January 8, 2024

Discovery Place Nature Will Close on January 31, 2024 

Construction on new nature and environmental education center is slated to begin this spring

DP nature exterior after redesign

Media Contact: Sarah Wheat | swheat@discoveryplace.org

CHARLOTTE, NC (January 8, 2024) – Discovery Place Nature announces today that it will close on January 31 to make way for construction on a new building that will replace the current facility built in 1951. The project was initially approved in 2017 by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners as part of their FY19 – FY23 Capital Improvement Plan. Planning and design continued through the pandemic, and the final design was unveiled to the public in April 2022.

“We are so grateful for our partnership with Mecklenburg County and its support of our shared vision to elevate environmental education in our community,” said Catherine Wilson Horne, Discovery Place President & CEO. “The new Discovery Place Nature is more than a museum—it’s a cultural amenity for Charlotte residents and visitors that celebrates the ecological diversity of the Piedmont through exhibits and experiences.” 

“Partnership in the new Discovery Place Nature is an important one for Mecklenburg County as our community transitions to a new era of learning while showing our commitment to healthy environments,” shared Dena R. Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager. “Discovery Place Nature will continue the important work that embraces, celebrates, values and respects our ecosystem, and it will be a destination for many of us for generations to come.” 

The current Museum’s last day of operation will be Wednesday, January 31. To celebrate a final farewell, Discovery Place Nature will offer free admission* to anyone who visits during “Community Farewell Days” January 17-31. 

*Tickets must be reserved online in advance at nature.discoveryplace.org. 

Features of the new Discovery Place Nature include a North American River Otter habitat, a naturalist lab, an expansive animal collection representing species native to the Piedmont, and a treetop canopy walk. The design also places a priority on becoming more accessible and integrated with Freedom Park through public gardens and community spaces that are available to all park visitors—not only to those paying admission to the museum. 

In April of 2022, Discovery Place, in partnership with Mecklenburg County, announced that the design team for the new nature museum and world-class environmental education center is led by Liollio Architecture of Charleston, SC, and Charlotte native Walter Hood, whose landscape design projects include the recently completed International African American Museum in Charleston. 
Renderings for the new Discovery Place Nature design are available here. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2024. Brief overview of project timeline to date: 

  • June 2017 – Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners votes to approve $16M in funding for a new Discovery Place Nature as part of their FY19 – FY23 Capital Improvement Plan (CPI) 
  • July 2018 – Mecklenburg County and Discovery Place initiate the architect selection process 
  • April 2019 – Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approves hiring of Liollio Architecture and Hood Design Studio as the architectural team to lead the planning and design of the new Discovery Place Nature 
  • Spring 2020 – project pauses in the design phase due to delays caused by the pandemic 
  • November 2021 – Design development phase resumes 
  • Spring 2022 – Design development phase, which includes the site, building and exhibits, is complete 
  • April 22, 2022 – Design for building and exhibits is unveiled to the public 
  • February – March 2023 – Construction document phase concludes; construction bidding begins 
  • Summer 2023 – Construction bidding complete 
  • December 2023 – Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners votes to approve an additional $10M to fund the county-owned building due to rising construction costs 
  • January 2024 – Current Discovery Place Nature building is slated to close in preparation for construction 

About Discovery Place Nature 
Founded in 1946 as the Children’s Nature Museum, Discovery Place Nature has been a staple in Charlotte’s education and cultural community for more than 75 years. The Museum conjures curiosity and activates the imagination through educational experiences that connect to the natural world. Guests discover native animal species, encourage imaginative play in Fort Wild, take a family trek through the 100-year-old trees on the Paw Paw Nature Trail and explore the stars in the planetarium. For more information, visit nature.discoveryplace.org

About Discovery Place 
One of the leading hands-on science museums in the nation, Discovery Place brings science, nature and design together to create transformative experiences that enable the community to understand, enjoy and apply science to their lives. Discovery Place is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the leading hub for science education and exploration in the Carolinas through four distinct museum experiences—Discovery Place Science, Discovery Place Nature, Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville and Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham. Discovery Place serves more than 750,000 people a year—through Museum visits, interactive educational programming and community outreach initiatives—shaping a future where people embrace science to create opportunities, build hope, solve problems and bring positive change for our world. In 2017, Discovery Place was named as a finalist for the National Medal by the Institute for Museum and Library Science.