Rain or shine, Winter or Summer, kids always want to be outside, exploring, and what better place to take them to do just that than Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) in Roswell, Ga, where nature and exploration meet in an explosion of discovery and excitement. Located next to the Chattahoochee River this nature center is a natural playground that you want to be sure to visit, and we have 20 reasons why it is tops in our book!
Leave Your Mark!
Once you have purchased your tickets in the Discovery Center head on in to the next room where you can contribute to a real life message board! Leave a note answering one of the questions they are asking, like “How can you enjoy Chattahoochee in Columbus?” or “How does Trust For Public Land help conserve the watershed?.? Read what other visitors have to say (my 8 year old answered “To help the environment stay healthy!”) and see what the experts think! For once leaving a note for others to read is not only encouraged but filled with positivity and hope, and we all could use that!
Mountain Top On The Rooftop
Next you want to head outside the Discovery Center, keeping your eyes open for plants you might see, like Spiderwort, Hairy Lip Fern, Georgia Rush and Stone Mountain Daisy. These are more than just awesome names, they are also only found in a few places in Georgia, and this green roof was created to mimic their unique growing conditions! Spend some time picking out the incredible species growing here.
Bonus activity – Hop up on one of the provided chairs, look through the free viewfinder, and see if you can spot what the two bald eagles are up to in the Bald Eagle Aviary!
Paddle The Chattahoochee
Lesli and her husband did this one fall and loved it. If you are going to canoe Atlanta, then this is the tour to take! Their guide took them along the Chattahoochee River, past the towering rock/stone walls, and into parts of the Chattahoochee that you can only see by water. He pointed out various birds and other critters, and told them stories about the changing watershed. It was calm and peaceful, informative…but he wasn’t too chatty. It was a perfect balance.
If you want to make it a family date, then a third seat can be purchased for 1/2 price. Kids 6 and older can be in a canoe as long as an adult is also in the canoe. There are also Family Canoe classes, too!
Wildlife in the city? The Chattahoochee Nature Center wildlife department focuses on education and rehabilitation of injured animals, and receive thousands of calls a year from people who have questions ranging from animal identification to habitat destruction to animal rescue. Many of these animals, who they have determined cannot be released back into the wild, can be seen along the Wildlife Walk, and it is a great opportunity for educating on the great work the Chattahoochee Nature Center does! From Great Horned Owls to Barred Owls to Barn Owls, Red-Shouldered Hawks to a Cooper’s Hawk, this walk helps you to decide whooooo is your favorite and also see these amazing birds up close!
Bonus activity – Find the games along the way, and see if you can figure out the answers to these nature based questions!
Only on exhibit since November 2016, the Beaver Habitat is home to 2 young rescued beavers, who had very little chance of survival until they arrived at the Nature Center. This is a great space to observe as the beavers explore their habitat, in search of items to help build up their beaver dams, and make their home their own. They swim, they sniff, they build, and they are super cute to boot!
In keeping with their eco-friendly grounds these butterfly gardens include native flowers and plants which provide both nectar for the butterflies and leaves for the caterpillars, which is really like watching a life cycle right before your eyes! In the Winter the Chrysalis, larva, eggs and butterflies find hiding places to survive the colder weather, but the rest of the year you can find them all in this amazing area of beauty.
Get Your Hiking Shoes On!
With 6 trails at the Chattahoochee Nature Center you can spend the day hiking, or choose one to tackle at a time, and leave the rest for a return visit – and trust us, you will want to conquer every one of them! There is something special to look for on all of them, so take your pick, or do them all.
Once the home of an old cabin, this trail, slightly over 1/4 mile, is a chance to find native species of plants and animals and also to search for all the remains of the house that dates back to the 1940s, which include a chimney and a concrete drive. Imagine life back then, and how you would have lived, nestled in the forest.
Stone Cabin Trail
Another 1/4 mile loop that starts close to the Discovery Center, this trail leads you first to the remnants of an Old Stone Cabin. Once used as part of Camp Chattahoochee, it now provides a picnic area and a great overlook to the Beaver Pond. If you’ve packed a lunch this is an easy, and scenic, spot to take a rest and eat!
Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventure
In 2019, Screaming Eagle opened three adventure courses right around the Stone Cabin Trail. Course #1 and #2 are high enough to be exhilarating yet within sight of the family on the ground. Course #3 however is a combination of aerial bridges and includes several zip lines, providing a higher, faster and more exhilarating trail.
