Where To Guide: Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in the New York City Area




Warmer weather is on its way, and the signs are all around us. As Old Man Winter grudgingly retires at the end of another long cold season, Mother Nature will announce her presence in spring's vibrant colors and that intangible feeling of new life and new beginning, stirring those of us who may have been stuck in hibernation to get outside and get active.

family at zoo; animal farm; goat; kids at the zooEmbrace the new season by paying a visit to a zoo or nature center in the New York metro area, many of which offer outdoor, nature-based activities for kids and adults alike. And while it might be true that April showers bring May flowers, 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 this month has all the information you need for a fun family outing to celebrate the great outdoors. 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 in these areas:

Manhattan; Brooklyn; Queens; Staten Island; Rockland County, NY; Westchester County, NY; Fairfield County, CT; and Nasssau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island.




American Museum of Natural History: The Butterfly Conservatory

Central Park West at 79th Street

212-769-5100; www.amnh.org

Hours: Open through May 31; 10am-5:45pm daily. Suggested admission: $24; $14 children ages 2-12; $18 seniors and students.

Enter a re-created tropical forest environment filled with more than 500 live butterflies. Timed entrance is available to the exhibit every 15 minutes; last timed entry is at 5pm.


Central Park Zoo

830 Fifth Avenue and 64th Street
212-439-6500; www.centralparkzoo.com
Hours (through October 31): Monday-Friday10am-5pm, weekends and holidays 10am-5:30pm. Price: $10, $7 seniors, $5 children ages 3-12, free children under 3.

This zoo is best known for the daily feedings of the sea lions at 11am, 2pm, and 4pm. You can also visit penguins and polar bears at the Polar Circle exhibit and meet snow leopards at the zoo's newest exhibit. The exotic indoor rainforest is home to endangered species such as Tamarin monkeys, Wyoming toads, thick-billed parrots, and red pandas.

Admission includes entry to the Tisch Children's Zoo, where kids can feed and pet llamas, bunnies, and a barnyard full of friendly animals.


The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park
212-923-3700; www.metmuseum.org/cloisters
Hours (March through October): Tuesday-Sunday 9:30am-5:15pm. Price: Recommended $20, $15 seniors, $10 students up to age 12 (some students receive free admission), free children under 12 when accompanied by an adult.

A medieval annex of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters were designed based on horticultural information found in medieval treatises and poetry, garden documents, and works of art. A central garden is set in a courtyard with arcaded walkways, while another garden area contains nearly 300 plant species that were grown during the Middle Ages. A third, smaller garden blooms with flowers through the fall.

The Cloisters regularly hosts programs and workshops for kids and families.


Conservatory Garden in Central Park

Central Park, entrance on Fifth Avenue at 105th Street
Hours: Open 8am-dusk daily. Price: FREE.

This six-acre garden features French, Italian, and English designs. In the French North Garden is the Three Dancing Maidens fountain. Seasonal plants include 20,000 tulips each spring and 2,000 Korean chrysanthemums each fall. An Italian Central Garden features crabapple trees, wisteria, and a lush lawn. The English style South Garden, planted to be enjoyed year-round, features the Burnett Fountain, depicting a young boy and girl based on characters from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Free tours start at the front gate each Saturday at 11am (April-October).



Manhattan in Bloom

Every month, new flowers and trees bloom in parks across Manhattan. Plants such as crocus, daffodil, butterfly bush, Asiatic lilies, roses, Hollyhock, cherry trees, and many more can be seen and smelled by all. Hours: April-September, daily. Price: FREE.

Click here for a list of what's blooming when and where.




Alley Pond Environmental Center

228-06 Northern Boulevard, Flushing

718-229-4000; www.alleypond.com

Hours (September-June): Monday-Sunday 9am-4:30pm; (July-August): Monday-Saturday 9am-4:30pm. Price: FREE.

The center is a wetlands habitat and nature preserve that features a learning center and environmental laboratory. Its mission is to promote awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the environment and the responsibilities associated with preserving the environment in an urban setting. The center offers animal, science, and nature programs at the Center at Alley Pond Park for students in prekindergarten through high school and adults.

The site also hosts monthly events, including nature walks, square dances, and Evenings with the Stars (an astronomy program).


Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway


At 1,255 acres, it's the largest park in Queens, which means there's plenty of recreational space. The park also encompasses the Queens Zoo, Queens Museum of Art, Queens Botanical Garden, The New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium (home of the U.S. Open in tennis), an aquatic center, a carousel, six playgrounds, and two lakes. Spring trees and flowers are in bloom, such as Cornelian cherry tree, forsythia, redbud tree, tulips, and horse chestnut tree, as well as roses and other planted beds in the summer.


Forest Park

Between Jackie Robinson Parkway and Park Lane South


Hours: Open daily 6am-1pm, unless otherwise posted. Price: FREE.

