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Housed in the oldest public building on Grand Cayman, the National Museum faces George Town harbor just a few steps from where the cruise ship tenders tie up. An hour or two here early on in your visit to the Cayman Islands will be well spent. The exhibits are beautifully designed and give you a sense of what makes these Islands special. Separate displays include maritime history, oral history accounts in audio presentations, and key aspects of the culture and how it has developed over time. Hands-on stuff for kids has them exploring plant and animal communities on land and sea. One interactive exhibit demonstrates how the beaks and feet of birds reveal what they eat and how they live. Other displays explain sea turtle migrations and the complex ecology of coral reefs. Comprehensive yet lively, the excellent layout, the multimedia and 3-D displays, and the overall scale of the museum make it accessible, engaging, and not overwhelming.

Though much of the museum's interior had to be gutted and re-designed after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, intriguingly, the damage also exposed an old jail (the "Old Gaol"), which has become a new exhibit. In one room not completely destroyed because of its thick stone walls, the storm stripped away sheets of paint to reveal graffiti scrawled on the walls by prisoners held there during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The National Museum also hosts a number of special programs and events throughout the year—ask the Museum staff what's on their current calendar. Check the website for specials on group rates with and without tours.