Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

Watch coastal birds, beavers, otters and other animals in naturalized habitats on a stroll along the boardwalk at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. See a wow-worthy collection of native plants and learn about green living and conservation gardening techniques Catch sight of more than a dozen life-like dinosaurs. Venture into space in the state-of-the-art planetarium theater and get spectacular views of the sun from the observatory.

The Virginia Living Museum showcases the state’s rich natural heritage, from the mountains to the coast. Located 20 minutes from Williamsburg, it is the place to see the most endangered mammal in North America, red wolves; touch live spider crabs; explore the underwater world of the Chesapeake Bay; trace fossilized dinosaur tracks; and come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of all living things.

“Visitors encounter more animals and plants than can be found in a lifetime of outdoor adventures in Virginia,” said Rebecca Kleinhample, executive director.

Sharks and jellyfish. Frogs that change colors. Animals that live in cool mountain coves and those that dwell in steamy cypress swamps. They’re all here, as well as lined seahorses, on display as part of the museum’s participation in the federal Species Survival Plan for threatened or endangered animals.

Credit: Courtesy of the Virginia Living Museum

Depending on a group’s interests, behind-the-scenes tours can be arranged with the Animal Welfare and Conservation staff. A favorite experience for groups is the Touch Tank — with its sea stars and spider crabs or a peek at the Lined Seahorse Nursery. Groups also enjoy watching the playful otters on the outdoor trail. Planetarium and laser shows, ranging from holiday favorites to Pink Floyd, are also available.

“The museum also offers tasty experiences from boxed lunches to evening dinner and museum visit combos that tempt taste buds while quenching a thirst for knowledge,” added Kleinhample.

Travel planners should plan to spend about two to three hours at the museum. All visits can be customized by sales, tourism and events manager Jennifer Turlington.

For more information call 757-595-1900, ext. 254 or go to thevlm.org.