Tanglewood Nature Preserve
|The Tanglewood Nature Preserve in Rockville Centre is the home of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning, featuring many live animal displays and a nature walk around the pond.|
Located just west of Peninsula Boulevard, the Tanglewood Nature Preserve is a scenic and quiet spot to visit near the bustling downtown of Rockville Centre. Parking is free, and the grounds are open for exploration. Parking is very limited, however, with an unpaved and unmarked lot that has capacity for less than 10 cars.
There is a nicely paved trail that winds around the pond at Tanglewood, with plenty of opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat. Many turtles have made a home in the pond, and there are a lot of fish visible from the surface as well. Needless to say, it's also a popular spot for waterfowl. Modern reality interrupts the idyll here at the far end of the pond, with a rather large garbage slick that has accumulated on the other side of a waterfall. It's ugly, to be certain, but also an opportunity to point out to kids that all litter winds up somewhere (so don't do it!).
The museum at Tanglewood is part of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning, and features an exhibit called 'Amazing Animals.' There are many terrariums that showcase habitats for lizards, snakes, birds and reptiles. Creating these habitats is one of the commercial services that the center offers, so they are all well done.
Visitors can come face-to-face with an alligator, and this one is rather spirited. He did a lot of thrashing around and hissing at us during our visit. The height of the displays is perfect for smaller children, and it's easy enough to get around the space with a stroller. The only drawback is that the exhibit is behind a door that doesn't open automatically, but it's right next to the reception desk and the people there were very helpful.
The natural-looking habitats really camouflage some of the reptiles here, so it can be a fun game to try and spot the animal in the display. This is not an especially large space. We had the place to ourselves during our visit, but if more than two or three families were there at the same time it would get a little crowded. The area is completely enclosed, however, so there would be no need to worry about losing anyone. If there were any public restrooms at Tanglewood, we didn't see them.
Amazing Animals also has an outdoor exhibit space with owls, turtles and a hawk. There is a large sluice where kids can sift pre-made bags for gems, fossils, arrowheads and the like. The bags range in cost from $5 to $8, depending on the treasures inside.
Also outside are a number of child-sized picnic tables with various educational activities. There are puzzles and blocks as well as a sandbox with dinosaur fossils that kids can uncover with brushes. A matching game lets kids sort out the differences between mammals, birds and reptiles, and there is a puppet theater where kids can put on their own shows.
As you exit the Amazing Animals exhibit, you wind up back in the gift shop (of course). They did, however, offer us some free cookies to go out and feed the horse. This was a very gentle horse that lowered his head and softly took the cookies from the little hands offering them. He was very accommodating to being pet.
The Tanglewood Nature Preserve is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Center for Science Teaching and Learning, where the Amazing Animals exhibit is found, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $6 per person.
Tanglewood Nature PreserveOfficial Site: http://www.cstl.org/
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