BY LIZ COBB
About the only thing that remains the same at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is the magnificent view from the observation deck. The center has been completely transformed, a project spanning two years, and visitors are in for a fun, educational and breathtaking experience when it opens later this month.
“We wanted to bring more technology to the center but at the same time keep a balance of things you can only experience here,” says Paul Bernhard, an internationally renowned exhibit designer. His company, Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design and Consulting, headed up the project utilizing some 65 artisans, designers, manufacturers and experts headquartered all over the world.
From a new 3-D topographic map to the Wall of Changing Seasons, there are nearly 25 new additions to experience at the center. “It won’t be recognizable to anyone who has been here previously,” Bernhard says. “The Garden of the Gods is a convergence of diverse ecosystems and we wanted the center to have exhibits that complement your visit to the park.”
The three new feature exhibits – Geology, Flora and Fauna, and People and History – will greet visitors as they come through the new entrance to the center. Geology provides an explanation of the Garden of the Gods rock structure and features a realistic dinosaur display, while Flora and Fauna is made up of a stunning wall display of illuminated glass boxes suspended in space, each depicting life-size native park animals and plants. Visitors can also view animal tracks and scat to help them identify the real thing when exploring in the outdoor park area. Lastly, People and History explains who the earliest inhabitants were to the park. All exhibits include touch screens and hand-on displays for deeper learning and fun.
The new Geo-Trekker theatre is reminiscent of a Disney theme-park ride. The theatre replicates the inside of a time machine and offers a trip through time and space to see how the Garden of the Gods was formed. The show, displayed on huge screens, lasts 12 minutes.
And visitors won’t want to miss the new Time Tunnel, a walk through Colorado’s geological history. The graphics, which are digitally enhanced paintings, are mesmerizing with the amount of detail and 3-D effects they convey.
While the center added more than 2,000 square feet of space, vast improvements have also been made to existing spaces. The restrooms, gift shop and café all have undergone renovations and the exterior has new landscaping, featuring labeled native gardens for visitors to explore. They also offer guided tours by jeep, van, Segway or foot.