GREAT FALLS — For this week's Out and About, we're checking out the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, which has been open in Great Falls for more than 25 years, and gives visitor a full look at the expeditions of Lewis and Clark.
Trails around the center are covered in snow this time of year, but inside, you'll find life-size exhibits detailing the journeys of Lewis and Clark. They've made admission for the month of February free to make it more accessible and to attract more guests, and it's worked.
"The months of January and February traditionally are extremely slow months," director Duane Buchi said. "The month of January, we had well over 1200 visitors. We haven't seen those kind of numbers for solely for visitation since like 2007, 2008. In the weeks we've had free admission, we're averaging over 360 visitors a week. We wanted to go about it smarter and give back to our community we all call home, and we've had lots of guests."
Open Tuesday through Sunday, the center has 25,000 square feet full of exhibits, as well as a theater that can sit about 160 people.
"Coming in here, you're going to get an immersive experience not only to what the Corps of Discovery experienced on their entire expedition, but also the Native Americans that they came in contact with and a lot about the natural history, likewise, that they discovered and documented when they came through here."
The interpretive center is run thanks to the help of more than 40 volunteers who all come together to help share some local history. Winter is typically the slowest time of the year for the interpretive center, but thanks to the free admission, they're seeing one of the busiest winters they've had. Judy Byrne is one of the volunteers and has been there for more than a decade, and says it is a great place to volunteer and meet people coming in.
"We get to meet people from all over the world," Byrne said. "We've met people from six continents, and I've definitely seen an uptick in visitors this winter. We have not had a day when we were here that we had no visitors and usually we do. And it's just a fun place to be, a great place to learn."
If you're looking to go to the interpretive center while it is still free for the month, they are at 4201 Giant Springs Road.
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