Growing up in Milford, the Cincinnati Nature Center (CNC) was a regular part of my childhood. I went to summer camps at Rowe Woods, attended holiday events at Long Branch Farm and went on weekly fall hikes on the trails with my family.
I recently returned to Rowe Woods for the first time in 15 (ok, maybe 20) years — and it blew me away. The CNC was every bit as beautiful and picturesque as I remembered — but there was even more to do! As we spent some time there, it became clear that this wasn’t the Cincinnati Nature Center I’d grown up with; it was the new-and-improved, little-kid-friendly CNC! Here are five things you can do with your kids at the Nature Center.
1. Take a Hike!
The Cincinnati Nature Center is probably most known for its trails. Rowe Woods spans 1,000 acres, boasting more than 16 miles of hiking trails. Its trails wind through deciduous forests, fields, streams and ponds. My kids love exploring, and had a blast hiking through the woods, over wooden bridges and on rustic dirt paths.
Did you know that over the past two decades, the monarch population has declined by 90%? Monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed — and fields where this native plant once grew are being lost to development and agricultural practices. Your kids can help by planting milkweed seeds! Fall planting is the easiest time to do this — and the CNC is giving away packets of seeds at its Rowe location (or you can request by mail)!
Between Krippendorf Lodge, Groesbeck Lodge and Garden and the Abner Hollow Pioneer Cabin, there are several century-old buildings on the Nature Center’s grounds. History-loving kids will love exploring these old buildings and learning all about the Nature Center’s founders. Meanwhile, kids interested in science will get a kick out of the interactive markers along the trails.
As a nonprofit, the CNC depends on volunteers to keep its grounds clear, events staffed and daily operations up and running. In fact, while I was there, I saw several parents and kids weeding and clearing debris along the trails. There are lots of kid-friendly opportunities available; check the CNC’s calendar and sign the family up!
You guys — I saved the best for last. The CNC’s Marge & Charles Schott Nature PlayScape is incredible. There were trails winding all around the PlayScape grounds, with a “creek” kids can play in, bridges and steps for climbing, and a massive “Lincoln Log” area (Julian’s description) where kids could build their own forts and cabins.There’s even a picnic area so kids can play, eat — then play some more!
In addition to being just plain cool, the PlayScape hosts weekly story times, parent meet-ups, educational activities and kids’ events — so there are always lots to do there!
Now — let’s talk logistics. There were Porta-Potties outside the entrance to the PlayScape, but you can also take a quick walk over to the Lodge to use those bathrooms. If you park by the PlayScape, you’ll have to walk a bit to get over to the trails and various buildings at Rowe Woods — so I’d advise putting the kids in socks and sneakers and bringing a baby carrier if you have a baby that’s not yet walking.
Rowe Woods is located at 4949 Tealtown Rd., Milford, OH 45150. In October, the CNC is open 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (but hours change monthly, so check the website!). Admission is $8 for adults, $3 for kids ages 4-12 and free for kids under 4 (active military and seniors over 65 are $6). Detailed membership info can be found here — a family membership is $75 per year.