Kid-friendly Nature Spots in Philly & The 'Burbs
Local places for families to get in touch with nature.
Lakes, Ponds and Streams
What animals do you think come here to drink?
What creatures do you see living in the water?
What about at the edge of the water?
What is different about the plants by the water?
How do you think plants grow in the water?
Briar Bush Nature Center, Abington
After you hit the natural playground and bird observatory, stroll to the pond. An ecosystem within itself, the space provides fresh water to all kinds of plants and animals, so you never know what you’ll find; peek under rocks, sift through pebbles and identify nearby plants.
Lorimer Park, Huntingdon Valley
Get your feet wet! Pennypack Creek teems with aquatic insects, fish and salamanders. Little ones can opt for Harper’s Run, the shallower stream that feeds into it.
Nockamixon State Park, Quakertown
The 1,450-acre Lake Nockamixon is a hotspot for migrating waterfowl and boaters. Revel in the sights during a pontoon boat tour, where a guide discusses the park’s history and wildlife.
Riverbend Environmental Education Center, Gladwyne
Stream exploration is a big draw here. Kids get their hands dirty while they search for insects, caterpillars, crayfish and other swimmy creatures.
What do the flowers smell like?
What colors do you see?
What does the sky look like from here?
How many types of animals do you think live in the meadow?
What does the dirt feel like in the meadow?
Why do ants dig holes? What do you think they are doing underground?
Why do bees buzz from flower to flower?
ChesLen Preserve, Coatesville
The preserve’s massive agricultural fields and meandering meadows immerse visitors in lush landscapes. Follow paved trails that wind through flower patches, shaded woodlands and sprouting corn and soybeans. Don’t miss the Unionville Barrens section, dubbed a state-certified wild plant sanctuary.
Peace Valley Nature Center, Doylestown
The meadows here boast a variety of wildflowers that change with the season, including spring beauties, sunflowers, trout lilies, loosestrife and asters. See what’s in bloom during naturalist-led hikes.
What signs of the season can you see?
Can you see any treasures that have fallen from the tree?
How old do you think the trees are?
How many different types of trees can you find?
What is similar and different about the trees you see?
What animals do you think live in the trees?
Morris Arboretum, Phila.
The Tree Adventures exhibit lets kids absorb the forest’s scenery from a 50-foot-high canopy walk, enter a “bird’s nest,” sit on a giant robin’s egg and peer at the ground far below through a large hammock-like net.
Norristown Farm Park, E. Norriton
Just outside the park office, Millennium Grove is one of two Pennsylvania sites designated to promote the planting of seedlings from “parent trees” with historical significance. Keep an eye out for trees associated with Johnny Appleseed, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain.
Tyler Arboretum, Media
Climb, explore and play on quirky treehouses. Just past the visitor center, the Storybook House features three small cottages on an 8-foot-tall raised deck. And, right off the Scenic Loop, the ADA-accessible Fort Tyler treehouse is reminiscent of the kid-favorite pastime of building makeshift forts.
Warwick County Park, Pottstown
Developed by a local Eagle Scout, the interpretive Adirondack Tree ID Trail passes through the hardwood forest. Before you set off, grab a brochure that details what you’ll see throughout the trek.
How many colors do you see?
How many different types of plants can you see?
What color is the soil here? How does it feel?
What kinds of animals do you think live here?
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Phila.
Among its 1,000 acres, the refuge is home to the largest freshwater tidal marsh in the state. This marsh type is one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems, supporting an array of plants and heavily used by local birds. Take it in during family-friendly guided hikes.
Silver Lake Nature Center, Bristol
Don’t forget your boots! In addition to a mossy bog, the park features vernal ponds; scattered throughout the woodlands, plenty of frogs and toads dwell there.
What signs of wildlife do you see here?
Find 10 critters or signs of critters.
Where do you think birds live?
How do you think they built their nests? What materials do you think they used?
Why do birds sing?
What animal do you think left that track?
Churchville Nature Center, Churchville
From June through September, the butterfly house is a family-favorite. The space, which houses moths and butterflies in every stage of their life cycle, highlights how metamorphosis works, the creatures’ migratory patterns and how to use wildflowers to attract butterflies to your yard.
Pennypack Environmental Center, Phila.
Originally designated as a bird sanctuary, the center provides plenty of ways to see them up-close. Watch resident birds flit around Pennypack Creek or, inside the center, peer through floor-to-ceiling windows to catch them grazing at feeders.
Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Phila.
More than 120 types of birds have been spotted in the woodlands, fields, streams and ponds. Document your findings in a trail-sightings book at the front desk, then join the birding club to learn all about these creatures.
Upper Schuylkill Valley Park, Royersford
This place is a haven for critters. Rabbits, foxes, a deer, wolves, owls, a bald eagle and turkeys are ready for your visit to the wildlife center. Over at the Schuylkill Wilds exhibit, say “hi” to river dwellers such as turtles, frogs and fish.
Prompts compiled by Dorothy Sasso, a Montgomery County, PA-based teacher with Tinkergarten, an outdoor early education program.