Nature Centers in Westchester to Explore With Kids
Families in Westchester County are surrounded by beautiful green spaces and outdoor destinations. There are great places to go hiking with kids plus plenty of family-friendly farms in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. If you're looking for a new way to connect with nature, it might be time to head to one of the many nature centers in Westchester County.
These nature centers allow children—and adults—to learn about the natural world, see undisturbed habitats, and encounter wildlife up close, often in a smaller and less zany environment than, say, a big, crowded zoo. These local nature centers house scenic hiking trails and playgrounds, plus many host interactive events. A visit is a great way to spend a day no matter the season. Read on for all the details on seven nature centers in Westchester.
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Croton Point Nature Center – Croton-on-Hudson
The Croton Point Nature Center, within Croton Point Park, features everything from exhibits on the Hudson River to Native American history. While there, head to the river’s shoreline, where you can walk the four miles of trails and see birds in their natural habitat. Pro-tip: If you head toward the water, bring rain boots, so kids can really get their feet wet. The Croton Point Nature Center is open Fridays-Sundays, 9am-4pm; the surrounding trails are open daily.
Lenoir Preserve – Yonkers
With a dragonfly pond and butterfly and hummingbird garden, this 40-acre nature preserve in Yonkers is a great place to spot some of these animals and learn more about them. To see lots of butterflies, in particular, consider timing your visit for late summer. Nature exhibits are found inside the nature center and its operational hours vary by season. Visit the website for current hours, and take note: A county parks pass is not required to visit.
The Greenburgh Nature Center is well-known—and loved—for its hands-on programming and spectacular playground.
Greenburgh Nature Center – Scarsdale
This 33-acre preserve, off of Central Avenue in Scarsdale, is a Westchester family favorite, thanks to the many fun events and programs hosted throughout the year, as well as, of course, the grounds and trails, which are great for little ones. In particular, it’s an amazing place for kids to meet animals like turtles, bunnies, and more inside and sheep and goats in the barnyard outside. You’ll definitely want to save some energy for the nature-themed Nature’s Discovery Playground on-site. (Bonus for summer days: you can score some shade!) There is a $7 charge to enter the indoor Manor House, which is open every day except Monday from 10am-4pm, while the grounds, including the playground, are open daily—and are FREE.
Trailside Nature Museum – Cross River
Located inside the massive Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, the Trailside Nature Museum has been around for 85 years, making it, as the county notes, “one of the oldest museums of its kind in the United States.” While there, check out the various exhibits, including a collection of Native American artifacts, or attend one of the many events, from maple sugaring to guided trail walks, story times, and more. Be sure to explore Ward Pound Ridge itself, too, including the wildflower garden. The museum is open on weekdays from 10am-4pm and while there’s a fee to park (daily in the warmer months, weekends-only from late fall to early spring), the museum itself is FREE.
The Rye Nature Center offers tons of programming for local families, including summer camps.
Rye Nature Center – Rye
The Rye Nature Center offers many great opportunities to learn about ecology, animal habitats, and nature-inspired fun. While the building, which houses an animal museum, is currently still closed due to COVID, there’s plenty to do on the grounds, including hiking the trails and playing on the creative playground. Its school break and summer camps are particularly popular with local families. Grounds admission is FREE and open daily.
Weinberg Nature Center – Scarsdale
With some 40 different types of animals (think: chinchillas, toads, bearded dragons, and even a blue tongue skink), after-school programs, and a variety of special events for kids up through adults, this nature center in Scarsdale has something for everyone. While its building is currently limiting visitors to those registered for programs due to COVID, you can spend time walking the various trails, with a trail map available right on its website. The grounds are FREE and open daily.
The Sheldrake Environmental Center is set on the shores of Sheldrake Lake, and there's plenty to see as you walk its shoreline!
Sheldrake Environmental Center – Larchmont
Set on 60 acres in Larchmont, the Sheldrake Environmental Center hosts several programs, from volunteer clean-up days to camps for kids both during the summer and school breaks. If you’re not there for a specific event—or even if you are!—be sure to walk the grounds and trails, parts of which circle the Sheldrake Lake. Program times vary, but the grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Photos courtesy of the centers