I had a hard time figuring out exactly what the Wild Center was until we tried it for ourselves. I had visited its attractive website, and read some impressive reviews, but I was still not quite sure what we had signed up for. Indoors or outdoors? Museum or outdoor exploration? How big was it? Was it good for families?
We found that the Wild Center is an indoor and outdoor attraction located in New York's scenic Adirondack Park. It's all about encouraging people to learn about and interact with nature – particularly the unique environment of the Adirondack region. And it's great for families.
Here's what you'll find at the Wild Center.
You'll need to go inside the main building to pay admission, so that's a good place to start. On one side of the Great Hall you'll find the museum. On the other side is the movie theater, gift shop and cafe. Review the schedule of events to make sure you catch the movie showings, animal encounters and nature talks that your family will most enjoy.
Head over to the exhibits and let the family loose. As museums go, this one is small and you'll have a hard time losing anyone for long. The museum is new and everything is hands-on and fun for kids, while sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy. It's all about nature in the Adirondacks. Live animal exhibits include local fish, turtles and playful otters. My children especially enjoyed the art station, where they used paints and stencils to interpret nature in their own way. Another room, the Naturalist's Cabinet, was filled with natural objects and books for visitors to examine.
We had to cut our outdoor exploration short because we didn't come prepared for rain. It was a warm day, but we didn't even have an umbrella. So, we missed the short nature walks around the property and the outdoor picnic we had planned.
For an extra fee, you can canoe the Raquette River with a guide in warm months. Be sure to schedule that in advance. You can borrow snowshoes for no additional charge in the winter. An elevated walkway called Wild Walk is planned for 2015, and that looks like something else we would enjoy another time.
The outdoor activity we did get to do was play at The Pines. The Pines is a natural playground made from trees. Most of my photos don't do it justice, but my children would have liked more time here. It's completely different from the pre-fabricated and brightly painted playgrounds that they're used to. Those are fun too, but our children's imaginations caught fire here, much like they did in the natural playground at Utah's Goblin Valley. Play and learning collide in delightful ways when children interact with nature.
Bang for your buck
Is the Wild Center worth the price of admission? That's a question I struggled with and I hope to give you enough information to decide for yourself. I like the Wild Center's mission of conservation and education. It's a cause I feel good about supporting. Furthermore, the quality of the exhibits and facilities are top-notch. The Wild Center is a beautiful place, and certainly well worth your time.
My hang-up is that for the $50 it would have cost my family of four to visit, we had a hard time spending more than two hours here. Granted, we could have spent at least another hour if rain hadn't kept us indoors. However, you won't have much trouble finding free nature hikes and pretty picnic spots throughout the Adirondacks.
If you're you're still on the fence, go. The Wild Center is a beautiful place and an excellent family destination. As an added value, your ticket is good for two consecutive days, and you can get a discount at the Adirondack Museum in nearby Blue Lake with your Wild Center admission.
Good to Know
Where: 45 Museum Drive, Tupper Lake, NY
When: Open daily from late May to mid-October. Open on weekends in winter and spring. Closed in April. Visit www.wildcenter.org/visit/hours-prices for detailed dates and hours.
- Adults (ages 15-64): $17
- Youth (ages 4-14): $10
- Child (ages 0-3): FREE
- Senior (ages 65+): $15
- Tickets are good for two consecutive days
How Long: 1-4 hours
Amenities: gift shop, picnic facilities and cafe
Disclosure: We received complimentary admission to the Wild Center so that we could experience this attraction and review it for other families. I received no additional compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.