantly change the solid surface in the Restless Surface gallery.

Permanent, free

17. Learn something new from a scientist

From meteorites to mammoths, evolution to the climate crisis, Nature Live talks are a great way to get out of the cold yet still explore the natural world. Meet our scientists and learn about their latest research. The talks run for 30 minutes in the Attenborough Studio.

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, free, no booking required

18. Have you seen Cheddar Man?

The oldest almost complete skeleton of our species (Homo sapiens) ever found in Britain is displayed alongside a model head reconstruction in the Human Evolution gallery. His DNA was preserved thanks to the consistently cool conditions of Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge and layers of natural mineral deposits. Scientists extracted the ancient DNA, which helped them to build a portrait of Cheddar Man and his life in Mesolithic Britain.

Permanent, free

19. Pay a visit to Guy

Guy the gorilla was a much-loved resident of the Zoological Society of London for most of his life. When he suffered a heart attack during an operation in 1978, his remains were donated to the Museum.

Guy's skin was mounted by Museum taxidermist Arthur Hayward, first going on display in 1982. 

See Guy on display outside the Treasures gallery.

Permanent, free