Did you know that the difference between ponds and lakes is that sunlight reaches to the bottom of ponds whereas lakes are too deep for the sunlight to reach the bottom? I confess I didn’t until I visited the EcoTarium in Worcester this past weekend with my kids and their grandparents. It was so full of activities that I felt like I had to write about it, since I know that my fellow Massachusetts parents are often looking for kid-friendly adventures. While Worcester might be a little bit of a trip from Boston, I honestly think it’s worth it.
There’s no way I can cover everything the EcoTarium offers, as there’s too much to see and do there for one blog post. In fact, we were there for several hours, and I felt like we barely scratched the surface. There are three floors of activities to explore inside the building, and then there’s more to see and do outside. The outdoor activities, including a little train that visitors can ride outside, were largely still closed for the season, but I’d expect that to change within a few weeks. I’ll feature some of the highlights so that you can get a sense for what it offers.
At the time of this writing, my son is 3.5 and my daughter is 14 months, and both had a blast. I think it’s fair to say that there is LOTS to do with older children as well. In fact, older children may get more out of the trivia and written educational material than my children do at this age. There’s enough to do inside that you could come for a rainy day and skip the outdoor exhibits and play spaces, and the opposite is also probably true (that there’s enough to do outside to occupy you for an entire morning and then some), although maybe not in the winter.
One quick disclaimer: there were lots of visitors at when we visited on Saturday morning, but because I want to respect the privacy of others (especially minors), I’ve tried my best to feature photos of just my own family and children.
Once you enter the Ecotarium lobby and head downstairs, there’s a sprawling floor with tons of activities. There’s an area showing off several small animals (mice, turtles, etc.), an exhibit about old growth forests, an exhibit about minerals, and more. Naturally, my children particularly enjoyed crawling in and out of sewer pipes on display next to the old forest exhibit. There’s also an area with foam blocks and shapes that children can play and build in (my son loved this too).
On the other side of the floor, the CityScience exhibit allows children to participate in over a dozen different civil engineering activities. Young children learn about science by doing and nature by exploring, and the whole EcoTarium is designed to facilitate that. In the picture above, my son is building bridges over a canyon and learning about what does and doesn’t work. He also enjoyed looking at city animals (below) and how city vibrations (cars, trucks, trains) affect building blocks.
The ground floor of the Ecotarium has more educational play stations (aka exhibits), a water exhibit featuring turtles and other sea creatures, and a number of taxidermy animals to look at (including a pretty large exhibit of life-sized (taxidermy) African animals. There’s also a discovery area (pictured) specifically for young children in which kids can climb in and out of wooden play structures, run around, and explore in a safe environment. It’s an excellent place for kids to explore and burn off some energy.
There’s plenty to do inside, but the EcoTarium also has outdoor activities to enjoy. There are several live-animal enclosures, and my son enjoyed finding and observing owls, a bald eagle, and a fox. We didn’t get to see the big cats or the otters, but we’ll just have to go back another time! To cap off our time, we visited the playgrounds. As you can see below, they were a big hit with my little ones.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the EcoTarium in Worcester! If you’d like to see more personal stories, please feel free to follow me on Instagram (@hmacleanphotography). If you happen to be in the Worcester or Boston area and are interested in a family photography session, visit this page and say hello!
If you’re looking for more things to do in the area, you might be interested in this post: Uncover the Best of Boston: A Local’s Guide to the City’s Hidden Gems