The $17 million expansion took almost four years and it was worth the wait! If you haven't had a chance to experience the Idaho State Museum since it re-opened last fall, here's your chance to do it for free!

In celebration of "First Thursday," the team at the Idaho State Museum is offering FREE admission to visitors this Thursday, March 7 from 5-7 p.m.  Your FREE trip to the museum includes full admission and a chance to celebrate Women's History month with P. Gary Elder and The Storytellers, who will be there to share songs and stories of women that helped shaped Idaho into what we are today. (Did you know that Idaho is the only state who's seal was designed by a woman?!)

I had a chance to visit the museum during it's grand opening last fall and it's not what you'd expect! When visiting you any history museum, you'd expect find artifacts behind glass with placards explaining what they are.  Sure, there's some of those around the Idaho State Museum, but after it's renovation, you get a chance to be more hands on with Idaho's land and it's relationship with the people who built our great state! The museum gives you a chance to interact with history with over 46 multimedia displays and hand on activities.  If you truly wanted to enjoy everything the renovated museum had to offer you, it's probably take you somewhere from 5-6 hours! That's why I wanted to highlight some of the coolest things we saw so that you don't miss them!

1) Interactive Landscape

Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

Once you get through the lobby, you're immediately greeted by a huge, three dimensional video wall playing photos of beautiful landscapes from across the state.  During our tour, the wall was highlighting Sun Valley and showing how it changed throughout the seasons: that included snow gently falling on the mountains as people made their way down the slopes, the beautiful summer landscape you're used to seeing during the Sawtooth Relay and even a 4th of July fireworks show! Make sure you touch the video river in front of it! It'll give you some fun early Idaho history facts or let you make the butterflies resting on leaves fly away!

2) Origins Theater

Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

Have a seat in the beautiful Origins Theater and hear the origin stories from Idaho's Native American tribes. The films are short and include some of the tribe's native language.  The museum is very proud of this theater because they worked with the tribes while creating the films to makes sure that the origin stories were told as the tribes believed them, rather than other historians just saying "this is the way it was."

3) The Big Burn

Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

Growing up in Ohio, I'd actually never heard about the 1910 Big Burn until this visit to the museum! During a particularly dry summer, a perfect storm of winds and lighting came together to ignite a fire that spread to nearly nearly 3 million acres of land in Idaho and Montana.  The interactive display works in quotes from forest managers, firefighters and residents as it shows how quickly the massive fire grew.  In addition to the video, they've worked in some technology that lets you actually feel the winds pick up around you.

4) Geronimo!

Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

I still think that the parachuting beavers was the most bizarre event to happen in Idaho in the past 70 years.  Long story short? People started to build homes in McCall after World War II and kept running into problems with beavers destroying the under construction lake houses.  A planned was devised to relocate the beavers by throwing them out of joke! This exhibit explains the story.

5) History Lab

Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

We had a blast down in the history lab, especially with the "history mystery" hands-on experience! The "history mystery" shows you a photo and you have to take a guess as to what was happening in the photo, who lived in a house, etc.  Through each round, you get a hint at the answer and an option to change your response.  We learned a lot of things we didn't know happened in Idaho's history through that experience alone!

That's just 5 things you MUST check out, but there's a ton of other fun things like the kid-friendly Boomtown, interactive bike ride and a look at the inaugural ball gowns worn by Idaho's First Ladies over the years! Take advantage of this "First Thursday" opportunity to really take it all in for yourself!

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