Built into a slope that was once the site of an ancient sand dune -- and part of the shoreline of Lake Michigan -- this museum bills itself as "an environmental museum for the 21st century." Most of the exhibits are very hands-on, making this a good stop for active kids (most exhibits are designed for children rather than adults).
Shaded by huge cottonwoods and maples, the sand-colored exterior, with its horizontal lines composed of interlocking trapezoids, resembles a sand dune. Rooftop-level walkways give strollers a view of birds and other urban wildlife below, and paths wind through gardens planted with native Midwestern wildflowers and grasses. Inside, large windows create a dialogue between the outdoor environment and the indoor exhibits designed to illuminate it. My favorite exhibit by far is the Butterfly Haven, a greenhouse habitat where about 25 Midwestern species of butterflies and moths carry on their complex life cycles (wander through as a riot of color flutters all around you). If you're traveling with little ones, I'd also recommend the Extreme Green House, a bungalow where kids can play while learning how they can be environmentally friendly, and RiverWorks, a water play exhibit that gives children an excuse to splash around while building dams and maneuvering boats along a mini river. Allow 1 to 2 hours.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Recommended 2010