Are there any nature centers near me? In Georgia, there is no shortage of wonderful nature centers to experience, explore, and learn more about! Nature centers and preserves make learning about the outside world a fun, and family-friendly activity. And there are so many to choose from.
Here’s a list of some of the best nature centers and preserves I could find around our great state – plus one that’s so close to our state that it counts! Who knows? There could be one just minutes from you! Check out these Georgia outdoor spots that are perfect for outdoor fun and volunteer opportunities. We know you’ll have a blast!
CHATTAHOOCHIE NATURE CENTER
Rundown: The Chattahoochee Nature Center is one of the most popular nature centers in the state – and for a good reason! It’s got fantastic kid-friendly trails – including the awesome boardwalk trail, wonderful special events, gardens, a discovery center, zip-ling, kayaking, an artist gallery, and programs galore in this forest preserve.
Why you should go: CNC has this really cool nature exchange program, where you can bring in found natural items (rocks, pinecones, etc.) and earn points offering excellent learning opportunities. The points can be used to take home other cool natural items like gems, or seashells. Such a neat way to get everyone excited about their discoveries!
Take to the sky for a bird’s eye view of the zipline and ropes course. Make a reservation for guaranteed fun!
There are tons of cool, family-friendly events, so be sure to check out their calendar. Registration is now open for Family Canoe Days, Guided River Canoe Trips, and Date Night Trips!
There are also cool interactive exhibits offering hands-on learning opportunities. Visit the River Resource Kiosks, you will learn how you benefit from the river and how you can enjoy, rethink, and conserve it.
Location/Tips: Roswell. Open almost every day, except major holidays.
Cost: $15 for adults, $11 for seniors and teens, $9 for kids, two and under FREE.
DUNWOODY NATURE CENTER
Rundown: The Dunwoody Nature Center is perfectly awesome. They have interesting free workshops, fun family events (like a backyard campout or the Butterfly Festival!), an education center, free parking, the most awesome and unique playground in the woods, hammocks, unique swings, geocaching, hiking trails, a creek, a picnic area, mommy and me classes, and fun camps for kids.
Why you should go: There is so much to do, and their nature playground is one of our favorites! Or the tree swings! Right as you enter the center, you’ll see the tree swings to the left. These appear to be typical bench swings like you see on a southern porch, but they are BETTER. First, they are about half the length- perfect for one rear end or two kids squished together. Second, they SPIN in every direction. They were a huge hit for my kiddos! Take a rest in one of the forest hammocks! Deep in their forest, under the trees, hammocks can be found swinging in the breeze.
Location/Tips: Dunwoody. You can park at the center, or at the nearby ball fields at Dunwoody Park.
Cost: FREE to visit! There is a cost for classes and camps.
Read More: 22 THINGS TO DO AT DUNWOODY NATURE CENTER
CASCADE SPRINGS NATURE PRESERVE
Rundown: Cascade Springs Nature Preserve has a historic springhouse, remnants from a Civil War battle, hiking trails, and a waterfall – all in the middle of southwest Atlanta!
Why you should go: Besides the fact that this beautiful place is surrounded by the big city, it’s also very kid-friendly and dog-friendly!
Location: Southwest Atlanta on Cascade Road.
SAWNEE MOUNTAIN PRESERVE
Rundown: The Sawnee Mountain Preserve is 963 acres of beauty with a focus on conservancy that includes an interactive visitor center, 11 miles of awesome hiking trails, a cool “treehouse” in the woods, and picnic areas. They host special programs, like tree climbing and a climbing tower (extra cost), and guided hikes and craft workshops (free!). They also have camps, and homeschool and preschool programs. Our favorite part about the visitor center was watching the bees make their honey – so neat!
Why you should go: The hike to the famous “Indian Seats!” The Indian Seats is a natural rock formation at the top of the trail, where you can enjoy the beautiful views of the north Georgia mountains. Definitely worth the trip!
Hike the Indian Seats Trail to the summit of Sawnee Mountain, an outstanding overlook with beautiful, long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a great site for the locals looking for spectacular views of the North Georgia Mountains. This 4-mile trail is a moderate hike, so be prepared.
Location/Tips: Located in Cumming. Dogs are not allowed on the trails or in the preserve. The visitor center is closed on Sunday.
BLUE HERON NATURE PRESERVE
Rundown: The Blue Heron Nature Preserve is super awesome, mostly because it’s located in Buckhead! It’s definitely a hidden gem. BHNP offers a 3-mile Blueway Trail, which allows visitors to experience 30 acres of woodlands, wetlands, riparian areas, and meadows – all without leaving the city. This small loop trail is kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and offers awesome wildlife viewing – with beavers, deer, birds, and turtles being spotted here.
