Natural History Museum of Los Angeles for its Spider Pavilion (open till Nov. 7; it's housed in the same place that the Pavilion of Wings stands during spring/summer). But the pavilion was closed, due to the rainy day's puddles.
Our backup feature attraction was the dinosaurs. But, because of the construction of the Dinosaur Mysteries exhibit to open in July 2011, all that pertained to this category was the massive fossil on the first floor and the Dino Lab (where you can watch paleontologists do their paleontology thing).
So, where did preschooler Siona and I spend the most time on a recent morning - besides in the gift shop? The Insect Zoo. There, we watched a staff person feed a cricket to a praying mantis (the secret to the mantis' slim waistline: it feasts just once every two weeks). We tried to spot Vietnamese walking stick insects camouflaged amid branches; watched beetles "wrestling"; gaped at a scorpion; and peered at some quite interesting varieties of cockroaches (the ones terrorizing urban kitchen corners give this pest a bad name). And we marveled at velvet ants, which are actually wasps.
Of course, we had to say hello to the mammals, too, with the oryx, okapi, monkey, and rhinoceros exhibits being among our favorites.
Save some money by skipping the basic cafeteria on the ground floor (though apparently a full-service café will be there by 2011). If it's not rainy like it was during our visit, pack a picnic and lunch on the grass. There's a playground right across the street from the museum, next to the parking lot.
Photos, from top to bottom: Giant tropical cockroach; Madagascar hissing cockroach; Arabian oryx (in this exhibit hall, the mammals are "dead and stuffed," as I overheard one mother explaining to her child)