The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is unlike any place we have ever been! We spent 4 hours at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center on the Live Animal Exhibit Trail and we were blown away! The natural concepts of Habitat, Interrelationships, Adaptations, and Populations are seen throughout the trail in a variety of examples. The exhibits utilize new, inventive and inspiring ways to share information with visitors of all ages and provide opportunities for open-ended play. Our aspiring naturalist were able to see a variety of wildlife found in America, to travel down a human-size chipmunk burrow, to lie under a tank watching turtles swim, to experiment with how to dam up a water way, to get up close and personal with a Screech Owl, to create an interactive landscape in kinetic sand learning how water moves, to hear animal sounds, to watch a Mountain Lion training session with a naturalist, to play the role of a red squirrel at the Predator-Prey Adventure, to climb through a giant spider web, to invent an insect, to crawl through an underground tunnel, to listen to nocturnal animal sounds, to find the Queen Bee, to identify wild birds while feeding, to compare wingspans with Raptors, to search for frogs, salamanders, and turtles in a wetland, to explore different types of rocks found in New Hampshire and believe it or not thats not all!
The Live Animal Exhibit Trail is a 3/4 mile trail that can be walked in a loop. The path is stroller accessible if you have a jogging stroller or something that pushes easily on mulch and dirt. We found the 2 hour recommendation for the trail too short for our family. Our young kids were very interested in exploring each exhibit along the trail and we often had to coax them to the next one. We also stopped for an Up Close to Animals presentation at the Amphitheater and the Mountain Lion Training session. The Predator-Prey Adventure is an extensive obstacle course style play area with platforms, ropes, balance beams, slides and more. We loved the physical challenges available in this play space as much as our kids did.
The size of the Live Animal Exhibit Trail is pretty much perfect from our experience. Sometimes large Zoos or Aquariums overwhelm us as we try to strategically pick what to see or rush through to “see” it all. We enjoyed the one trail that we could follow without having to decide where to go next. We did find the camps and large groups that were at the Natural Science Center when we visited a bit overwhelming. Many of the Exhibit areas felt cramped or got too loud when they passed through, but we were able to strategically time our walk to avoid too much overlap with these groups.
The Kirkwood Gardens and hiking trails can also be accessed from the Live Animal Exhibit Trail. We did not see all of Kirkwood Gardens because we were trying to make it to an Up Close to Animals presentation at the Amphitheater, but we did get a Hummingbird fly by that was very exciting. The hiking trails leave from the Upper Pond area and vary in length from 1/3 of a mile to over a mile. The Forest Trail Interpretation Guide highlights the interrelationships in the surroundings as well as the influence of people on the forest. We recommend the hiking trails to any families who still have energy when they reach the Upper Pond.
In addition to the very well thought out and presented Live Animal Exhibit Trail there are Squam Lake Cruises. Cruises consist of 90-minute guided tours on canopied pontoon boats and run mid-May through mid-October. There are a variety of cruises available including a cruise with a naturalist and Loon cruise. You can save when you combine one trail pass and one lake cruise pass for the same day, but make sure you plan well so you don’t have to rush through the Live Animal Exhibit Trail.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers a variety of events, outreach programs and educational opportunities that we wish we lived closer to enjoy. Not only was our day at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center one of the best days of our vacation, but it is my favorite Science Center to date. It may seem like a simple concept, but this place alone is worth a trip to New Hampshire for our family.
Trail Admission is Free for Members & Children 2 and Under, $20.00 for Adults, $15.00 for Youth (ages 3-15), $17.00 for Seniors (age 65+). Cruise Passes are $27.00 for Adults, $23.00 for Youth (ages 3-15), $25.00 for Seniors (age 65+). Combo passes are $41.00 for Adults, $32.00 for Youth (ages 3-15), $36.00 for Seniors (age 65+). Save with memberships that start at $90 for 4 people. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums which means all of our fellow FONZ members (or anyone with a membership to a participating AZA institution) gets 50% off admission.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
23 Science Center Road
Holderness, NH 03245