AAA Editor Notes
Virginia Living Museum is at 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., off I-64 exit 258A between SR 143 and US 60. Virginia's natural heritage is explored through indoor and outdoor exhibits that highlight regional geography, geology, ecosystems, plants and animals. Although modern, the museum's exterior blends well with its wooded surroundings.
Six indoor galleries on two levels present habitats found in Virginia and introduce visitors to the state's diverse regions. Interactive discovery centers and touch tanks invite visitors to handle natural science specimens and live animals.
In the aquariums of the Coastal Plain Gallery you can see marine life from the Chesapeake Bay estuary, including sharks. Gators, ducks, longnose gar and catfish inhabit the wetland habitat of the Cypress Swamp.
The cool environment of the Appalachian Mountain Cove exhibit is where you'll find a waterfall, a mountain stream and a lake. Creatures you'll likely see there include native songbirds, trout and the endangered Hellbender salamander. The James River ecosystem is depicted in the Piedmont and Mountains Gallery where smallmouth bass, perch, catfish and wood turtles are joined by pine snakes and chipmunks.
Jellyfish, owls, sharks, flying squirrels, moray eels, tree frogs and other live nocturnal animals dwell within the Virginia's World of Darkness Gallery, and gems, fossils and cave-dwelling creatures are found in the Virginia Underground Gallery. Kids can role-play being an animal keeper and veterinarian in the Wild and Well exhibit.
Outdoor exhibits can be seen from a looping .75-mile elevated lakeside boardwalk that winds through a 10-acre nature area. As they walk along the boardwalk, visitors are offered views of animals native to Virginia such as foxes, wild turkeys, beavers, otters, raccoons, red wolves (an endangered species), bobcats, eagles, deer and coyotes. The outdoor Dinosaur Discovery Trail features 16 realistic-looking dinosaurs, Paleo camp, dig pits and displays of dinosaur and Ice Age fossils. A children's nature playground and a learning center are available.
An interesting feature along the boardwalk is the Coastal Plain Aviary. Visitors can walk through the structure and admire more than 16 species, including egrets, pelicans and herons. The Living Green House is an environmental education center with the latest in what it takes to make a home “green.”
In addition, the museum has a garden with plants that were common to Virginia when the colonists first reached Jamestown in 1607, a butterfly garden with more than 60 native plant species popular with the fluttering creatures and a planetarium with a choice of shows.
Guided tours are available. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.
Museum $20; $15 (ages 3-12). Daytime planetarium show $4; evening show $6. Evening double feature with planetarium show and laser show $10. Combination tickets are available.
Museum daily 9-5. Planetarium schedule varies; phone ahead. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas.