- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014

LEHI, Utah (AP) - Thanksgiving Point’s latest gem, the Museum of Natural Curiosity, is up and running after years of planning, fundraising and building.

Gov. Gary Herbert helped celebrate the grand opening on Thursday with museum founders Alan and Karen Ashton, and Thanksgiving Point President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Washburn.

“It’s great to see this project become a reality after planning and fundraising for it for almost a decade,” Washburn said.

From a dairy farm in the 1900s to a 21st-century resort, Thanksgiving Point has boomed, as has the surrounding city.

“We could have never imagined the growth that would come to this area,” Alan Ashton said. “It’s been so incredible to watch both Thanksgiving Point and Lehi grow and become a destination for families to come together.”

Parents may be surprised by the vastness, connectivity and ease of play at the new museum, and should likely plan a few hours to explore the recesses of the facility to find more than 400 interactive activities and displays.

“My favorite part about the museum is that it’s a place where parents and children can interact together. It’s fun for all ages,” Karen Ashton said.

Thanksgiving Point was created in 1996 by the Ashtons. More than 1.9 million visitors from all 50 states and around the world annually visit its offerings at what was a dairy farm just a few decades ago.

A nonprofit organization, Thanksgiving Point includes a hands-on farm, an extensive garden and a dinosaur museum geared toward families.

The Museum of Natural Curiosity has activities and exhibits that teach science, technology, engineering and math. The unique museum has been under construction since October 2012. Before that, the nonprofit Thanksgiving Point Institute sought funding and donations to finance the project.

Thanksgiving Point has truly been a labor of love. We are incredibly touched and humbled by the community support of the Museum of Natural Curiosity,” Karen Ashton said.

Every visit promises a new adventure.

In Rainforest, visitors can explore ancient ruins and chambers, crawl inside a45-foot-tall monkey head, and pretend to fly a Piper Cub. At Water Works, they can explore science with water, wind, sun and earth, or go to the Discovery Garden to learn about nature and the six simple machines in the Archimedes Playground. Other sites include Kidopolis, Exploratorium or the Dickson Academy.

“The options are endless for all curious minds at the Museum of Natural Curiosity,” the grand opening announcement said.

“We believe the Museum of Natural Curiosity will improve the educational and cultural experiences for all Utah families,” Alan Ashton said.

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