Vermont science and nature centers offer a world of unexpected adventure

Vermont is an unsurpassed classroom for science and natural history with indoor and outdoor hands-on exhibits and programs for children and adults. There are countless museums, nature centers, walking trails, live animal feedings and more to enjoy. Discover hundreds of species of birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Learn maple sugaring from sap collecting through candy making. You can pick your own fruit, flowers and vegetables, take a farm tour, meet bees, and participate in harvest days.

Southern Vermont Natural History Museum

Route 9 Marlboro, VT, 05344 Phone: 802-464-0048

This natural history museum in the foothills of the Green Mountains offer mounted specimens of 600 native New England birds and mammals as well as live hawks and owls. The museum presents an amphibian and reptile exhibit and a wildflower exhibit in the summer and fall. A good side trip is a hike up nearby Mount Olga. The museum has one of the largest collections of mounted birds to be found in New England, containing over 600 birds in 100 small dioramas. Raptor center has live exhibits of owls and hawks. Hours: Summer hours are Memorial Day to late October, daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; winter hours are Late October to Memorial Day, Open most weekends, weather permitting. Please call ahead. Cost: Adults, $5; children, $2; seniors, $3. Information: www.vermontmuseum.org

American Museum of Fly Fishing

Route 7A Manchester, VT, 05254 Phone: 802-362-3300

The American Museum of Fly Fishing, home to the world’s largest collection of angling art and angling-related items, brings the history of fly fishing alive for anglers and others. The museum contains an impressive exhibit gallery space, a library and reading room, a museum store, and other resources. The exhibit’s opening section contains an illustrated timeline, which takes the visitor from Aelian’s comments on fly fishing in 200 A.D. to the developments and issues surrounding the sport today. Cost: Adults, $5; children over age 10, $3. Hours: Year-round, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Information: www.amff.com/

Echo at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

1 College Street Burlington, VT, 05401 Phone: 802-864-1848

Discover 60 species of fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and reptiles, over 100 hands-on experiences, traveling exhibits, and the Awesome Forces Theater. Live animal feedings. The 2.2-acre site also includes the Lake Champlain Navy Memorial, Eclectic Gift Shop, and seasonal café. Cost: Adults over age 18, $12.50; seniors over age 60 and students, $10.50; children age 3-17, $9.50. Hours: Year- round, daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Information: www.echovermont.org

Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium

1302 Main Street St. Johnsbury, VT, 05819 Phone: 802-748-2372

Natural science collection of 160,000 objects housed in a landmark Victorian building. The historical collections contain examples of 19th-century agricultural, industrial, and household life. The natural history collection houses New England mammals and birds, rocks and minerals, shells, butterflies, insects, bird nests and egg sets, and hummingbirds. Exhibits on astronomy and rural history. Admission: Adults, $6; seniors and children age 5-17, $5; family, $18; planetarium show, $5. Hours: Year-round, Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 - 5 p.m. Call for planetarium show times. Information: www.fairbanksmuseum.org

Birds of Vermont Museum

900 Sherman Hollow Road Huntington, VT Phone: 802-434-2167

Exhibits feature carvings of over 450 species of birds, including an archaeopteryx and other extinct and endangered species. There is a wild bird observation area, as well as nature trails, carving demonstrations and a gift shop. Cost: Adults, $6; seniors, $5; children age 3-17, $3; family, $15. Hours: May 1-October 31, daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; in winter by appointment Information: www.birdsofvermont.org

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

4472 Basin Harbor Road Vergennes, VT, 05491 Phone: 802-475-2022

Four acres of exhibits, shipwrecks nautical archaology, antique boats and more. Explore the vibrant history of the Champlain Valley through its military, commercial and regional periods. Climb aboard the 54' replica gunboat Philadelphia II. Twelve exhibit buildings, collections, working forge, boat building courses and workshops, replica gunboat, shipwrecks, nautical archaeology center, antique boats, boat livery, visitor center and museum store, field study, outreach, summer programs. Hours: Late May to mid-October, daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost: Adults, $10; seniors, $9; students age 5-17, $6. Information: www.lcmm.org.

Green Mountain Audubon Center

255 Sherman Hollow Road Huntington, VT, 01238 Phone: 802-434-3068

This 255-acre center offers five miles of trails through northern hardwood forest, hemlock swamp, and other habitats that are home to birds, amphibians, and beaver. In late winter, stop by the sugarhouse to watch maple sugar making. During the summer, visit the butterfly garden. At The Barn, check out the Discovery Room, with interactive displays and activities. Lookout Rock offers spectacular views of the Green Mountains

Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences Nature Center

6565 Woodstock Road (Route 4) Quechee, VT, 05059 Phone: 802-359-5000

Open: Year round, daily, May 1-October 31, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; November 1-April 30, Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

Outdoor exhibits of owls, eagles, falcons and other birds of prey, flight demonstrations, ecology programs about the landscape and wildlife of Vermont, walking trails, and a nature shop featuring science kits, field guides, binoculars, toys and gifts. Cost: Adults: $8; children 3-16, $6.50.

Montshire Museum of Science

One Montshire Road Norwich, VT, 05055 Phone: 802-649-2200

This award-winning, hands-on museum offers more than 125 of exhibits indoors and out, relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology, and technology. The building is located on 110-acres next to the Connecticut River, and the Museum’s outdoor environment is a large part of the visitor experience, including a network of walking trails and trailside exhibits. Two-acre Science Park features water exhibits from early May to mid-October. Food service is available in the Hughes Pavilion July and August. Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, (closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). Admission: One day pass is $14 for adults and $11 for children age 2–17. Free for members and children under the age of 2. Two-day passes are available. Information: www.montshire.org

Merck Forest & Farmland Center

Rupert Mountain Road (Route 315) Rupert, VT, 05768 Phone: 802-394-7836

Merck Forest is open to the public free every day year-round. This conservation area includes forests, a farm, hiking trails, and camping. Educators offer workshop programs for children and adults on many topics of ecology. Events include pick your own flowers and vegetables, farm tours, meet the bees, mushrooming, and harvest day.

New England Maple Museum

Route 7 Rutland, VT, 05763 Phone: 802-483-9414

Visitors to this museum will learn all about the manufacture of Vermont maple syrup. Exhibits include demonstrations of sap collecting, candy-making, and syrup making. A slide show and tastings are included, and a gift shop is open on the premises. Hours: May 23-October 31, daily, 9-5 p.m.; November 1-December 23, daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; January & February, closed; mid-March-May 22, daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Information: www.maplemuseum.com