Nature centers encourage children and families to connect with the outdoors, learn about the environment, and spend quality time together!
Here is a list of nature education centers and nature museums close to Philadelphia that are each full of year-round family activities, classes, camps, and hands-on exploration opportunities. Your kids will love visiting animals, bird watching, making mud pies, beekeeping, canoeing, catching butterflies, adventuring with tadpoles in the pond, playing in tree forts, and much much more! Imagine all this right in your backyard?
$15/adult, $9/youth (3-17), Free for members & children under 3
Juan L.: The John Tyler Arboretum is just a quick trip away from Philadelphia. 650 acres of land and 17 miles of trails are available to visitors for hiking. Beautiful species of plants abound, including massive cedars, cherry & crabapple trees, and a pink hill of serpentine stone and wildflowers.
Their nature center offers a number of youth and family programs: meet a baby bat, learn about wild turkeys or cook using sustainable, local, ingredients grown right in the arboretum. The kids will learn and have a blast at the same time.
McKaig Nature Center
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The McKaig Nature Center boasts 93 acres of preserved trails, streams and wooded areas for wholesome family outdoor fun. Their family friendly trails are less than one mile in length and have meadows, creeks and bridges along the way to keep the interest of the little ones.
Family events include a Summer Festival under the Stars, Laugh and Learn Series and Culture seminars. For parents and older kids, there are trail running clinics and volunteer opportunities.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
Vanessa M.: With a visitor's center, 10 miles of hiking trails, fishing, canoe/kayaking (B.Y.O.Boat) and more, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful place for families to explore. The wildlife and habitat are home to countless birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians.
Riverbend Environmental Education Center
Vanessa M.: The Riverbend Environmental Education Center aims to grow greener children by connecting them to nature through their programs and events. They offer programs for schools and scouts, summer camps, nature clubs, and birthday parties at their 30 acre reserve.
Busy and working parents tend to appreciate Riverbend's flexible nature camp schedule, where programs are specifically run on most school holidays and breaks, along with extended evening care. Year-round exploration camps foster the love of nature through hands-on activities, like hiking, science experiments and free play.
The Schuylkill Center
Vanessa M.: The Schuylkill Center offers your family hiking trails, organic community gardens, a nature playscape for children, environmental art gallery, and an interactive Discovery Center with hands on exhibits.
Additionally, the Schuylkill Center offers your youngest children an opportunity to attend preschool & kindergarten in a classroom that backs up to a 340-acre nature preserve. Kids here get well immersed in nature-based play!
Wissahickon Environmental Center- Tree House
Vanessa M.: Also known as the Tree House, the Wissahickon Environmental Center has been offering public and group nature programs for over thirty years. Explore their trails, visit their large native fish aquarium, and enjoy nature programs such as Tot Times, Sunrise/Sunset Hikes, summer nature camps and more.
On select days, there's even a two hour (optional) drop-off opportunity for kids to play out in the field, alongside other kids, ages 6-12, called Kids Explore Meadow Magic. During this time, kids are welcome to simply explore as they wish (led by staff), and play to their heart's content.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Vanessa M.: The Academy of Natural Sciences is a wonderful nature museum for families to explore; environmental education is offered in a fun, interactive way! Kids of all ages (and their parents!) will love the dinosaur and live butterfly exhibits, as well as live animal presentations, fossil prep lab viewing, and hands on Big Dig where you get to dig like a paleontologist.
Briar Bush Nature Center
$3/adult, $2/child (2+), Free for members & Abington residents
Vanessa M.: The Briar Bush Nature Center offers a nature playscape for children of all ages year round, programs for families and adults, summer camps, 12 acres of hiking trails, and a nature center to explore. They also offer birthday parties!
Popular programs include Magic Mornings (toddlers) and Nature Pioneers (preschoolers) where children will enjoy taking nature walks, live animal encounters, story time and more.
Pennypack Environmental Center
Vanessa M.: Originally designated as a bird sanctuary in 1958, today the Pennypack Environmental Center now boasts an outdoor amphitheater, nature exhibits, campfire and free picnic areas, as well as public and school environmental education programs. The center itself holds a 300 gallon fish aquarium, and a display of local wildlife and Native American artifacts.
Philadelphia Insectarium & Butterfly Pavilion
Shila: This insect museum shares its amazing collection of species from all over the world with science lovers of all ages! Enjoy two stories of exciting & educational exhibits filled with an amazing assortment of arthropods, including tarantulas, scorpions, & praying mantids. Get up close & personal with butterflies in the year-round Butterfly Pavilion.
Churchville Nature Center
Vanessa M.: The Churchville Nature Center invites friends of all ages to explore and take part in Bird Walks, Mommy and Me classes, nature-based workshops, campfires and more. Their kids activity guide includes a live Butterfly House where kids learn about metamorphosis.
Lenape Village Programs offer families a chance to embrace native history by experiencing a variety of hands-on public programming. Learn about Wild Edibles, Learning From Animals, Firemaking, Cordage & Crafts, and much more complete with an authentic replica of a Native American village.
Rancocas Nature Center
Vanessa M.: The museum is quick stop but quite interesting for all ages, with a Touchables Table (sensory play with finds of the forest), displays of animal skulls & antlers, even birds nests. But the overall Rancocas Nature Center is always buzzing with activity. With over 3 miles of hiking trails through forests, meadows, & wetlands, picnic area, weekly programs for children & adults (Preschool Story & Music Time, Yoga with Mother Nature, etc.), birthday parties, & more, you & your family are sure to find something at this nature center that interests you.
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