Blank Park Zoo educates the public about the wonders of the wild by re-creating far-flung habitats and ecosystems that house more than 1,000 animals and 104 different species ranging from Siberian tigers to hissing cockroaches. Zookeepers lead chats about animals and offer conservation tips, while exhibits include hands-on feedings that allow humans to go face-to-face or nose-to-beak with hungry giraffes and parakeets. Recent new arrivals welcome curious kids to commiserate with the growing pains and early bedtimes of young wallabies, camels, and seal pups, setting a foundation for learning that may be continued in classes designed for those aged 6 months to 5 years.
In addition to raising awareness about the environment, Blank Park Zoo contributes to conservation efforts to preserve the future of native animals and their natural homes. The zoo participates in seven endangered-species breeding programs and donates a portion of admissions proceeds to several different wildlife initiatives.
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum’s campus features 9,000 square feet of exhibits, classrooms, and libraries dedicated to all eras of Iowa’s railway history. But the museum campus is one part of the organization’s attractions, since the it keeps actual 1920s-era coach cars coasting the tracks, chugging past sights and recreating the experience railway riders have enjoyed for nearly 100 years. The ancient engine follows the tracks in the Des Moines River Valley, taking visitors to old coal towns or allowing them to soak in scenic views. After their ride, travelers can return to the museum, where they can view track equipment, ogle dining car china, or learn why one has to wear coveralls to steer a train.