Mountain lions have long been extinct from New England, but you can still see a live one at the excellent nature Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (23 Science Center Rd./Rte. 113, Holderness, 603/968-7194, www.nhnature.org , 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily May–Oct., $13 adults, $11 seniors, $9 youth 3–15, free children under 3) that is hands-down the best in New England. The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has dozens of local animals, including a bobcat, several black bears, otters, and flying raptors arranged in spacious enclosures along a 0.75-mile wooded nature trail. (Most of the animals were injured and unable to survive in the wild.)
Where it really excels, though, is in the interactive exhibits that accompany each animal—they’re imaginative and educational for kids and adults alike. (Case in point is the “long jump” that compares your personal best with the mountain lion’s; let’s just say you’ll be glad she’s behind a fence.)
The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center also has an informative exhibit on the star of the northern lakes: the common loon. If you’d like to see one up close, it also has a lakeside branch which offers 90-minute lake tours of Big Squam ($22 adults, $20 seniors, $18 youth, free children 3 and under) that explain the geography of the lakes as well as the ways loons communicate to avoid predators.