One of a zoo's primary purposes upon their creation was to show a world of fantastical creatures from abroad so that pampered nobles never had to leave their homes. Despite the fact that zoos are now visited more by the general public than the elite, that main purpose has remained much the same. But what about the flora and fauna in your own backyard? With the trend towards expansionism, more animals flock to unusual locations causing the only time you see them when they are sadly laid out on the highway after their unfortunate demise.
That's where places such as the Virginia Living Museum come in. Located in Newport News, this museum focuses solely on the flora and fauna of Virginia. All of the animals were/are injured or bred in captivity and unable to live on their own in the wild. Separate areas inside the building are devoted to Virginia's multi-faceted eco-systems, specializing in trees and the aquatic side, including a veritable load of turtles. Outside is an extensive boardwalk/nature trail where you find yourself looking down upon sleeping foxes, climbing up rocks to view river otters at play, and wandering through marshy waters to view pelicans in the aviary as well as turtles who have made the greater museum area their home. If you've always wanted to touch one of these furry creatures from the wild in a safe manner, you might have that opportunity as well. Volunteers routinely take some of the critters out to be introduced to the public, and there's nothing as infectious as a swarm of schoolchildren clamoring that they've just touched their first skunk.
When you pay the entrance fee, you support these animals, these programs, and numerous conservation efforts. Now that's a place I don't mind paying to get into.
Visit the museum's website here.