Best Nature Centers in New Jersey

Essex County, Great Swamp, Huber Woods, Cape May, Plainsboro Preserve, Tenafly, Trailside

If you’re looking for a break from the oppressive heat, nature centers can be a great option for a summer day. Located in parks throughout the state, these educational facilities combine both indoor and outdoor fun for kids of all ages. Spend some time exploring nature, then duck inside to cool off with hands-on exhibits and activities that tie it all together. Read on for our overview of seven nature centers in New Jersey that offer wonderful programs all year long.

Essex County Environmental Center – Roseland
Children can enjoy both outdoor exploration and hands-on activities at this environmental center in West Essex Park. Summer events include nature-themed crafts such as flower frames and sand candles, classes for little gardeners and guided strolls through the wooded wetland. The Center is open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 10am-2pm. 973-228-8776

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center – Chatham
Despite its name, the Great Swamp is actually a combination of marshes, meadows, dry woods and brush-covered swamps. This unique mixture provides support for a wide variety of plants and animals. You can learn all about the wildlife that resides at Great Swamp by paying a visit to the Outdoor Education Center. Wonderful events are planned throughout the year including hikes for all ages and nature-themed story times. The Education Center is open daily from 9am-4:30pm. 973-635-6629

Huber Woods Environmental Center – Middletown
Kids can explore interactive exhibits, view a colorful array of birds or play in the puppet theater. And they’ll definitely want to make friends with the live turtles and snakes in the Reptile House! The surrounding park features beautiful trails and picnic areas. Borrow a safari backpack from the Center and you’ll have everything you need for a self-guided nature walk through the woods. The Environmental Center and Reptile House are open weekdays from 10am-4pm and weekends from 10am-5pm. 732-872-2670

Nature Center of Cape May – Cape May
Located on the Cape May Harbor, this nature center features indoor and outdoor observation areas, art and nature exhibits, a children’s garden and a nature store. It’s a great family destination with tons of activities to keep everyone busy! Go fishing, explore the coast or join a kayaking tour. The Nature Center is open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 11am-4pm (April through October). 609-898-8848

Plainsboro Preserve – Cranbury
Visit the Plainsboro Preserve’s education center to climb the indoor tree house, explore the “Under-the-Pond” room or observe the wildlife around Lake McCormack from their deck. There’s also a great nature-themed gift shop, perfect for finding a unique gift for that upcoming birthday party. The Nature Center is open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 12-5pm. 609-897-9400

Tenafly Nature Center – Tenafly
This nature preserve is a wonderful spot for both indoor and outdoor adventures. Enjoy hiking and wildlife watching, or stop by the Visitor Center to view live animals, browse their library and check out hands-on exhibits. Summer events include the Little Naturalists program, Nature Story Time and Seasonal Scavenger Hunts—visit their website to register in advance. The Visitor Center is open weekdays 9am-5pm and weekends 11am-4pm. 201-568-6093

Trailside Nature & Science Center – Mountainside
Nestled in Watchung Reservation is this awesome nature center, offering tons of super-fun activities for the whole family. Current exhibits include a 34-foot tall American beech tree, a life-sized wigwam and a 25,000 year-old Mastodon tusk. Trailside is open every day from 12-5pm. 908-789-3670

Image: Trailside Nature Center

Originally published 2014

Essex County Environmental Center
621 Eagle Rock Avenue
07068 Roseland , NJ 40° 49' 26.868" N, 74° 19' 57.1836" W
New Jersey
Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center
247 Southern Blvd
07928 Chatham , NJ 40° 43' 56.316" N, 74° 25' 6.294" W
New Jersey
Huber Woods Environmental Center
25 Brown's Dock Road
07748 Middletown , NJ 40° 23' 22.4196" N, 74° 1' 59.3076" W
New Jersey
Nature Center of Cape May
1600 Delaware Ave
08204 Cape May , NJ 38° 56' 41.6112" N, 74° 53' 58.902" W
New Jersey
Plainsboro Preserve
80 Scotts Corner Road
08512 Cranbury , NJ 40° 21' 3.9312" N, 74° 33' 24.7068" W
New Jersey
Tenafly Nature Center
313 Hudson Ave
07670 Tenafly , NJ 40° 55' 28.6968" N, 73° 56' 41.9388" W
New Jersey
Trailside Nature & Science Center
452 New Providence Road
07092 Mountainside , NJ 40° 40' 58.9764" N, 74° 22' 20.514" W
New Jersey