National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel – Another Great Family Outing Destination

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This week my kids and I checked out the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, MD. It was the first of many more visits to come – we loved it!

Though we consider ourselves nature center connoisseurs with all of our frequent visits to Rock Creek Park Nature Center & Planetarium, Montgomery County Nature Centers and other local wildlife-y destinations, we’d never been to the Laurel center before. It took us just 20 minutes to get there and we called the morning-of the free Nature Tots program and they still had room for both my kids. Score!

We had a wonderful time looking at all the exhibits of animals from all over North America. There are PLEASE TOUCH signs and interactive exhibits with buttons, bells and whistles and kids’ play areas everywhere. And the interpretive rangers led the preschoolers in one of the best kid programs we’ve ever experienced. I feel like I obtained a free day of preschool for both my wild hooligans. Here’s what went down, with photos:

First, they provided personalized nametags with a different baby animal for each kid and invited them to color special animal printouts and play with the extensive baby & mama animal puppet collection:

puppet time at the National Wildlife Visitors Center in Laurel MD

Then the rangers gathered the kids for circle time to read a book and learn about baby animals’ development and survival:

circle time at National Wildlife Visitors Center in Laurel MD

Then they led the kids in a fridge-display-worthy craft project:

craft time

Finally, they led the kids and parents in a personal tour of the exhibits that pertained to the lesson:

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Oh, and on the weekends and in the summer they have TRAM TOURS of the Patuxent Research Refuge wildlife preserve surrounding the center – how cool is that? The tram ride is a half hour long guided tour through forest, meadows, and wetlands in the 40 passenger, all-electric, open-air vehicle which provides a unique type of access to the wildlife and their habitats. Tram tours are available weekends(mid-March through mid-November) and daily (summer). The tram costs $3 for adults, $2 for seniors 55 and over and $1 for kids 12 and under. The weekend tram schedule: 11:30, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 on a first-come, first-serve basis. The weekday tram schedule: (Summer Only – June 22 thru August 15, 2009) 11:30, 1:00, 2:30.

Are you convinced? Whether there’s a special program (here are the scheduled programs for April), you jump on the tram or your family would just like to check out all of the interactive exhibits and kids’ play areas, it’s a fabulous outing for all ages. Get thee to the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, MD stat. The visitor center/indoor exhibits are open daily 9am-4:30pm and the surrounding grounds are open sunrise-4:30pm, but all areas are closed on Federal Holidays.

wolf siblings fighting - Eve totally related to this display!
Wolf siblings fighting. Eve said, “That one’s me and that one’s Charlie.”
Yeah, welcome to my world.

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