Looking for something different to do this fall after visiting all of your favorite summer spots? Open your eyes to a perfect little day trip, just about an hour from Manhattan. Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) is tucked away up a small winding road, just off busy Central Park Avenue (AKA chain store heaven) in Scarsdale, Ny. If you don’t look for the sign at the driveway, you’ll miss it along with the beautiful trails, charming treehouse playground and amazing animal encounters inside.
Why You Should Go
Greenburgh Nature Center is the perfect size for explorers of all ages to enjoy. It’s not too big to be overwhelming, but with short wooded trails, a pond, outdoor animal exhibits and a newish amazing ‘tree house’ playground you could spend a few hours here. Bring along a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
While the nature center grounds are free, there is a fee ($7/adults, $5/kids) to go inside the two-story manor house to see more animal exhibits. The cost is well worth it though. Once inside the manor house the staff are extremely helpful and kid focused. Just ask, and they’ll let your child see her favorite live animal (how about an iguana?) up close and have a hands-on experience.
In fact, there could be a few animals wandering around the manor. Watch out for a snake, a chinchilla, or a large tortoise that may be walking across the floor in front of you!
Who wants to see a live owl? Stop by the birds of prey exhibit and take a close look at a barn owl. You will also see hawks and the national bird of the USA, a bald eagle.
Go for a Hike
Make sure your little explorers get a chance to lead you through the forest on one of the marked trails. Young kids will love to look for the color coded markers to show they are on track. No hiking shoes are needed – the longest of the 4 trails is just 1/4 mile, so even novice walkers can manage. Plan to spend anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes on the trails.
Note: The trails are made of wood chips, which are not ideal for basic umbrella strollers. Most of the nature center is stroller friendly, but you’ll need to leave your stroller on the first floor of the manor if you go to the second floor where the inside animals live.
Have a Picnic
Ready for a break? Take your picnic to the green lawn. If you don’t want to pack a cooler before you leave the city, grab a bite at Panera Bread along Central Park Avenue or pick up some picnic items at Trader Joe’s just ten minutes away. If you want something simple you can buy packaged snack items, water and juice boxes at the nature center gift shop.
Climb Into a Tree House
Don’t forget to let your kids run off the rest of their energy at the playground before packing back into the car. The playground is suitable for kids of all ages. Along with swings for the kids, you’ll also find a bench swing sized for you. Plus there are unique tree house-like structures the kids can climb on that are so enchanting, it’s worth the trip just for the playground.
When to Go
Fall is a great time to visit the Greenburgh Nature Center as you can enjoy the changing colors of the trees and cooler weather for exploring the grounds. You may want to visit on Sept. 7 for the Harvest Party or on Sun., Oct. 12 for the Fall Festival. Or check out the nature center’s calendar for other family-friendly weekend events including story time and guided hikes. There’s also a special Storywalk self-guided, kid-friendly hike that’s open through Sun., Sept. 28. As you walk through the exhibit aimed at kids ages 8 and under, you’ll learn the story of Opossum at Sycamore Road by Sally M. Walker.
If you have a car (or rent one), free parking is available on the grounds. But it’s easy to get there using public transportation, too. Take the Metro-North Harlem line to Scarsdale Station. Then take a taxi 2 miles to the nature center. Cabs meet most trains or try Scarsdale Taxi (914-723-0016).
While you’re in the area, consider visiting other nearby attractions. LEGOLAND Discover Center Westchester is just 15 minutes away, while Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is about 20 min away.
Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Rd., Scarsdale, Ny; 914-723-3470
Hours: Indoor exhibits open weekdays 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. ; weekends:10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; closed Fridays. Grounds are open dawn to dusk daily.
Cost: $7/adults, $5/children ages 2 to 12, free/members and children under 2 years old.
Have you visited a nature center near the city with your family? Tell us about your experience.