16 Must-Visit Nature Centers

We can all agree that kids need to spend more time outside. No matter the weather, our children benefit from fresh air, a change in scenery and connecting with nature. Luckily, southwest Ohio is home to endless opportunities for kids to simply be kids and get a little dirty out on a trail or wading through a creek. You’ll likely find yourself benefiting from and enjoying these hidden gems just as much as your kids!

Here are 16 Must-Visit Nature Centers in Southwest Ohio:

Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm

Dayton, OH

This center is focused on environmental education and sustainable agriculture, it provides activities that increase understanding and preservation of the planet by children and adults through education, research, and recreation. There are 2 locations Aullwood Nature Center and Aullwood Farm. They are connected by six miles of walking trails running through our beautiful 200-acre nature sanctuary. You can walk the 6 miles between the two or take a quick 5-minute drive!

Brukner Nature Center

Troy, OH

Each year over 120,000 visitors enjoy the public events, take a stroll in the woods, visit with the wildlife ambassadors or see the view from the popular Tree-top Bird Vista. Check out books about wildlife and nature at their library or join the PEEP preschool educational program that offers children ages 3-5, 2 hours of story time, creative craft, discovery hike and a healthy snack!

Caldwell Nature Preserve

Cincinnati, OH

Caldwell Nature Preserve is home to a variety of wildlife including reptiles, amphibians and mammals. It also features a Nature Center and 3.5 miles of nature trails, including a level-paved trail that makes it possible for wheelchair users to go into the woods, see the flowers and hear the birds. (These paved trails are also great for families!)

Cincinnati Nature Center

Milford, OH

Boasting 1,600 acres and 20 miles of trails, Cincinnati Nature Center is the largest member-supported nature center in the country. For kids, the main attraction is the PlayScape — plants, soil, and water can be touched and manipulated, creeks stomped in and logs built with. Admission is $9/adults, $4/kids 4-12, free for members and kids under 4.

Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve

Colerain Township, OH

This charming little park is hidden in a busy area of Colerain, but you’d never guess it while wandering through the .6 mile Pin Oak trail. It’s the perfect spot for kids, with plenty of shaded areas for picnics and a two-story barn that often hosts nature-related events.

Florence Nature Park

Florence, KY

At just 15 acres, this Kentucky park is the perfect size for kids. Trails are paved, making them both handicap and stroller friendly.

Glen Helen Nature Preserve

Yellow Springs, OH

Glen Helen is open to the public from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. Nature programs, guided hikes, and other interpretative experiences are offered for families and individuals throughout the year.

Grant Park- Owlexander’s Hoot Route & Nature Nook

Dayton, OH

This Nature Literature Trail is a 1/2 mile, wheelchair and stroller accessible, crushed gravel/dirt path through the woods. Children ages 3-8 with their adult companion can hike along the storybook trail and learn about the animals that live in the park. While reading the story, children can play active games, solve riddles and more.The Kennard Nature Nook is used for indoor Park District nature and recreation programs.

Johnson Nature Preserve

Montgomery, OH

Tucked away at the border of Montgomery and Blue Ash, the Johnson Nature Preserve is the perfect size for small kids. The .35-mile loop is a great hike for little legs, and the preserve features an abundance of plants and wildlife.

Miami Whitewater Forest

Crosby Township, OH

Located on the west side of Cincinnati, Miami Whitewater is perfect for a day outside with your family. Hike the shorter or longer paved trail that winds past creeks, wildflowers and cornfields or enjoy a relaxing time, paddling away on the lake.

Mt. Airy Forest

Cincinnati, OH

Mt. Airy Forest is definitely a hidden gem in Cincinnati. The main attraction for families is the Treehouse for Everyone, a wheelchair accessible tree house that is so fun to explore. There is also an arboretum, plenty of picnic spots and many swing sets to enjoy.

Nature Play at Behringer Crawford Museum

Covington, KY

This unique park has literally been built into the side of the hill below the Behringer-Crawford Museum in Devou Park. The area encourages creativity and allows children to follow their instincts and interact with the natural surroundings as they like.

Russ Nature Reserve

Beavercreek, OH

Russ Nature Reserve offers 90 acres of mixed prairie and woodlands with a 4,000-square-foot ranch home to be renovated as a nature education center. The ten-room home will offer classrooms, program areas, and a birding room. Unstructured free play is encouraged for young visitors: climb a tree, build a fort, gather rocks, etc. The natural landscape becomes its own play area for children. Ideal for any young family, the site is a popular destination for home-schooled children as well.

Sharon Woods

Sharonville, OH

Sharon Woods is a large, popular park, perfect for exploring with children. There’s a 2.6 mile paved trail around the lake and other trails if you want to escape into the woods – there’s even a beautiful waterfall! And don’t miss the nature center and indoor playground.

Twin Valley Nature Center at Germantown Metro Park

Germantown, OH 

The Twin Valley includes a diversity of habitats, such as forests, succession areas, grasslands, wetlands, streams, rivers, and ponds. It exemplifies best practices in habitat restoration and wildlife management. The return of wildlife, especially such large predators as Bobcats, to the land is living testament to the success of conservation activities.

Woodland Mound

Anderson Township, OH

Enjoy nature with a river view at this picturesque park in Anderson Township. There is plenty to keep the little ones busy with paved trails, as well as wooded retreats that are easy enough for even young hikers.

As the end of summer nears, there’s no better time than now to get outside and explore with your kids. Enjoy the change in seasons, the cooler air, and the natural beauty of our wonderful cities and their parks and trails!

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