The Wild Center is fast becoming a top draw in New York. The Boston Globe called it "the place to go" in the Adirondacks. The New York Times called it "stunning," and this summer the Museum adds a brand new film narrated by Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver to its array of attractions. The movie, shown on the museum's one-of-a-kind Panoramas Theater takes visitors on a fascinating journey into the often cataclysmic history of the Adirondacks.
This is a new kind of museum, there are live animals for one, and staff that can help visitors see into the lives of all kinds of wildlife. The Museum has an outdoor campus with trails, its own river frontage and private pond, and its main museum exhibits housed in a 54,000-square-foot building mix up the indoors and outdoors with enviable results.
The Wild Center expertly helps its visitors see the surrounding Adirondacks. This is not a stuffy museum, and visitors praise it for letting them explore on their own terms. Want to watch the fish swim over your head? Feel free. Want to watch Dave the curator with one of his rescued ravens show you how these smart birds fly? He's all yours. Want to watch Carl Heilman's Wild Adirondacks, a soaring wide screen homage to the wilderness twice? Go ahead. Do the children want to open boxes of bones in the magnificent Naturalists Cabinet, or handle a really sophisticated sound system built by Cornell University that helps them mimic bird calls? It's all theirs. The museum was designed by the same firm responsible for the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C and it shows. You enter the Wild Center through a soaring rotunda with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer unusual waist-high views of the pond that laps against the outside of the building. There's a lean-to in the Great Hall and a massive moving glacial ice wall that describes how last ice age carved the modern Adirondacks.
Pass the glacier and you're on the Living River Trail - passing lakes, bogs, streams, rivers, waterfalls and forests to the summit of a High Peak. When they say "living river" they mean it. There are more than 2,000 live creatures in and around the Pataki Hall of the Adirondacks.
Nature infuses the Hall, including the sounds of cascading water from the plunge pool at the dramatic 20-foot-high Otter Falls. Here you can watch the Wild Center's resident otters show you exactly why they have a reputation for playful behavior.
There are plenty of interactives. You can feel how cold the earth was when the glaciers were two miles deep over the Adirondacks, or run your hands through a cloud.
The exhibit hall's center houses the Find Out Forest, a media-rich interactive environment. The company that created the Nova series for Public Television produced enough movies about the Adirondacks to keep you immersed for more than two hours if you want to watch most of what's available. You pick the films, whether you want to travel down the Hudson Gorges, go to the top of Whiteface to see how cloud research is conducted, or learn about winter survival for animals. The experts who guide you are engaging and knowledgeable, and there's plenty of seating to relax and enjoy the shows.
When you're finished with the Hall of the Adirondacks you'll start to see why the Wild Center is setting records for the time people are spending with its exhibit and why the museum already has more than 5,000 members. The museum has a cafe, store and good trail system.
The Wild Center was the first Museum in New York to receive a LEED Certification - LEED is the international benchmark for green buildings - and this new set of displays shows you exactly how deep the museum's green roots run. There are living walls, invisible lights and local microbes handling clean up. The New Path is a great way to see ideas you can take home to make your own house greener, and a healthier place to live.
The Wild Center is located at 45 Museum Dr.in Tupper Lake. Visit online at www.wildcenter.org. Or call (518) 359-7800.