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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Local Nature Centers: Great Places to Get Out and Play

Oct 04, 2016 11:00PM ● By Jill Eisenstein

With summer vacation behind them and school back in session, families need closer-to-home places for outdoor fun. As Richard Louv said in his seminal work Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, we all need to spend time in nature to maintain healthy minds and bodies. While fall brings traditional harvest festivals, apple picking, corn mazes and pumpkin patches, our area is also home to several wonderful nature centers that offer year-round activities. Most will also host birthday parties or special events.


Greenburgh Nature Center, 99 Dromore Rd., Scarsdale

Open dawn to dusk year-round, this 33-acre property features rescued and rehabilitated animals, hiking trails, an organic garden, Nature’s Discovery Playground and a native plant meadow. An indoor Live Animal Museum, open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekends, houses reptiles and several birds of prey as well as educational exhibits.

Butterfly in the Native Plant Meadow at GNC in June.
Butterfly in the Native Plant Meadow at GNC in June.
Free programs for children and adults include weekend walks for all ages and a meditation and arts workshop on Saturdays. Upcoming events with nonmember fees include the Halloween Costume Swamp, Fall Festival and Howlin’ Halloween.

Info: or 914.723.3470.

Teatown Lake Reservation, 1600 Spring Valley Rd., Ossining

Enjoy 15 miles of scenic hiking trails through property that includes three lakes, streams, swamps, forests, laurel groves and meadows. The Raptor Loop features 12 non-releasable birds of prey and some mammals. The visitor center has a Children’s Discovery Room with turtles, fish and amphibians and a Nature Store offering environmentally focused books, toys, crafts, jewelry and gift items.

Teatown offers weekend educational programs as well as special events such as the Hudson River EagleFest in February and Pancake Brunch in March. A guided tour of Wildflower Island is a must for anyone over 12.



Annual Birds of Prey Day at Green Chimneys
Annual Birds of Prey Day at Green Chimneys
Green Chimneys, 400 Doansburg Rd., Brewster, and 33 Clearpool Rd. (off Route 301), Carmel

On the Brewster campus, the Farm and Wildlife Center, open free to the public weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., boasts more than 300 farm animals as well as rescued or rehabilitated wildlife. For a fee, this location also offers swim programs at its indoor pool. Annual outdoor events in Brewster include Little Folks Farm Days in May, Fall Harvest Festival in September and Birds of Prey Day in June.

The Carmel campus features 5 miles of marked trails and a Model Forest, both free and open to the public on weekends. For a fee, this location offers kids’ vacation camps, Scout programs and weekend family nature programs.

Info: or


Stony Kill Farm, 79 Farmstead Ln., Wappingers Falls

Owned by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, the land is managed by Stony Kill Foundation and is also home to Common Ground Farm, a nonprofit focused on food and educational access. The grounds are open dawn to dusk. Volunteers maintain five trails through woodlands, thickets, fields, and pond and marsh habitats; the Verplanck Memorial Perennial Garden; and the barn and farm animals. The barn, home to sheep, cows, pigs and chickens, is open free to visitors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends from February to November.

For modest donations, both the Stony Kill Foundation and Common Ground Farm offer various farm-based educational activities, workshops and events throughout the year. The farm hosts a parent/child preschool series on Friday mornings and offers U-pick memberships, after-school programs and farm-to-school programs. The foundation’s Harvest Festival will take place October 1 (rain date October 2) and Haunted Barn tours will be held October 29. Both organizations offer summer camps and birthday parties on the farm.

Info: or