Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Museum of Life and Science

Look what the girls caught!

On the last Saturday my mom was here (June 25) she treated us to a visit to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. She has a year-long family pass to Thanksgiving Point back in Utah, and the pass also gets her into hundreds of other places around the country. Including all the cool things close to us! Which totally rocks. Normally it would have cost $18 per adult and $13 per kid to go to this place, but her pass got us all in for free. 

Getting out of the car at the museum; Zelda insisted on wearing her tutu for the trip
Having looked at the museum's website with Grandma earlier in the week, the girls were totally pumped to go. (And - I feel like calling this place a "museum" is a bit of a misnomer. When you hear the word "museum" you tend to think of a big building. And while this place did have a building where you could spend time inside, they have 84 acres of outdoor exhibits. We spent almost all of our time there outside, at the giant outdoor treehouse playground and at the stream and at the farmyard and at the butterfly and insect house (which, yes, I guess was inside) and on the train and on the dinosaur trail and on the trail around the lake and playing in the mist fields and sailing little boats and so much more. On the website they refer to themselves as a "science park" and I feel like that describes this place so much better than "museum.")

So early Saturday morning we made the hour drive to the park, got everyone unloaded and sunscreened (and in Susie's case, tucked snugly into the baby carrier I was wearing), and made our way into the park. The first place we went to was the "Carolina Wildlife" exhibit, which was like a tiny zoo. We saw baby alligators, an owl, snakes, turtles, a skunk, a woodchuck, and some birds. Ellie and Zelda liked the turtles and snakes most of all. 

From there we went outside and played on several different playgrounds. We started with "Gateway Park," which had multiple things to climb on (tree stumps, rope climby things) and a big slide:

Then the girls played in a big sand pit that had lots of dump trucks and shovels to dig with. From there we went through the tunnel that led to the "Hideaway Woods," which were so cool! They had this big system of treehouses and bridges and slides, and a long stream that the kids could play in, and a house made of sticks all woven together, and a toddler area with toddler-sized "treehouses" and bridges.

Jason and the girls up in one of the treehouses:

The house made of sticks:

We played on the treehouses for quite a while, but then had to leave if we wanted to catch the butterfly release inside the butterfly house at 11:00. The girls wanted to stay in the Hideaway Woods but we promised we'd come back later (and we did).

The butterfly house was full to bursting with tropical plants and was really, really hot and humid. Butterflies were fluttering everywhere you looked and would often pass just inches away. A few minutes after we got there one of the butterfly keepers brought all the newly hatched butterflies out in a netted cage and showed them to all the children. She pulled the butterflies out one by one and gently set them on the hands of the waiting children, where they would flap their wings for a minute before taking off into the air. Ellie got to hold a green butterfly on her hand. She was thrilled. 

Outside the butterfly room was the "Insectarium," which had all kinds of cool insects and spiders. The girls eagerly went from case to case, looking at all of the big, crazy bugs.

Here Zelda's looking at some giant preserved insects (all of the other ones at the insectarium were alive):

My mom had bought tickets for the girls to ride the train at 11:30, so after we saw all the bugs we headed up to the train depot. The girls loved it. The train actually went pretty fast, but it went around twice and the loop through the park was really big so it was a nice long ride for them.

While Grandma and the girls were riding the train, Jason and I rested and took Susie out of her baby carrier to try to feed her a bottle. The warm air made her sleepy though, and she just kept snoozing.

When the train ride finished we walked just across the path to the park's cafe and all got some lunch.

And then it was time to go on the dinosaur trail! This was one of the things Ellie was looking forward to the most. (She loooves dinosaurs. They're her favorite). At the beginning of the trail they had a dinosaur that kids could play on. 

A sign next to the dinosaur said "Touch this dinosaur. This model is touchable, but the other dinosaurs along the trail are not." We read it to the girls. As soon as we did, Zelda obediently ran over and started patting the dinosaur. Later she walked up to the sign and "read" it: "These are dinosaurs. Touch them a lot."

Then we walked down the trail and saw all the dinosaurs.

At the end of the trail they had a big dirt area with shovels where you could dig for "fossils." I think they actually had some play ones hidden in the dirt, but we didn't find any. Eventually we found some white smooth rock chips that the girls thought were fossils and were satisfied. 

The trail was a loop so that after the fossil yard, we ended up at the climbing dinosaur again.

From there we went on a long, hot, humid, looping walk around a lake. There was a black bear exhibit and a wolf exhibit, but all of the animals were sleeping or something and we didn't see any, which was disappointing to the girls. The lemur exhibit did have several cute lemurs on display, which Zelda liked, but Ellie was really hot and worn out at that point and wasn't so happy. After the lemurs we came to a pond where they had sailboats you could steer around. Both girls really liked that. And there were lots of little frogs and tadpoles in the pond, which was my favorite part of the pond.  

From the sailboats we walked just a little bit farther and finally arrived at the mist fields. These were a relief. All of us were so hot and worn out from the long walk around the lake, and the mist was just a perfect way for all of us to cool off. The girls had so much fun running around in the mist. After playing in it for a half hour they were completely soaked, and Ellie had perked up completely.

We took a nice long break in the mist. After that we walked back down the path to the main part of the park and went to the farmyard, where we saw chickens, cows, bunnies, pigs, llamas, goats, and donkeys. The donkey was probably the girl's favorite animal, since it came right up to the fence and let them pet it. 

Then we went back to Hideaway Woods. Ellie took off her shoes and played in the stream for a long, long time, while Zelda went back up in the big treehouses and then played in the little treehous in the little kid area. Ellie came and joined us in the little kid area after a while. 

The little kid area had a tree trunk table with tree trunk chairs and little blocks of wood to play with:

And a slide. Zelda loved the slide: 

Climbing up into the little treehouse:

By this time it was around three in the afternoon (we had gotten to the park at 10 in the morning). We decided to wrap things up, and after the girls had played in the Hideaway Woods for a good long while, we convinced them to head back into the main building. They played for another good while inside, where there was an area that was kind of like a mini Marbles kids museum.

Finally, we made it back to the car and headed home. Each girl had a new dinosaur from Grandma from the gift shop in their laps, and after a few minutes of driving we all had slushies from the Circle K, too. It was a super fun day and we are so grateful to Grandma for taking us!

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