Tons to do at Thanksgiving Point’s Museum of Natural Curiosity
Published: May 19, 2014 09:04AM
Updated: May 22, 2014 12:39PM
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Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Six-year-old Hunter Walker of Orem, appears to be a floating head in the Kidopolis section at the Museum of Natural Curiosity on Saturday at Thanksgiving Point.

Lehi • Think Einstein meets Tarzan.

That’s the vibe inside the new Museum of Natural Curiosity, a 45,000-square-foot addition to the burgeoning Thanksgiving Point campus here.

Greeted by a 45-foot-tall monkey head structure on the lower level and a Piper Cub light aircraft suspended overhead, visitors are encouraged to choose their educational adventure, from a jungle of rope ladders and obstacle courses in the Rainforest section to a mini city complete with a magic shop, bank, laundromat and secret passageways in Kidopolis. The Water Works experience features hands-on activities and lessons about wind, water and earth. The Discovery Garden combines the allure of playground equipment with six simple machines, while the Innovation Gallery offers foam construction blocks and craft tables.

Thanksgiving Point President and CEO Mike Washburn calls it a family museum, not a typical children’s museum.

“Sometimes as we get older, we lose that innate sense of curiosity and this museum brings it back in a big way,” said Washburn. “This museum brings out the kid in all of us.”

That certainly seemed to be the case Saturday.

A young father led his toddler across a rope bridge. A grandfather encouraged his granddaughters to enter a 4-by-4-foot booth to experience what 85-mph wind feels like. And three high school couples raced through a maze of tunnels, a precursor date to a dance at Layton High.

“I’m sweating,” said 17-year-old Josie Larsen. “It’s really fun.”

Marina Thomas, of North Salt Lake, watched daughters Victoria, 10, and Maya, 7, flap their arms wildly in front of a digital counter to see if they could match the speed of a hummingbird (for the record, it’s about 70 flaps per second). She appreciated both the educational and entertaining aspects of the museum.

“It’s fun to flap your arms, but you can learn how fast the hummingbird flaps their wings, so there’s your little learning fact right there,” Thomas said.

Her only criticism was that the museum was hard to find, and hoped better signage would be installed.

Melanie Cook, of Lehi, tried to extract 22-month-old Zoey out of something called the Baby Table, a large, square tabletop with embedded high-chair seats, a water fountain in the center and tub toys. Zoey squealed.

“I think my husband and I should come here for a date night sometime because there’s a ropes course and we could just play with everything,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Funded largely through private donations, the $28.5 million project also received $2 million from the state of Utah, $4.1 million from Utah County and $1 million from Lehi City. The project has been a concept since 2007, and though it officially opened to the public Thursday, Thanksgiving Point’s Washburn says 20,000 people — from major donors to schoolkids — have beta tested the exhibits over the past three months. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, he says, noting that 6,500 museum memberships have already been sold.

“The typical museum visit is about two hours, but we’re seeing individuals and families spend five to six hours and just finally going home out of exhaustion,” he said. “We exceeded our own expectations.”

jnpearce@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jnpearce

The Museum of Natural Curiosity

A 45,000 square-foot museum with more than 400 hands-on exhibits focused on experiential learning.

Address • 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi, 84043

Hours • Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission • $15 for adults, $12 for kids and seniors, free for Thanksgiving Point members

For more information • 801-768-7482 or http://thanksgivingpoint.org/curious.