Are your children starting to get bored with summer? Are you finding it hard to keep them interested and busy? Are you looking for something new and different to do with your young children? Check out your local nature centers.
Did you know that there are eight nature centers in the Denver Metro area? And from seeing pronghorn on the plains to taking in spectacular view from the foothills, there is a surprising variety of ecosystems and natural attractions to enjoy. Almost all of them have nature displays and trails to explore as well programs for children and families.
Here is a list of programs that nature centers offer specifically for young children:
Majestic View Nature Center (Arvada)
Majestic View Nature Center, located on 80 acres in Arvada, boasts a lake, wetlands, interpretive trails, and a 3,000-square foot Nature Center, which offers a wide array of story times, guided hikes, environmental displays, wildlife exhibits and craft classes for children. On the calendar for this summer are Story Time in the Garden, Buzzing about Bees Campfire Series, microhikes and more. Some classes are free but many require a nominal fee.
Bluff Lake Nature Center (Aurora)
Bluff Lake Nature Center, located just east of Stapleton in Aurora, features Bluff Lake and numerous trails. Although Bluff Nature Center doesn’t have a museum or a toddler time, it does offer family-friendly fireside chats throughout the summer complete with marshmallow roasting. They also offering geocaching hunts, bird walks and family preschool programs.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (Commerce City)
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, located 10 minutes from downtown Denver, is nearly 17,000 acres, making it one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the United States. It consists of open lakes, wetlands, prairie grasslands, and woodlands and is home to bison, burrowing owls and bald eagles. An interactive exhibit hall at the spacious visitor’s center takes visitors on a journey through the site’s history and showcases the abundance of wildlife at the site. A colorful Discovery Room full of wildlife activities, seasonal crafts, and hands-on displays give young naturalists a whole new perspective on nature. Families can explore the Refuge in a whole new way by checking out one of our free activity backpacks – “Let’s Go Outside” or “Refuge Explorer.” Both packs are full of nature games, activities, and discovery tools.
Lookout Mountain Nature Center (Golden)
Perched on top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, the nature center is definitely a fun place to visit. Lookout Mountain Nature Center staff and volunteer naturalists inspire kids and adults to connect with the natural world and learn more about it. Interactive exhibits take visitors on a tour of the flora and fauna of the foothills ecosystem. Kids enjoy a hands-on play room and observation room. This mountain-top oasis offers gentle hiking trails past ponderosa pines and through meadows, affording panoramic views of the Denver metro area. Their 110 acres provide habitat for black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer, elk and Abert’s squirrels, which are often captured on their wildlife camera.
Audubon Center at Chatfield (Littleton)
Nestled at the southeast corner of Chatfield State Park in Littleton, the Audubon Center at Chatfield is home to many birds and other wildlife. The Audubon Center provides critical habitat for an abundance of birds, other wildlife, and plants. Set alongside the South Platte River – an important wildlife corridor – the site offers visitors the chance to explore forests, shrublands, grasslands, ponds and wetlands. The classroom is outfitted with educational equipment – binoculars, aquatic sweep nets, insect nets, track molds, microscopes and more – to facilitate a hands-on approach to nature discovery. Native gardens attract butterflies and birds near the building while showcasing Colorado plants and organic gardening practices.
Carson Nature Center (Littleton)
Carson Nature Center is over 880 acres of open space along the South Platte River with 5 lakes open to fishing, 2.5 miles of the South Platte River and the Mary Carter Greenway for walking and biking, nearly 4 miles of natural surface trails, and the Carson Nature Center and classroom. South Platte Park has over 300 species of wildlife and is an excellent place for wildlife viewing, photography, and bird watching. Stop in to check out exhibits and live animals in their small museum, get information on trails or wildlife, or how to use our Interactive Water Table. Carson Nature Center also has many different family and children’s programs either for free or for a nominal fee including guided hikes and homeschool science classes.
Morrison Nature Center (Aurora)
The Morrison Nature Center on the historic Star K Ranch in Northeast Aurora boasts of deer, turtles, and many types of birds. Consult their library of field guides, reference books, and natural history favorites; enjoy the birding at their songbird feeding stations, or peruse their seasonally changing exhibits on local plants and animal life. Costumes, blocks, puppets, kids’ books, and live animal exhibits make Morrison Nature Center for kids, too. Drip into the AWQUA Lounge and find yourself immersed in all the information you can drink. Talk to a storm drain, dress up like a fish, play watershed roulette, AWQUA bingo, or AWQUA energy blocks; explore a water sample and get to know all the cool creatures that call Aurora Reservoir home.
Plains Conservation Center (Aurora)
Take a trip back in time to Colorado’s high plains and pioneer life in the mid-1800’s. The Plains Conservation Center is a true-to-life homestead stretching across 8,894 acres of dedicated open space. Historic ranch houses, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and barn plus an heirloom garden and chicken coop and a Cheyenne camp with tipis bring the experience to life. The Learning Center and library are open to schools and groups.
So with all of these options, there is no excuse to stay indoors this summer. It’s time to get out into nature at your local nature center.