They offer camps during school breaks and in the summer, and they host homeschooling programs during the school year. They also host all sorts of neat events – like guided family-friendly hikes. And they recently built a new wildlife blind, for optimal animal viewing.
Why you should go: It’s location! Located on Roswell Road, this is definitely – as they say – a “haven for nature in an urban environment.”
Location/Tips: It’s located on Roswell Road in Buckhead, across from Pike Nurseries. There is a parking lot, and parking is free. It’s open to the public every day from dawn until dusk!
SANDY CREEK NATURE CENTER
Rundown: The Sandy Creek Nature Center is one of our favorite places! Their visitor center is a wonderfully-interactive place with amphibians, snakes, large aquariums full of fish and turtles, bees busily making their honey, and an interactive natural history exhibit. They have a wonderful resource library, and a planetarium!
They host summer camps, field trips, birthday parties, homeschooling classes, and many special events. They have four miles of walking trails, and they connect to both the Oconee River Greenway and Cook’s Trail. One of their trails leads to a log cabin that was built in 1815!
My kids love walking to the pond viewing area, or one of the side trails leading to the river to hunt for frogs and other wildlife. They have gardens, a boardwalk trail, and picnic areas.
Why you should go: Its visitor center is one of the best I’ve ever seen. There is so much to do there, and my kids never tire of it. There are buttons to push for animal noises, a “tree” to play in, and blocks for building. You can check out a “trail pack” from the visitor center to take with you on your hike – and it’s filled with all sorts of neat stuff, like binoculars to spy wildlife and native plants!
Location/Tips: It’s located in Athens. You should bring your kids’ scooters/bikes, because the main trail is paved, and you can just park them on the side to take the side trails to the river. Bring a picnic! Tuesday-Saturday from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM. Walking trails are open from sunrise to sunset daily.
Cost: FREE!! The camps and classes have an extra cost.
REYNOLDS NATURE PRESERVE
Rundown: The Reynolds Nature Preserve is a 146-acre preserve located in Clayton County with three miles of hiking trails through forests, wetlands, and around spring-fed ponds. They have a nature center with animals, and environmental displays. And they have old farm equipment, a spring house, a heritage garden, and a barn from 1867 on the property.
Why you should go: It is a beautiful area with awesome scenery, and it’s kid-friendly and dog-friendly! They host some fun programs – like building bird houses, or learning about snakes!
Location/Tips: It’s located in Morrow, in Clayton County. Fishing is not allowed in their ponds. It’s open 8 a.m. until dusk!
AUTREY MILL NATURE PRESERVE
Rundown: Autrey Mill Nature Preserve has 2.5 miles worth of trails that travel along creeks and through a hardwood forest. They have so many amazing activities going on all the time! They host birthday parties, homeschool and preschool programs, summer camps, and scout days. There are events for those in Pre-K to adults.
Their programs seem genuinely awesome – like an adopt-a-stream program where participants can learn about stream sampling. It’s a beautiful historic area, with so much to do!
Why you should go: They have a cell phone audio tour that will tell you all about the historic buildings and things you will experience along their trials. How cool is that?
Location/Tips: It’s located off Old Alabama Road in Johns Creek. It’s definitely a family-friendly and dog-friendly place! The Visitor Center and Farm Museum are open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am- 4 pm and Sunday 12 pm- 4 pm. Nature Preserve Grounds and Trails: Open daily 8 am to 9 pm.
DAVIDSON-ARABIA NATURE PRESERVE
Rundown: Arabia Mountain is part of this 2,550-acre natural area preserve in DeKalb County. There are miles of hiking trails, you can hike up Arabia Mountain, fish in Arabia Lake, or ride your bikes on the PATH trails. They also have a wildlife rehabilitation center, and a nature center!
This year the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve celebrates 50 years of stone! Look for special September events that celebrate the monadnock we call Arabia Mountain and the legacy of the Davidson family’s donation in 1972. For all the happenings visit the National Heritage Area Calendar of Events.
Why you should visit: Climbing Arabia Mountain is one of my kids’ favorite things to do. It’s like a miniature Stone Mountain. It’s a pretty easy climb, but the sense of accomplishment – from young kids especially – is huge!
If you visit in the spring, you’ll see the red diamorpha growing in pools at the top – and it’s so incredibly beautiful. The views from the top are amazing, and kids and adults alike will love all of the exploring there is to do up there.
