Embrace the warmer season by paying a visit to a zoo or nature center in Westchester County, NY, many of which offer outdoor, nature-based activities for kids and adults alike. There's already plenty in bloom at area botanical gardens, with sights and smells for all to enjoy. If you're looking for something less structured, leave your plans behind for the day, pack up the family, and head to the park where you can lay out a picnic, play a game of catch, or just soak in some rays (don't forget the SPF!) on the newly sprouted grass.
Our guide has all the information you need for a fun family outing to celebrate the great outdoors in Westchester County, NY. So, if you've thawed out enough, put a spring in your step and hop to some seasonal fun at any one of the locations below.
Beczak Environmental Education Center
35 Alexander Street, Yonkers
914-377-1900 ext. 12
Hours: Interpretive Center open Monday-Sunday 9am-5pm through October. Price: Free; donations appreciated.
Beczak features a riverside park, sandy beach, and tidal marsh. It offers educational programs for children, adults, and groups about local beaches, marshes, fish, birds, and the weather. The Interpretive Center presents interactive exhibits, seasonal displays, and an aquarium with Hudson River species.
- Note: The Interpretive Center also serves as a classroom; call before visiting to make sure no activities are in session.
Cranberry Lake Preserve
1609 Orchard Street, West Harrison
Hours: Open Wednesday-Sunday 10am-5pm. July-August: Open 9am-5pm daily. Price: Free.
This 190-acre park includes a variety of habitats, including a four-acre lake, cliffs and scrubland, mixed hardwood forest, vernal pools, and a swamp. Visitors can follow the History Trail to the remains of a 19th-century farmhouse and early 20th-century stone-mining operation. The Nature Center offers free family oriented nature programs on most weekends and houses a variety of interactive, educational displays.
- The preserve also offers a summer ecology program for children in first through ninth grade.
Croton Point Nature Center
Croton Point Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson
Hours: Open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: Free; parking is $8 per vehicle.
Located at the northwest tip of the 504-acre Croton Point Park, with four miles of Hudson River shoreline to explore, the center displays exhibits on local flora and fauna (including Hudson River specimens), local and Native American history, and offers hands-on activities.
Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale
Hours: Grounds open daily, dawn to dusk. Indoor exhibits open weekdays (except Fridays) 9:30am-4:30pm, weekends 10am-4:30pm. Price: $7; $6 seniors and students; $5 children ages 2-12; free children under 2.
The nature center is a 33-acre woodland preserve with trails, a pond, gardens, and a variety of habitats. Its indoor exhibits include a live animal museum with more than 100 specimens, a greenhouse with a variety of plants from all over the world, and a large exhibit room with changing natural history and nature related art exhibits.
- The Way of Water is on exhibit through October.
Lasdon Park, Arboretum and Veteran's Memorial
Route 35, Somers
Hours: Open daily, 8am-4pm. Veteran's Memorial open on weekends. Garden Shop: Open March through Christmas, Wednesdays-Sundays 11am-3:30pm. Price: Free.
This 234-acre property consists of woodlands, open grass meadow, and formal gardens with flower and shrub specimens from all over the world. The park includes the William and Mildred Lasdon Memorial Garden, the azalea garden, the 4-acre Chinese Friendship Pavilion, the Famous and Historic Tree Trail, the 22-acre Mildred D. Lasdon Bird Sanctuary, Garden Shop, and four memorials and a museum honoring Westchester veterans.
- The park offers botanical art classes, a plant sale in May, and outdoor concerts and a children's program in the summer.
19 Dudley Street, Yonkers
Hours: Nature Center open September through June, Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm; July and August, Monday-Friday 9am-4pm. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: Free.
This 40-acre nature preserve is comprised of woodlands and field habitats, the Beverly E. Smith Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden, and a nature center featuring various exhibits.
- Overlooking the Hudson River, Lenoir hosts Hawk Watches for viewing hawk migrations in spring and autumn.
Route 1, Rye
Hours: Nature Center: Tuesday-Sunday and most holidays, 9am-4pm. Call to confirm Friday openings. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk.
The 173-acre wildlife sanctuary is comprised of forest, meadow, salt marsh, and shore. There are three miles of trails and one-half mile of shoreline along the Long Island Sound. The nature center displays a small number of changing exhibits and saltwater aquaria containing representative species of marine life and offers environmental programs to schools and other groups by advance reservation.
