The Wildlife Experience, one of the country's more aptly named museums, offers a chance to encounter members of various animal kingdoms and habitats through an uncommon combination of interactive exhibits, natural history, fine art, and documentary films. Once inside, explore a variety of permanent and not-so-permanent exhibits. Globeology, is a three-dimensional jaunt that takes visitors through biomes from wild Colorado to the barren, WiFi-less tundra. Frogs!: A Chorus of Colors, meanwhile, gives visitors eyewitness access to fifteen types of colorful and vocal anurans, offering young guests insight into what frogs do when not playing a banjo or being chased by a pig.
The Plains Conservation Center is an offshoot of the West Arapahoe Conservation District, an organization appointed in 1949 to teach farming and ranching techniques that could help prevent another devastating Dust Bowl. While the PCC's mission has since expanded, the nonprofit organization's main goal remains the same: preserving the health of Colorado's plains. Between its two sites?a main 1,100-acre location in Aurora and more than 10,000 acres spread along West Bijou Creek?the organization maintains several attractions devoted to the history and environmental character of the region. These include more than five miles of hiking trails, a Cheyenne camp from 1837 with four standing tepees, and Wells Crossing, a replica 1887 farm consisting of sod houses, and heirloom gardens. For more modern sites, the Aurora location's visitor center features interactive displays and seasonal events such as Hops for Habitat, an annual fundraiser with beer tastings from local craft brewers.
Chances are a Tyrannosaurus would bite if you tried to pet it. Thankfully, that's not the case at Morrison Natural History Museum, where a Tyrannosaurus skull is one of many safe fossils that visitors are encouraged to touch. The paleontology museum's 3,000 square feet of exhibition space is full of other dino bones discovered in Colorado, from the first stegosaurus fossils to the tracks of an infant dinosaur. A peek into the museum's Paleo Lab reveals scientists conducting research in real time, while trips to the dig pit let kids experience the rush of unearthing their own fossils.
Not everything at the Morrison is about fossils. Among the Ice Age exhibit's bones of saber-toothed cats, for instance, glass displays teem with live reptiles, amphibians, and a wooly mammoth stretching after a 7,000-year nap. Educational programs likewise blend dinosaur-focused activities and interactions with live creatures, such as birthday parties that include the chance to pet a live snake.
Aviation Xtreme's simulators let land-locked folk fly aboard jetfighters and WWI- or WWII-era aircraft in aerial missions or close-range combat. Aspiring aces strap into the cockpit of their simulator and choose from aircraft such as an F-15A Eagle, F-4 Phantom, or P-51 Mustang. After a short instructional video, they take off into the realistic blue yonder on a chosen mission, which can include an anti-ship mission or ground-attack mission. Each simulator is part of a larger computerized network, allowing friends to go head-to-head in a dogfight or team up to carve clouds into self-portraits.
Aviation Xtreme is housed inside Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, the former locale of the 1930s-built Lowry Air Force Base that closed in 1995, reports Frommer’s. These days, the 150,000-square-foot hangar houses more than four dozen airplanes, including five Century Series fighters and one of two B-1A Lancers on display in the world. The museum is even home to a full-size X-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars and the Harrison Ford Welcome Theater, where the staff starts each day in hiding to surprise Mr. Ford in case he visits.
In addition to aircraft from films, the museum’s space and rocketry exhibits include full-scale replicas of boilerplate spacecrafts used to train Apollo missions to the moon. Others models recreate planes in all their glory, such as the 16-foot Titan II launch vehicle, while hands-on exhibits replicate the conditions of space travel.
The Mizel Museum glimpses into Jewish heritage and contemporary experience with exhibits that showcase fine art, film, drama, sculpture, and music, while striving to promote a message of communal understanding and interculturalism. The museum’s permanent exhibit, 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks, explores the diversity within Jewish history with a combination of artistic elements, artifacts, and photography. The 27-acre Babi Yar Park, a project of the Mizel Museum and Denver Parks and Recreation, memorializes Holocaust victims from the Ukraine. Founded in 1971 and dedicated by Elie Weisel, Babi Yar Park will soon incorporate steel from the World Trade Center into its landscape.
Along with its exhibits and memorials, the Mizel Museum enlightens the public with outreach programs such as a Working Artists program and interculturalism sessions for teachers. An artist-in-residence program for preschoolers and grade-school kids helps them explore Jewish culture through art forms such as storytelling, puppetry, and blowing bubbles into letters from the Hebrew alphabet. The museum supplies abundant activities for adults, such as painting classes and programs that combine compelling discussion topics with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
In 1909, when Denver's Engine Co. No. 1 moved into its new two-story station, firefighters still relied on horse-drawn trucks to race to the scene of a fire. Those trucks now stand beside motorized vehicles in displays at the Denver Firefighters Museum, which has occupied the station since 1980. The nonprofit museum showcases more than 150 year's worth of firefighting history, featuring everything from tools such as helmets and bunking gear to the station's preserved officer's quarters and locker room.
Winding along the gallery floors, firefighter boot prints lead to educational stations with hands-on activities geared toward younger guests. Children can ride miniature fire trucks and poles, try on firefighting gear, and handle actual firefighting tools. To impart additional fire safety skills, the museum's experts teach programs both at the museum and inside local preschool and kindergarten classrooms. The museum also houses a unique gift shop with a melange of interesting, firemen-related items.