Arabia Mountain also has a geocaching program called, Geo-PATH, along the entire 30 miles of the PATH biking/hiking trail – there are over 60 geocaches to find!
Location/Tips: It’s located in Lithonia, just off I-20. We like to bring our lunch along with us and eat at the top of the mountain!
Read More: ARABIA MOUNTAIN: FUN EXPLORING WITH KIDS
PHINIZY SWAMP NATURE PARK
Rundown: The Phinizy Swamp and Nature Park in Augusta is part of the Phinizy Center and offers guided hikes, bike rides, and other community events. There are many short, kid-friendly hikes, a fishing pond, a kid’s play area, and several boardwalk overlooks. You can bike ride on some of the trails and see lots of different types of wildlife – like alligators and snakes! They host birthday parties, summer camps, and homeschooling events, too!
Why you should visit: They have so many different, short, and kid-friendly trails to choose from! And they offer tons of events for the family, from guided full moon hikes to family campouts to story time and guided hikes for the little ones!
Location/Tips: Augusta. The park is free and open to the public every day from dawn until dusk.
NEWMAN WETLANDS CENTER
Rundown: The Newman Wetlands Center is a 32-acre site that has wetland hiking trails, a learning center with educational exhibits, and a picnic area!
Why you should go: They have neat nature and birding checklists for you to take while you explore – so fun for the kids! Their hikes are very family-friendly, and they have an awesome boardwalk trail that is handicap-accessible.
Location/Tips: It’s located south of Atlanta in Hampton. Dogs are not allowed. The trails are open every day, the visitor center is Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The gate entrance closes at 4:30 p.m.
DAUSET TRAILS NATURE CENTER
Rundown: Dauset Trails Nature Center is amazing! You can walk their animal trail and check out the rehabilitated wildlife they have rescued, and stop by their Visitors Center – which includes a room full of animals to see! There are plenty of birds of prey that call the nature center home after being harmed in their natural worlds.
They have a barnyard where you can visit their farm animals, a bridge where you can feed their fish, 17+ miles of trails for every type of hiker, and a picnic area overlooking a beautiful lake. There are mules, pigs, donkeys, cows, goats and chickens!
They also host camping trips for larger groups, and you can bring your horse and explore their horse trails! This place is extremely family-friendly, and a great stop if you’re headed south of the city.
Why you should go: It has all the animals, and is a total kids paradise! My sister took her kids this summer, and they voted it their favorite thing they did. A definite must-do.
Location/Tips: It’s located in Jackson (close to High Falls and Indian Springs state parks). Bring your lunch and spend the day! You’re going to be so happy you did. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. But be aware, no admittance is allowed after 4:00 p.m. No dogs allowed here.
CLYDE SHEPARD NATURE PRESERVE
Rundown: The Clyde Shepard Nature Preserve located in Decatur has hiking trails, geocaches, a seasonal pond, and outdoor classrooms for group use.
Why you should go: It’s basically in the heart of the city! And it’s extremely family-friendly. Two of their geocaches are geared specifically for kids.
Location/Tips: It’s located in Decatur, and you can walk there from a MARTA bus stop! There is street parking near the entrance.
Rundown: Okay, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center isn’t in Georgia – but it’s close, and it’s so good! This nature center is located in Chattanooga, and has so much to offer.
They have an arboretum where you can visit their gardens, they have beautiful, family-friendly hiking trails, you can rent a canoe and paddle down Lookout Creek, they offer guided tours, host special events – like a moonlight paddle, and are dog-friendly.
They also are home to many animals who have been injured, or cannot live in the wild – and they live in their Native Animal Exhibit or their Snake Tale Alley. They also host school programs, and scouting programs.
Why you should go: I mean, being able to see endangered animals is super cool, right? Reflection Riding hosts the 8th most endangered mammal in the world – the Red Wolf! I also think the fact they have so much to see and do is a definite plus. Visiting animals and canoeing in the same day? Can’t be beat!
Location/Tips: It’s located just over the Georgia border in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You could definitely make a weekend out of all the fun things to see and do there! Visitors must reserve a pass before visiting.
Cost: The Nature Center functions because of donations. They ask that guests consider a donation of $15 or more per car to help support their work and keep their campus safe and beautiful for everyone. Or consider being a member!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR GEORGIA ADVENTURE
- YOUR GEORGIA VACATION
- MORE ATLANTA ADVENTURES: 53+ Things to do in Atlanta
- ATLANTA PARKS: Best Playgrounds & Play Spaces For Kids in the Metro
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