Sporting three floors of exhibits on science, art, music, and more, the Maine Discovery Museum welcomes knowledge-hungry visitors with hands-on learning and family-friendly fun. Kids of all ages can ascend a two-story tree house and visit with live snakes and turtles at Nature Trails, then venture inside a giant human body in the Body Journey, where they can pump the heart, floss the teeth, and tickle the inner child with a mammoth moustache. The sound studio at Sounds Abound transforms kids into burgeoning Beatles and Beethovens as they create music videos and beatbox to different versions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
Shaking hands with a starfish, choreographing a puppet show, and drafting a system of roads and bridges in a single day no longer requires a college degree or being a Nickelodeon executive's son. At Children’s Discovery Museum, hands-on, informative exhibits engage kids' bodies and minds, meting out a palpable understanding of the world under the guise of role playing and interactive fun.
Children can introduce themselves to their coastal counterparts in the Touch Tank for Kids, where crabs scuttle and sea cucumbers swim away from predatory pickle jars. A bona fide Maine campground, equipped by L.L.Bean with tents, backpacks, and live animals, makes a great stomping ground for active legs and imparts the importance of conservation. A functional theater provides a venue for young directors to stage puppet shows and musicals, and bank counters and restaurant kitchens spark imaginative scenarios as kids learn the basics of counting change, preparing healthy meals, and coercing ketchup out of glass jars.
Biplane Rides Over Atlanta, Inc.'s practiced pilots leap into the air in fully restored antique aircraft to grant passengers a glimpse of natural and manmade majesties from above. In the open-air cockpit of a classic antique biplane, adventurers can taste the whipping winds of high altitudes over Downtown Atlanta, glimpsing Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, and Centennial Olympic Park, where the Farmer's Almanacs of previous eras are put out to pasture. Alternately, they can surmount the igneous crown of Stone Mountain and soar above the Mississippi riverboats that dot the surrounding lakes, or gently flit over the cityscape bathed in a golden aura during a romantic sunset flight.
Though he was fed and cared for, the lion didn't have much room to roam aboard his owner's yacht. The owner didn't know what to do with the creature, which had grown too close to humans to socialize with other lions. So the owner reached out through a friend to Acadia Zoological Park, who took the lion in and gave him his own piece of land. Though the park's name has since changed to Kisma Preserve, the lion still lives on its grounds, alongside a host of other exotic animals that the three staff members have taken in from rehabilitation programs, zoos, and private owners. They care for a motley and majestic group of wolves, big cats, reptiles, birds, and primates in outdoor enclosures year-round.
The three guides—who also are handlers, feeders, and administrators—lead group tours among these habitats. During tours, they teach visitors the proper way to behave around the creatures and divulge details about the creatures' lives in the wild, as well as what brought them to the preserve. On animal encounters, zookeepers let visitors watch wolves during their daily socializing or feed and hold hands with gibbons, lemurs, and capuchin monkeys.
They can also grant visitors a closer look via private tours, in which guests experience one-on-one time with wolves, tortoises, alligators, and other animals. Though they love all the animals on their preserve, the guides are particularly proud of their tigers—a group of royal white and standard tigers, as well as one of only 50 known golden tabby tigers left in the world. Through each tour and encounter, the dedicated staff aims to engender the respect they have for these animals in others. To most visitors, that should come easily: as director Heather says about the tigers, "It's hard to stand in the presence of one and not feel something."
With an experienced guide at the helm, eager explorers pile into Maine Rafting Expedition’s brightly colored rafts, ready to crash over rumbling rapids throughout Maine’s rivers. Their excursions suit adventurers of all abilities, from more relaxed family- and kid-friendly jaunts through the Penobscot River’s Class III and IV rapids to white-knuckle-inducing trips through Canada Falls’ Class-V rapids and a 20-foot waterfall. The most popular trip runs down 16 miles of the Penobscot River, whose Class IV and V rapids offer a heart-pumping ride for paddlers and wild moose aged 14 and up. The seasoned guides also lead overnight expeditions, which break for slumber at fully equipped campsites along the river. On every trip, rafters can fuel up with the included riverside barbecues and commemorate their journeys with photos and videos available for purchase.
As darkness overtakes Bar Harbor, a group of travelers huddle outside the Ledgelawn mansion. Inside, their guide informs them, several centuries worth of spirits patrol the halls, unable to reach the next life due to unresolved earthly business or tragedy. The tour guests shiver, recalling the other stories they've heard that night. One was about a woman whose search for her husband has continued beyond her death. Another described the hauntings of children trapped between worlds. Each legend has a distinct voice, crafted from a mix of folklore, documented history, and post-it notes found floating in front of abandoned fridges. To add authenticity to their storytelling, the guides don costumes for the one-mile trip, which reaches its eerie conclusion in the center of town.