EcoTarium to reopen outdoor exhibits, trails and grounds April 23

WORCESTER — Salton and Freyja, two of New England’s favorite mountain lions, are ready for guests. The EcoTarium, home to the big cats, is thrilled to announce the reopening of its outdoor animal exhibits, trails and Nature Explore playground on Friday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To kick off the reopening, The EcoTarium offers visitors a full day of family activities and Earth Day celebrations. And the brother and sister mountain lions will once again treat visitors to a bit of mountain lion behavior from Wild Cat Station. At 18,500 square feet, it is one of the largest wildcat habitats in the country.

“We are very excited to be reopening,” says Lucy Hale, the EcoTarium’s CEO and president. “It’s wonderful to be together again, outside, where it’s safest to be at this time. We know that it has been a very tough year for everyone. Coming out of hibernation, as we are here at the EcoTarium, reminds us of the hope we all have for our future. We look forward to welcoming everyone back.”

The EcoTarium is one of New England’s oldest and most beloved science and nature centers. Much that people love about the center — the outdoor live animal exhibits and outdoor natural spaces — will be open. Nature, too, claims a key role in colorful reopening, with the blooming of the rhododendrons and azaleas throughout the 47-acre site in the heart of Worcester. “Spring is a beautiful time here,” says Hale. “So much is blooming. Everything is gorgeous.”

On opening day, guest can expect to:

  • Take part in pop-up chats with animal keepers at the otter, fox and mountain lion habitats.
  • Explore the trails and natural spaces using nature- and animal-themed scavenger hunts.
  • Try out the Earth Day obstacle course.
  • Visit the Nature Art station to experiment with natural textures and butterfly chromatography.
  • Scan the QR codes at various stations around the grounds to see videos of the museum’s animals and to hear fun facts and short comments from the Zoo team.
  • Make a nature-inspired chalk creation and see how the Worcester Art Museum art class faculty creates a mural for the EcoTarium onsite.
  • Enjoy hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza, and drinks from Edible Creations by Gerry.

Those who prefer to celebrate at home can:

  • Join live Facebook pop-up educator- and zoo-led programs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Explore their own neighborhood with this Backyard Scavenger Hunt.
  • Experiment with chromatography with this butterfly craft.
  • Try a nature-rubbing activity to explore the great variety of textures in the environment.

Member Preview Days are April 20, 21 and 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Members are admitted free of charge, but must still get their timed tickets in advance.

For the most up-to-date information on the opening and future events, those interested should check the website. According to Hale, the EcoTarium’s indoor exhibits and activities will reopen as soon as the state is further along in the vaccination process.

Additional information guests will need to know:

  • The EcoTarium’s regular hours will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • All tickets are timed and must be purchased in advance with the exception of those using free or reciprocal passes. No tickets will be sold onsite.
  • Variable pricing is in effect, allowing people to choose an admission price that is most comfortable for them.
  • All visitors over the age of 2 must wear face masks.
  • Visitors must keep 6 feet socially distanced onsite unless with family.
  • Outdoor bathrooms are open.
  • The EcoTarium frequently disinfects surfaces.

The EcoTarium, within the city of Worcester, finds innovative ways to connect visitors with science and nature. “We have acres to explore and we have what we call our volunteer wildlife — what you can see on our trails and ponds,” says Hale. “And there are the animals that we manage — the lions, birds of prey, otters and so much more. Connect with the animals here and you will connect more deeply with nature.”

Among the most popular attractions at the EcoTarium is the Nature Explore playground. “It’s outdoors and offers lots of ways to play,” says Hale. “Play helps kids build their confidence in nature and in the world. It allows kids to take safe risks while parents can sit back and relax a bit. Kids here have a little freedom in nature at the same time that they learn new things. Often, kids learn best through play.” This outdoor reopening has been made possible thanks to our corporate sponsors, including AbbVie, Fidelity Bank, FLEXcon, MathWorks, Mercier Electric and RE/Max.