Wildlife Experience: Intriguing Museum on Denver’s Prairie

Set in the rolling prairie on the south edge of Denver, the Wildlife Experience is a unique, diverse facility with a single-minded purpose: To promote the understanding and appreciation of the natural world.

The museum in Parker accomplishes this goal in a fun, interactive way, with a variety of exhibits, programs and events for visitors of all ages dealing with the wonders of plant and animal life around the planet.

Walking through the front doors, it’s immediately clear that you’re in a special place. A soaring ceiling reaches to the sky, while granite floors and walls constructed of chunky sandstone blocks evoke the Colorado landscape.

The newest permanent exhibit, Globeology, is a quarter-mile walk that meanders through eight different environments across two floors of the facility. Visitors can see life at an African watering hole, listen to the rush of a 17-foot waterfall and explore living displays of a coral reef. Interactive touches are a delight for the young crowd; animatronic guides come to life along the trail, bringing crowds of rapt listeners, while sound effects, touch screens with fun facts and trivia games are designed to educate and amuse.

Two spaces beckon to children especially. Cubs Corner, designed for infants through age 5, is a shoes-off, active environment. Plush furniture, wildlife-themed puppets and books and a dress-up corner let the youngest guests begin to appreciate wildlife. Nearby, colorful Discovery Den has video games, crafts and displays to attract the 6- to 12-year-old crowd.

There’s plenty for adults to enjoy also. Permanent and traveling exhibits include Amazing Butterflies, a journey through the undergrowth as a butterfly might experience it; you have to do it to believe it. Tiny Footprints was created by artist Pamela Cole, who used insects as living paintbrushes to make some of her artwork. No insects were harmed in the creation of her work.

The Extreme Screen Theater seats 315 and shows large-format films daily; wildlife-themed shows have included Dolphins and Whales, Coral Reef Adventure and Animalopolis, a Seussian-styled film, done in rhyme and verse.

Outside, take a stroll through the National Wildlife Federation-certified Wildlife Walk. Interpretive signs give information about the native grasses, trees and wildflowers in place along the trail. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and explore the Colorado landscape.

The Wildlife Experience is a non-profit organization, and offers memberships as well as volunteer opportunities. It’s a popular event venue, with an outdoor plaza, as well as an expansive Great Hall indoors. The facility hosts events on a daily basis, including birthday parties, book readings, animal feeding and lectures. It’s a family favorite for seasonal events, including an annual Easter Egg Hunt, Parent’s Night Out, a beer-tasting festival and a Santa Breakfast. School breaks mean an abundance of camp programs, all designed to teach a love of, and respect for, the environment.

A cafeteria and gift shop round out the offerings at the Wildlife Experience. With ever-changing programming and exhibits and an active calendar of special events, lectures and movies, this is a place to return to more than once.

If You Go

The Wildlife Experience.
10035 S. Peoria St.
Parker, Colo. 80134

The museum is about 5 miles south of the Denver Tech Center and 1 mile east of Interstate 25 at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and South Peoria Street.

Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday

Tips for a great visit:
• A thorough visit, including an Extreme Screen Theater movie and Globeology, can take four to five hours.
• Parking is free in the museum’s parking lot on the south side of the facility.
• Strollers are welcome; take advantage of “Stroller Parking” outside the smaller exhibits.
• Visit on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. for story time, Tuesday Tales.
• Visit on Thursdays for puppet shows during Theater Thursdays at 11 a.m.
• Have your cell phone handy and learn more about exhibits through the cell phone audio tour throughout the museum. There isn’t a charge for this tour, but cell phone minute charges may apply.
• Plan on an extra 30 minutes to spend time creating wildlife-themed arts and crafts in Discovery Den or Cubs Corner.

Kelly Smith is a freelance writer who lives in Littleton.