- The conservancy also offers a summer ecology program for children ages 4-12, and a conservationist-in-training summer program for kids in junior high school.
51 Route 100, Katonah
Hours: Open daily, 10am-4pm. Price: Free; groups must pay a small fee.
Originally a "gentleman's farm," Muscoot is comprised of the original barns and farm buildings, including the main house, dairy barn, ice house, corn crib, and wagon shed, the farm museum, vegetable garden, and seven miles of diverse hiking trails. It is home to cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, horses, and pigs; a special treat is a visit to the newborn animals in the spring. ? Muscoot also offers a variety of programs and special events for families throughout the year; a farmer's market, 10am-3pm every Sunday from May through October; and a Young Farmer summer camp for children entering first through eighth grade.
Read Wildlife Sanctuary and Nature Center
Playland Parkway, Rye
Hours: Nature Center: Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: Free.
This 179-acre sanctuary is home to a great diversity of marine life and has been recognized by the national Audubon Society of New York as an Important Bird Area due to its significant habitats and flyway. In winter months, the 85-acre lake hosts up to 5,000 ducks. There are three miles of trails through forest and field and along the shoreline.
Rye Nature Center
873 Boston Post Road, Rye
Hours: Grounds and trails open daily, dawn to dusk; Butterfly House open May-October, dawn to dusk. Price: Free; donations appreciated.
The center is located on 47 acres of wildlife preserve, with more than two miles of hiking trails, a 14-station self-guided trail, and a museum with 25 to 30 animals including birds, snakes, gerbils, flying squirrels, and honeybees. The butterfly house/community garden will be open by summer and will be available to the public from 10am-4pm. Grab a bird or wildflower checklist to keep track of sightings on the trails. There is also a full range of environmental education programs and activities for children, adults, and groups.
Sheldrake Environmental Center
685 Weaver Street, Larchmont
Hours: Open Monday-Friday 9:30am-5pm. Price: Free for hiking; program fees vary.
Located at the 60-acre Larchmont Reservoir-James G. Johnson, Jr. Conservancy, Sheldrake offers hiking trails and environmental programs for families and schools.
Teatown Lake Reservation
1600 Spring Valley Road, Ossining
Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm. Trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: Free admission; program prices vary.
Teatown Lake Reservation's 875-acre nature preserve hosts nearly 15 miles of marked hiking trails. Its Nature Center contains nature education exhibits and a variety of amphibians, birds of prey, mammals, and reptiles. Wildflower Island, a two-acre island sanctuary located within Teatown Lake, is home to more than 230 native and endangered species of wildflowers.
- Teatown offers a Natural Science Summer Day Camp throughout the season in two-week sessions.
Trailside Nature Museum at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Routes 35 and 121, Cross River
Hours: Trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Museum open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday 9am-4pm. Price: $2 suggested donation.
Museum exhibits focus on aspects of the natural world along with the human history of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation and the surrounding area. Specimens of birds, mammals, plants, insects, and minerals are on display. The reservation features a wildflower garden behind the museum and 35 miles of hiking trails through a variety of habitats. You can pick up a trail map at the museum or download it from the website.
- The museum offers interpretive nature programs for children and adults.
Weinberg Nature Center and Trailside Museum
455 Mamaroneck Road, Scarsdale
Fall/winter/spring hours: Wednesday 10am-2pm; Thursday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm. Summer hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: Free but donations appreciated; program fees vary.
This wildlife sanctuary consists of a meadow, fruit orchard, woodlots, swamp, a Japanese-style Zen garden and a Woodland Indian Village with several trails surrounding the Trailside Museum. The museum features permanent and rotating exhibits, including a live animal exhibit with more than 15 different animal species. The center offers programs and events for adults and children.
260 Chestnut Ridge Road, Bedford Corners
Hours: Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday10:30am-5pm. The trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: Free.
This 640-acre sanctuary features more than seven miles of trails, and a museum and nature center. The sanctuary offers public programs for children and adults such as seasonal nature hikes, bird walks, turtle study, and pond study.
The Wolf Conservation Center
Call or register online to arrange a visit; prices and hours vary by program.
The Wolf Conservation Center promotes wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. Visitors can observe gray wolves in spacious natural enclosures.
- A variety of age-appropriate daytime and evening programs for children and adults are offered. Pre-registration online is required.
See our complete guide: Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in the New York Metro Area