The Children’s Nature Center, or CNC, in Grand Junction is a living museum (the only one in a 250-mile radius) that has exotic animals in their natural habitats on display. Guests of all ages love to come and see the huge variety of animals in their habitats, and even get hands-on with some of the friendlier ones.

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The nature center opened its doors in January of 2014. Although the exterior may not look impressive like some of the nature centers, what is inside has drawn guests in from hundreds of miles away. In fact, the center only spent about two years in its previous location in Fruita, Colorado before having to move to Mesa Mall in Grand Junction and essentially double in size to allow for more animals, large exhibits, and additional classroom space to accommodate the number of classes requesting field trips to the premises. The long-term goal is to eventually purchase their own land and building and continue to expand.

Permanent Attractions and Exhibits

The nature center houses over 120 unique living creatures, from the huge, 13-foot-long pythons to the tiny, one-inch long dart frogs. There are freshwater and saltwater habitats, and many coral tanks that features a large variety of diverse aquatic life. The center also is home to the biggest honey bee hive in the state of Colorado, a collection of reptiles, snakes, and amphibians, and colorful parrots. All of the exhibits at the nature center are meant to both educate and inspire guests about the environment, wildlife, and animals.

Tours are operated on a daily basis by the knowledgeable docents that both volunteer and are employed at the nature center. These tours are beneficial especially for those who want to get a little more information about the animals. Occasionally the tour guides will even take some of the rarer animals out so that visitors can get even more up close and personal with them through interaction and special talks.

One of the highlights of a visit to the nature center is the interactive exhibits and experiences. Children of all ages are able to really get hands on with the animals, including a huge turtle named Bruce that roams around the nature center. Many of the animals located at the nature center can not only be seen but also touched, allowed a unique learning experience for people of all ages.

The majority of the animals located at the nature center have been rescued and the tour guides that take guests around the facility know the backstories of most of them (including a snake that was taken from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and the snake that was used by Britney Spears in her performance at the VMA’s). They can also answer any questions guests might have about animal care, habitats, diets, and more.

The center is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. They are closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. There is a discounted admission fee charged for children from 1 to 12 and for seniors and veterans. Regular admission is charged for those 13 and over. Families of four (two adults and their two children) are admitted at a discount as well. Annual passes can be purchased to allow that same family access to the nature center for a year. This money goes directly into supporting the center and its animals, since donors and admission costs privately fund the center.

Educational Opportunities

Discounted admission is provided with the educational tours and opportunities at the nature center. All of the programs offered at the center have been written by licensed educators who all hold Master’s degrees and are designed to align with the Life Sciences standards set forth by the state of Colorado. Field trips are recommended for students from preschool all the way through college. Educational packets are provided for students up the 5th grade and include not only visit specific information but also lessons and activities that students can do both before and after their field trip.

During the summer, additional educational programming is offered on a regular basis. Called the “Nature Explorer” series, the programs are directed at children from five years old to seven years old and generally run from 8:30am to 9:30am. More information about the programs is available on the nature center’s website, as well as cost (if any) that is required. Registration to these programs is required in advance, as program size is limited to ensure each child gets an individual and personal learning experience.

The Children’s Nature Center, Mesa Mall, 2424 Highway 6 & 50, Grand Junction, CO, 81505, Phone: 970-241-1000

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