Monday, February 27, 2017

ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain (Family Fun in New England)

In January we launched our Family Fun in New England series by sharing about a favorite, local spot for us, The Montshire Museum of Science. This month we're happy to share about another New England family attraction which we've enjoyed several times - ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. ECHO is a science center and lake aquarium located on the Burlington, VT waterfront.

Although ECHO is a bit of a drive for us, we still make it a few times a year and the kids look forward to it each time.

ECHO is located right on Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT. We find that it's a great place to visit anytime of year. In the winter there is plenty to keep us busy inside and in the summer there are opportunities to be outside along the waterfront.

The boys love the exhibits and probably could not pick a favorite one if they were asked. They usually want to start in the downstairs space with the largest aquariums which hold large catfish and lake sturgeons. This darkened room also has a pretend shipwreck along with information about the lake and its current environmental state.

Upstairs there are more tanks and terrariums which include many different types of local reptiles, fish, and amphibians. My favorite thing is finding the mudpuppies as they still surprise me with how large they are! But we love seeing the different species of turtles and frogs too! There is also a small saltwater tank which has a few sea stars kids are allowed to touch. 

Another favorite spot for the boys is the "Champ Lane" exhibit. This exhibit is created with kids ages 0 to 6 in mind. Inside the exhibit there are opportunities for creative play within a pretend café and market, ferry boat, and animal homes (including a slide!) In the center of the room a small river area allows for hands on water exploration. Best of all, this space provides a place for non-walkers to get down and play, a quiet book nook, and a nursing corner. My favorite part of this exhibit? The whole space is filled with amazing murals.

Throughout the museum there are smaller exhibits which provide opportunities for even more learning, including a fossil dig, plate tectonics model, kinetic sand table, and a station to try recording a weather forecast. 

The museum also often has visiting exhibits which add variety to our bi-annual visits. Most recently, we visited as they launched a new exhibit, Butterflies, Live! In one space visitors can explore a pavilion of live butterflies all within the museum. 

Upstairs the museum also houses the Northfield Savings Bank Theater: A National Geographic Experience. For an extra fee visitors can watch a National Geographic Film presented several times a day, some of the movies are even 3D. We have yet to try this, but it is on our list for next time. 

The Basic Details: 
• Best age level:
All age levels, something for everyone

• Price Range:
Moderate (see their web page for their current rates)

• Parking:
Both on-site and off-site parking is paid parking, although it is easy to park for several hours without a lot of cost.

• Meals/Food:
The Waterside Cafe is near the front check-in space and features breakfast, lunch, coffee, drinks, and baked goods. ECHO also has water bottle filling stations, which is a big plus with our family.

• Diaper Changing Stations: Yes, contained within the bathrooms.

• Stroller/Wheelchair Accessible: Yes, an elevator within the building to get to the second floor.

• Gift shop on site: Yes

• What we recommend you bring:
- Either pack a lunch, or enjoy lunch and snacks from the Waterside Café.
- Camera for some fun pictures.
- In the summer we encourage you to grab a maple creamie ice cream cone across the street and enjoy the nearby boardwalk and some boat watching.

• ECHO is one of the hundreds of museums on ASTC Passport Program which allows members from other ASTC museums to use their membership to get admission for 2 adults and 2 children into the museum. We love this program and have used it in other years. You can check out more about the ASTC Passport program here

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