There's a lot to explore at nearby visitors' centers
Jan 10, 2013 (Wyoming Tribune-Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Two visitors' centers near Cheyenne offer more than a chance to stretch the legs.
Inside their walls, you can create your own tornado, examine a mammoth skeleton or find out just what a super-computer actually does. And those are just the first few exhibits at two visitors' centers that are new to the scene.
As the winter drags on, the Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center and the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center offer something for locals looking for an outing.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research Wyoming Supercomputing Center opened late in 2012 and is a 10-minute drive from downtown Cheyenne. It features a self-guided tour with several hands-on exhibits and educational videos.
"We wanted our center to have a broad appeal and be educational to visitors from all ages," said NCAR spokes-woman Marijke Unger. "Since we opened, we have had over 1,000 people visit us, and we would love to see more from the local community."
Exhibit topics include energy use, extreme weather and how supercomputing is a tool for problem solving as well as large, complex equations. Visitors can form a miniature tornado at one display while a nearby kiosk lends a bit of perspective on the computer's might.
"You swipe your hand past a sensor and it shows you how many computations our computer did in that short a time," Unger said. "No matter how fast you go, it's a big number."
Other exhibits explain why the center was located in Cheyenne and how the computers tackle various problems.
Field trips through the center are available to school, camp, club and home-school groups Monday through Friday; the center asks that reservations be made in advance, as staffing can be tight.
The Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center south of Cheyenne on Interstate 25 has plenty to do as well. Since its fall opening, the center is much more than the traditional rest stop and welcome station encountered on road trips.
It features small samples of activities, museums and tourist locations from around the state, including a massive cast of a Columbian mammoth, a steam engine and information about the state's rich energy history, among other interactive, kid-friendly displays. Almost everything can be played with and Shannon Stanfill with the Wyoming Office of Tourism said an in-depth visit can last about an hour.
"We we aren't a museum. Instead, we try to highlight the different things to do around the state," Stanfill said. "I think locals will find out a lot about the area and state as well. There is always something to learn about or go to see."
Most of the activities are educational, showing how much energy wind turbines and solar panels can produce or highlighting the various animals that live within Wyoming's borders, for example.
There are also plenty of photo opportunities with the younger kids, including a replica jail cell and toy horses.
Visitors on a warmer day may want to take a hike on the mile-long trail around the complex. Signs around the trail offer insight into how the center fits in with other stations around the state and U.S. and gives information on local wildlife.
The center is also open to school and other groups, though reservations are requested.
NCAR-WYOMING SUPERCOMPUTING CENTER
What: The visitors' center at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center has plenty of self-guided activities for children and science-minded adults, focusing on energy, extreme weather and how supercomputing works.
Where: 8120 Veta Drive
When: Open weekdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
More information: Visit www.nwsc.ucar.edu or call 307-996-4321
SOUTHEAST WYOMING WELCOME CENTER
What: Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center has lots to see and plenty of activities for children.
When: The center is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. weekends. The hours can be flexible if those interested call in advance.
Where: Interstate 25 exit 4 just north of the Colorado and Wyoming state line.
More information: Call 307-777-7777
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