The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is a keystone of Preque Isle, PA. You can't miss it as you drive down the Presque Isle Passageway. It is marked by a giant green tower and a multitude of signs.
For the first few days here, we drove right past. I thought maybe it was just a place for students or a research center or something. Then we needed something to do, so I looked it up on the internets. Turns out the place is open to the public, so I armed myself with some cash to pay admission, and drove the kids to the big green building.
When we entered, the first thing I saw was the advertisement for The Big Green Screen movie theatre. They were showing several different IMAX features at varying times during the day. Prices were $5.50/ticket, which is pretty reasonable when it comes to movies. They also sell popcorn. So I ventured up to the information booth to ask where I should purchase my tickets and to see what else there was to do in the building.
The info. guy was super friendly and obviously proud of his place of employment. He told us all about the features of the building, AND let us know that everything apart from the movie was FREE. No charge. Free.
And the place is pretty darned awesome.
There were tons of hands on exhibits, a neat ten minute film about the seasons on Lake Erie, explanations regarding the formation of the Great Lakes and of Preque Isle, a cool display about legendary Lake Erie monsters, a bird call matching game, stations with binoculars and bird houses, and a full-blown art gallery. I learned more than I thought possible about glaciers and biomes and how forests are formed.
|Jonah reading about locations on the interactive Presque Isle map.|
To top it off, the kids found the Discovery Zone, where we spent the better part of an hour building with natural wood blocks and battling and chatting with a plethora of puppets. Jonah found some friends and a white-tail buck puppet, and Maeryn made friends with a raccoon (pictured above). We also made acquaintance with toads, chipmunks, squirrels, fish, butterflies, and more - complete with voice work by yours truly.
Once finished with our play at the Discovery Zone, we thought we might grab some chow at the cafe. Much to our chagrin, it was closing (five minutes earlier than listed, sadly). The woman behind the counter was not interested in serving us in spite of the time, so we decided to have movie food for dinner. Maeryn and I shared popcorn with Raisenettes (does it get any better than that?) and Jonah had a soda and candy.
Michael planned to meet us after the movie to check out a concert on the beach.
The power flickered a few times during the movie: a huge storm was brewing, and of course, Michael did not have a vehicle (save the bus). He had hoped to run the several miles to the Center - meeting us and getting in a work out at the same time...
Luckily, a nice man with a foul mouth and a gentle heart picked him up when the down-pour became unbearable. My husband the hitchhiker...
We all met after the movie (which was informative and fun!) to check out the concert... which had to be moved inside due to weather.
The local bar wasn't the best place for us to hang for the night, so we moved on to a local dive called Sara's...
But that's a story for another time.