5+ Nature Centers Worth Checking Out

By DullesMoms, Jan 2023

Our community is lucky to have such active park systems that offer nature centers with live animal exhibits, learning opportunities, hands-on events, and more:

Gulf Branch Nature Center
Arlington, VA

Exhibits, a classroom, a children’s Discovery Room, a pollinator garden, live animals, and a pond are just a few of the things that make this nature center unique. Don’t miss the restored log cabin, observation beehive, or frequent family-friendly events.


Broadlands Nature Center
Broadlands, VA

Home to many furry and scaly residents, native to Northern Virginia and the Broadland’s environment, families are invited to visit and learn about the natural world within their community. Drop in for a visit with the animals, or plan ahead and register for a nature program, campouts, scout events, and more! This Nature Center is open to the public; you do not have to be a Broadlands resident to visit.


Frogshackle Nature Center
Sterling, VA

Within the Lanesville Heritage Area, a special section of Claude Moore Park is the Frogshackle Nature Center. This Center is a great place to stop after a hike or picnic and houses animal and plant collections, as well as hands-on learning activities for kids themed around exploring nature.


Hidden Oaks Nature Center
Annandale, VA

Annandale District Park, a 52-acre oasis of nature, is home to Hidden Oaks Nature Center and family-loved Nature Playce. After exploring the park’s woodland trails, ponds, and creeks, a stop at the Nature Center (which also doubles as a visitor center with bathrooms) is a must. Complete with live animals, hands-on activities, and interactive exhibits, you’ll find Nature Playce in the area immediately surrounding it.

Nature Playce is a 1/3 acre unstructured, woodland play area. Children can visit Nature Playce’s water feature with rocks to climb on, puddles to splash in, digging areas, and a sandbox. There are also plenty of opportunities for self-directed play, including building forts and finding fallen trees and low stumps to climb on.


Hidden Pond Nature Center
Springfield, VA

Part of the 25-acre Hidden Pond neighborhood, Hidden Pond Nature Center features exhibits and live animal displays that orient you to the park and the natural world of Fairfax County. Surrounded by acres of undisturbed woodlands, quiet trails, splashing streams, and a tranquil pond, the Center is a great place to start your journey into nature!


Jerome Buddie Ford Nature Center
Alexandria, VA

Located next to the Dora Kelley Nature Park, a 50-acre wildlife sanctuary with a one-mile-long nature trail that meanders along streams, wooded hills, and freshwater marshland, is the Jerome Buddie Ford Nature Center. Families are invited to see live animals up close, learn about the cultural and natural history of the surrounding park, and access the wealth of knowledge of on-site Naturalists.


Long Branch Nature Center
Arlington, VA

Featuring exhibits, a children’s Discovery Room, live animal displays, and a viewing pond, to name a few things, Long Branch Nature Center is a family favorite. The center is located at the beautiful and secluded 95-acre Glencarlyn Park, offering nature trails, connections to Four Mile Run and W&OD trails, a playground, an amphitheater, and more.


Potomac Overlook Nature Center
Arlington, VA

Located in Potomac Overlook Park, with 7 acres of peaceful woodland, trails, and educational gardens, Potomac Overlook Nature Center offers visitors the chance to see live animals and natural history exhibits and access to their newest exhibit, “Energerium.” Energerium gives visitors a fun and accessible way to learn energy basics and ways they can help create a sustainable energy solution.


Riverbend Park Visitor Center
Great Falls, VA

Beyond a stop or place to get a cold drink, the Riverbend Park Visitor Center has self-guided activities for children, live animal displays, and natural and cultural exhibits. Plus, they offer you the opportunity to check out a Scavenger Hunt packet and follow the clues as they lead you through the park in search of cool nature facts!


Walker Nature Center
Reston, VA

Nestled in a 72-acre woodland at the Walker Nature Center, Nature House is home to on-site naturalists who will introduce you to their resident box turtle and a snake. Before exploring the nearby pond, trails, and stream, families are also encouraged to enjoy exhibits and displays, a nature library, and a variety of nature programs for all ages.


Walney Visitors Center
Chantilly, VA

The Walney Visitors Center, part of the 650 acres of EC Lawrence Park, is a converted 1780 farmhouse. More than a rest stop for hikers and naturalists, they have live animal and historical exhibits, a children’s touch table area, a greenhouse, and a classroom.


Disclaimer: Events/opportunities are curated from public sources and are subject to changes/cancelations that might not be reflected on DullesMoms.com.