In this large, multineighborhood park, there is a golf course, multiple playgrounds, dog run, and a walking and bike trail that weaves through the entire park.


Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Between North Channel Bridge and Cross Bay Bridge on Cross Bay Boulevard

718-318-4340; www.nps.gov/gate

Hours: Visitor Center open 8:30am-5pm daily; park open sunrise to sunset, daily year-round. Price: FREE.

A 1.75-mile-long loop trail features views of the west pond, Jamaica Bay, and an osprey nest.


Queens Botanical Garden

43-50 Main Street, Flushing

718-886-3800; www.queensbotanical.org

Hours (April through October): Tuesday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday 8am-7pm. Price: $4, $3 seniors, $2 students and children, free children under 3; (November-March): FREE.

The Queens Botanical Garden includes the Queens Rose Garden, Green Roof Plant Collection, Fragrance Walk (shrubs, perennials, and bulbs that are especially fragrant during the growing season), Children's Garden, Bee Garden, and other thematic gardens and historic plantings. Visitors can see a variety of different plants in bloom each month; in April, view daffodils, Spanish bluebells, dog-toothed violet, and many more.

The garden regularly hosts programs that demonstrate environmental stewardship, promote sustainability, and celebrate the rich cultural connections between people and plants. Children can get involved by planting vegetables, herbs, and annual flowers in the Children's Garden during QBG's spring, summer, and fall Children's Garden sessions.


Queens Zoo

53-51 111th Street, Flushing

718-271-1500; www.queenszoo.com

Hours (April-October): Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, weekends and holidays 10am-5:30pm. Price: $7, $4 seniors, $3 children ages 3-12, free children 2 and under.

Besides being home to a wide variety of wildlife-from penguins, to giant rabbits, to Andean bears-that visitors can view at their leisure, the zoo also offers hands-on learning experiences for kids with an emphasis on wildlife conservation. Young children can also relax and explore in the Discovery Center, which offers projects and special activities along with a library full of animal themed storybooks and games, a microscope and fossils, and a crafts station.

Watch California sea lions Butch, Phoenix, and Howie flip for fish during their 11:15am, 2pm, and 4pm feeding times at the sea lion pool in the center of the zoo.


Socrates Sculpture Park

Broadway at Vernon Boulevard

718-956-1819; www.socratessculpturepark.org

Hours: 10am to sunset, daily. Price: FREE.

Socrates Sculpture Park is an outdoor park that features large-scale sculptures and hosts weekly workshops for children.

On April 25, 11am-2pm, the park will host Kite Flight, its 8th annual kite-making and flying event in conjunction with the Noguchi Museum.




Brooklyn Botanic Garden

1000 Washington Avenue

718-623-7200; www.bbg.org

Hours: Tuesday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Price: $8, $4 seniors and students, free children under 12.

A 52-acre "living museum" with various plant collections and special gardens, BBG strives to teach visitors the importance of plants in our everyday lives. In April, don't miss the magnolia trees in bloom on Magnolia Plaza, weeping cherries in the Japanese Garden, Sekiyama blossoms on Cherry Esplanade, and trout lilies in the Native Flora Garden. BBG also hosts nature based educational programs and camps for young children and their caregivers.

The garden's Earth Day Celebration will be held April 22, 3-5pm, in the Discovery Garden, where kids can pot a plant to take home.


Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Remsen Street to Orange Street, along the East River


Hours: Open daily. Price: FREE.

This scenic/historic walking area features views of Staten Island, Governor's Island, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, South Street Seaport, Fulton Fish Market, and the Brooklyn Bridge. From April through September, see spring and summer trees and flowers in bloom, featuring azalea, daffodil, forsythia, Japanese skimmia, lily-of-the-valley, tulip, coral bells, and more.


Fort Greene Park

Bordered by Myrtle Avenue, Cumberland Street, and DeKalb Avenue

718-722-3218; www.nycgovparks.org/parks/FortGreenePark

Hours: 9am-5pm daily. Price: FREE

At this park, visit the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument which towers over the crypt where more than 11,000 people that died in the Revolutionary War are buried.


Prospect Park

718-965-8999 (events hotline); www.prospectpark.org

A 585-acre park, including a 90-acre meadow, 60-acre lake, and Brooklyn's only forest. Hosts four unique hiking trails that vary in difficulty and length; trail guides are available at the Audubon Center.

The Audubon Center at the Boathouse, dedicated to wildlife preservation and natural education, houses the park's Visitor Center on the first floor, including a café and interactive exhibits, along with the Con Edison Discover Nature Theater and the Verizon Learning Lab on the second floor, where you can see live animals and more exhibits. It also hosts interactive, nature based programs for kids and adults. 718-287-3400.

Lefferts Historic House is located in the park's "Children's Corner," near the Carousel and Zoo (see below), and encompasses a working garden, historic artifacts and documents, as well as period rooms and exhibits. Visitors can engage in pre-Colonial activities such as candle making, sewing, butter churning, and children can engage in games played by their peers more than 100 years ago. 718-789-2822.

