ducks, nature centers in maryland

12 Amazing Nature Centers in Maryland for a Fun Nature Experience

If you love nature and enjoy various refreshing activities amidst exotic wildlife in the great outdoors, there’s no better place than Maryland. Plenty of nature centers in Maryland offer hiking, exploring, and learning opportunities.

There is a ton of amazing outdoor activities in Maryland for kids to enjoy. So, if you’d like to spend your vacation enjoying outdoor activities away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head over to the following best nature centers in Maryland.

ducks, nature centers in maryland

12 Amazing Nature Centers in Maryland for a Fun Nature Experience

1. MeadowSide Nature Center

The Meadow Side Nature Center, located inside the Rock Creek Regional Park in Rockville, is a great place to go if you want your kids to experience nature from up close. It has a total of 8 miles of nature trails, including the Rocky Ridge, the Valieant Bridge, and Study Pond, from where the visitors can hike to Lake Frank while spotting wildlife.

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There is also the Muncaster Mill, where you can see how natural-grown grains are ground into fine flour. You can visit the Raptor Deck just behind the nature center if you have kids accompanying you. This area provides a great view of the various birds of prey in their natural habitat.

In addition, the Meadow Side Nature Center is home to several species of eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls, all of which can be seen from the Raptor Deck. The main attraction is the kid-sized cave, where kids can explore and have a real cave-like experience.

2. Croydon Creek Nature Center

The Croydon Creek Nature Center in Rockville is spread across an expanse of 153 acres and has a lush green urban forest, meadow, and creeks. It has 3 miles of hiking trails, including the Heritage Trail, the Woodland Trail, and the Overlook Trail, that wind down historical places abundant in wildlife.

The wildlife that inhabits the nature center includes rabbits, fish, butterflies, snakes, tree frogs, toads, salamanders, Rover the box turtle, Pumpkin the snapping turtle, and Cricket, the owl.

The Croydon Creek Nature Center also has an exhibit room that changes themes, and the Discovery Room is full of an impressive variety of books, games, and puzzles for all to enjoy.

3. Catoctin Creek Park and Nature Center

The Catoctin Creek Park and Nature Center is located in Middletown, with the main building that houses classrooms, exhibits, and the famous indoor turtle pond. Towards the outside, you will find an outdoor play area, a relaxing butterfly garden, and several trails.

Catoctin Creek nature center also has live animal displays to learn how several reptile species live. In addition, the staff is there to create awareness and guide you about the wildlife and environment.

Don’t miss: Best things to do in Maryland with kids (Updated for 2022)

4. Watkins Nature Center

The Watkins Nature Center is situated in Upper Marlboro in the Watkins regional park and is one of Maryland’s best and most interactive nature centers. It has several live animal exhibits, including snakes, turtles, toads, frogs, lizards, and cockroaches.

There’s also an owl and birds of prey aviary located outside. The kids can have an up close and personal experience looking at the animals and birds.

You will also find an outdoor play area for the kids, plus several nature-themed activities like sensory play involving the big tree at the Watkins Nature Center. The outdoor playground is known as the Wizard of OZ playground, and it’s one of the imagination playgrounds of PG County.

This Nature center is also one of my favorite free things to do in Maryland with kids.

playground wizard of oz

5. Irvine Nature Center

The Irvine Nature Center is located in Owings Mills, towards the North of Baltimore. It is one of Maryland’s most visited nature centers because of the kids’ many discoveries and exploration activities. Inside the nature center, you will find live animal exhibits and an area dedicated specifically for curious kids to explore and learn.

The kids also have a unique nighttime experience that lets them see nature at night. The Irvine Nature Center has 210 acres of trails, an aviary with owls, a nature playground with climbing structures, and a mud kitchen.

6. Oregon Ridge Nature Center

If you want your kids to enjoy nature safely and securely, the Oregon Ridge Nature Center is the perfect place to go! Located in Baltimore County, you will find plenty of animal exhibits inside the nature center, including turtles, snakes, and other little critters. Also featured is a bear taxidermy that is the highlight of the visit!

Apart from this, several nature-themed activities keep the kids entertained while they learn new things about nature.

As you head towards the outside, you will come across several trails perfect for hiking with kids and an interactive nature playground for a fun-and-learn experience.

7. Clearwater Nature Center

The Clearwater Nature Center is located in Clinton and offers many fun activities for the kids. Inside the nature center is an indoor pond, seasonal gardens, and several live animal exhibits. You get to look closely at the mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds of prey that inhabit the nature center.

The Clearwater Nature Center is surrounded by a huge park with various hiking nature trails where you can enjoy taking in the serene surroundings and observing the local wildlife.

8. Fountain Rock Nature Center

The Fountain Rock Nature Center is one of the main attractions of Walkersville. The building that houses the nature center is a historical place built in the 1970s. It has many informative and educational displays for visitors, including several nature-related items.

The live exhibit at the nature center includes animals like Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese walking sticks, bearded dragons, snakes, toads, frogs, tarantulas, a bee hive, and various species of turtles.

On the Fountain Rock Nature Center grounds, you will find a trout fishing pond, a butterfly garden, and a quarry pond with great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, Canada geese, and ducks.

Don’t miss: 104 best places in Maryland to take your kids this summer

9. Robinson Nature Center

Located in Columbia, the Robinson Nature Center has a lot of fun opportunities for kids. It has Indoor exhibits, a children’s discovery room, outdoor trails and a natural play area, a planetarium, a gift shop, rental spaces, and more. You can hold special events, field trips, and summer camps and also take part in volunteer opportunities.

There is a “discovery” room for little kids to read books, play with nature-themed toys, and interact with live animals. There is also a room where you can see the inside of an actual beehive without the risk of being stung. The planetarium tickets consistently sell out ahead of time, especially ones targeted at kids, so buy those ahead of time.

This nature center could be a great addition if you are planning a road trip in Maryland.

10. Brookside Nature Center

Brookside Nature Center Is located in Wheaton, Maryland, and has many great programs for kids. It is also adjacent to Wheaton regional park, a plus because your kids can enjoy the playgrounds, climbing structures, slides, and more.

This nature center also has a discovery room where kids can sharpen their knowledge of nature. It also has a wildlife observation area, live animals on display, and outdoor exhibits. But that’s not all; the famous Brookside Gardens is within walking distance of the nature center. Be sure to visit the butterfly house in the spring when the butterflies are out and active.

11. Locust Grove Nature Center

Locust Grove Nature Center is located in Cabin John Regional Park, Bethesda, Maryland. It includes many special programs like Native Plant Education, Traveling Naturalist school programs, programs for tots/pre-K, Nature Explorers pre-school program, campfire nature walks, and many more.

In addition, it has some nice walking trails along Cabin John Creek that are dog-approved for all dog lovers.

12. Mount Rainier Nature Center

Mount Rainier Nature Center is a small nature center located in Mount Rainier. The downside is there are not that many animals to see here, but it’s still a nice place to checkout.

Conclusion: 12 Amazing Nature Centers in Maryland for a Fun Nature Experience

We visit lakes, beaches, and mountains, but seeing a nature center is a different experience. Having to look at animals up close is an exciting once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So, if you live in or around Maryland, or are planning a visit, do check out these eight best nature centers in Maryland for a secluded and serene natural experience.

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