Beaver Pond Trail
This trail veers off from the Stone Cabin Trail, and is perfect for young families with kids who may not be up for a more strenuous hike. There are benches along the way so kids can stop and rest, and it’s a way to see both the Beaver pond yet still be in the forest! Once a home to beavers you can still see the trees that the beavers used to gnaw on – can you spot the marks?
Kingfisher Pond Trail
Another trail that works for beginners and children is the Kingfisher Pond Trail, which runs parallel with the Kingfisher Pond. See if you can find the variety of wildlife who make this pond their home, from turtles to Kingfishers to Herons to frogs and lizards. It also makes a pretty spectacular photo opportunity!
This .31 mile trail leads to the highest point on the Chattahoochee Nature Center property and is truly a forest explorers dream. This land, which was once used mainly for farming and owned by the Kelpin Family, is considered a young forest but still provides trees that we can all be in awe of today. Hike to the top and find the gravesite which belongs to Charles Kelpin, a son of the land owner, who died during the Civil War.
River Boardwalk Trail
The most diverse trail at CNC is .50 miles long of boardwalk, taking you between two different wetland marshes. The marsh platform is a viewing area for migratory birds, Herons, Mallards and more. Watch the river and see if you can find fish or ducks, look out at the river and watch as people canoe or kayak by!
Make your way back into the Discovery Center and head down the stairs, where you can easily spend the rest of your visit! Start off with the animals and insects, with skulls and bones galore, remnants of the wildlife that once walked these grounds. Grab a feather and check out the microscope, looking at the beauty of what lies beneath. Search through the rocks and minerals to see which one is the sparkliest, shiniest or just your favorite.
Bonus Activity – Don’t miss a chance to check out a Discovery Backpack for fun adventures around the nature center. They are FREE for members (and a nominal fee otherwise.)
The Nature Exchange
If collecting rocks and sticks are as big of an activity in your house as they are in ours then the Nature Exchange is a stop you can’t miss! Natural objects from all over the World are here, and you can bring them home by bringing in natural treasures of your own and trade them in for points. There are rules that must be followed, but with enough points you can bring home up to 3 items per visit. This is a greatly to encourage collecting and trading and discovery of new things!
Explore Your Watershed
This hands on section of the CNC brings the plants and animals of the Chattahoochee River to you! Learn about everything from fish to healthy water (and in turn healthy fish!); play the river flows water game and discover all the things that can affect a river’s flow, from sunny skies to rainy days and more! See what it’s like to walk under a beavers dam; what happens when wetlands release stored water back into our river, and how adversely it can keep the rivers from flooding when high.
Further into the exhibit you will find a Virginia Opossum, nestled tight in its home, a faux worm bin, where kids can see how creating a worm bin turns organic material into healthy soil. Look up and see if you can spot the Eastern Screech Owl. Climb on the giving tree, and try to find 10 things to love about the tree. We bet you can find more!
Bonus Activity: Play the food chain game. Take a provided piece of paper, and see if you can correctly choose which of the plants and animals make a food chain!
Cowie Weiss Theater
This new theater can hold private and corporate events, shows informative movies, programs and speakers, and even live performances. Check out the calendar of events to see what is going on there during your visit.
Have Fun Learning
While Chattahoochee Nature Center is an amazing place to visit, they shine with their educational programs for kids of all ages. From in-house educational programming to highly trained naturalists who can come to your business or school with their outreach program, they’ve created a way to engage, entertain and educate at the same time.
We love their Pee Wee Naturalist class for 3 and 4 year olds! It is THE BEST! CNC Homeschool Days are another great opportunity for kids to learn about animals, conservation and more.
While they may not be as big as some of the festivals found in other parts of Atlanta these festivals are not to be missed, including their annual Butterfly Festival, now in its 18th year! Watch as butterflies fill the air with their beauty, and help raise money for this important center at the same time. Other festivals include Halloween Hikes and their popular Holiday Market.
CNC not only has their day to day activities but they are known for their special events, from their after hours events to family fun days to birthday parties and scouting events. Listen, do you hear that? That is the sound of wedding bells – you can even get married here!
You’ll want to be sure to visit at Christmas when you can see and pet live reindeer. It’s a perfect Christmas treat.
If raising money for great causes or road races are more your speed they have a variety of fundraisers throughout the year that appeal to everyone from the wine drinker to the runners to a garden party tasting event! You can feel good while having fun and who wouldn’t want that?
So put on your comfortable shoes, pack up a picnic, don’t forget your young naturalists, and head over to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Prepare to explore, discover and be amazed!
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