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Newport News: Nature a natural at Virginia Living Museum

Courtesy Virginia Living Museum

The Virginia Living Museum is a natural for adding a touch of nature to a meeting. Visitors can sit under the stars, wander through Virginia woodlands or walk through a cypress swamp, a mountain valley or a cave. They’ll see 250 species that are native to Virginia, housed in a stunning building that was opened seven years ago as the new home of the 23-year-old institution.

Children go there to learn how animals survive in the winter or to dig for wiggly worms. Adults learn to cast animal tracks or investigate the science of beer.

Distinctive venues make the museum a natural for receptions and events. The Cypress Swamp is a two-story “habitarium” occupied by birds, fish and an alligator. A balcony overlooks the swamp, which is lighted at night.

Another lighted, balconied habitarium mimics an Appalachian mountain cove with a waterfall and mountain trout.

A central conservation garden can be tented for events of up to 500.

If you’ve never seen stars through a 16-inch telescope, you can do that, too. A patio that surrounds the rooftop observatory is perfect for an evening event.

Unlike many museums, food and drink can be served throughout this one. Video monitors throughout the museum can broadcast a company’s DVD.

In addition to event space, the museum has four classrooms, a planetarium, a boardroom and an outdoor amphitheater for 100.

A 4,000-square-foot area is available for meetings and events from September through December when it’s not filled with changing exhibits about dinosaurs, bats or butterflies.

“A home improvement company held a meeting here recently,” said Jennifer Turlington, events manager. “We showed them our new greenhouse and talked about things like green insulation and geothermal heating.”

An outdoor boardwalk winds for three-fourths of a mile through the natural habitats of bobcats, beavers, coyotes and endangered red wolves. Although the museum is closed at night, a stroll makes a lovely break during a day of meetings.