Hours for both (April 10 through May 31): Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm. Price: FREE.


Prospect Park Zoo

450 Flatbush Avenue

718-399-7339; www.prospectparkzoo.com

Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, weekends and holidays 10am-5:30pm (April-October. Price: $7, $4 seniors, $3 children ages 3-12.

Meet the zoo's mascots, a troop of Hamadryas baboons, and watch their antics; experience various types of animal habitats, including gardens, marshes, and scrubland; visit the Barn & Garden area, where you'll find farm animals like sheep, cows, and llamas; and watch some high-fiving sea lions catch fish on the fly at 11:30am, 2pm, and 4pm daily in the Sea Lion Court.

On weekends, kids can visit the zoo's Discovery Theater (at 12:30pm, 1pm, 2:30pm, or 3pm) for a close-up encounter with some of the zoo's inhabitants. They can also chat with the keepers and ask questions about their favorite animals at 11am and 3pm on weekends (meeting location posted at zoo entrance).


Salt Marsh Nature Center

3302 Avenue U

718-421-2021; www.saltmarshalliance.org

Hours: Thursday-Tuesday 11am-5pm. Price: FREE.

The center features a walking trail that runs along Burnett Street, which includes an observation deck overlooking the marsh where visitors can see migratory birds, ducks, and falcons. The center also houses exhibits and aquarium tanks for viewing.


Underwood Park

Along Washington Avenue, between DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues


Hours (April through September): Open daily. Price: FREE.

The second most blossom-filled park in Brooklyn, Underwood features daffodil, forsythia, flowering dogwood, mountain laurel, rose, butterfly bush, black-eyed Susan, and more, in season.    



Staten Island

Blue Heron Park and Nature Center

222 Poillon Avenue, Annadale

718-967-3542; www.preserve2.org/blueheron

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11am-4pm.

This 222-acre park surrounds wetland ponds, swamps, and streams which drain into the Raritan Bay. View the bird feeding station at the edge of the woodlands (visible from the Nature Center), which attracts a wide variety of local birds. Visit the Nature Library and its nature themed collection of guidebooks, books, and magazines, open daily (except Mondays). Participate in nature based educational programs at the Nature Center.

?Naturalist guided walks offered at 1:15pm and 2:15pm each Saturday and Sunday.


The Greenbelt

718-667-2165; www.sigreenbelt.org

The Greenbelt consists of 2,800 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. It features four major foot trails, each marked with their length and difficulty; and includes three easy-to-moderate trails ranging in length from 3.8 to 8 miles. Hours: Dawn to dusk. Price: FREE.

?The Greenbelt Nature Center

700 Rockland Avenue at Brielle Avenue


The center offers access to the hiking trails along with a variety of environmental education programs, summer camps, and other family friendly events and programs. Hours (April-October): Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm. Price: FREE.


Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

1000 Richmond Terrace

718-448-2500; www.snug-harbor.org

Hours: Grounds open dawn to dusk; gardens and galleries open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm. Price: For gardens and galleries: $6, $5 students and seniors, $3 children under 12. Gardens only: $5, $4 students and seniors, free children under 12. Galleries only: $3, $2 students and seniors, free children under 12.

Snug Harbor's 83-acre park-like setting contains gardens, museums, theaters, educational opportunities, and seasonal festivals. It includes a Chinese Scholar's Garden, Tuscan Garden, and several other gardens, each of which feature aesthetic and functional flora.

?Features regular educational programs for kids as well as group tours.


Staten Island Zoo

614 Broadway

718-442-3100; www.statenislandzoo.org

Hours: 10am-4:45pm daily, closed major holidays. Price: $8, $6 seniors, $5 children ages 3-14, free children under 3; free parking.

The zoo's mission is to instill in visitors, especially children, an understanding and appreciation of living creatures, through programs, camps, and various other events. Visitors can view small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and tropical fish in the zoo's exhibits.

? The zoo will host an Earth Fair in honor of Earth Day on April 24. The event will feature zookeeper talks, environmental programs, displays, face painting, crafts, and more.



Rockland County, NY

Bear Mountain Trailside Museums and Zoo

Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades Parkway and Route 9W

845-786-2701, ext. 265; www.trailsidezoo.org

Hours: Open daily, 10am-4:30pm. Price: FREE; donations appreciated. Parking is $7.

At the Trailside Museums and Zoo, enjoy paved walking trails, scenic views of the Hudson River, and learn about animals native to New York State. All the animals are either permanently injured or orphaned and would not be able to survive in the wild. Trailside has four museums. The Reptile and Amphibian House is home to turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, salamanders, and skinks, as well as many species of fish. The Nature Study Museum houses specimens originally created by the Museum of Natural History to educate people about animal identification. Visitors can learn about geologic formations of the Hudson Highlands in the Geology Museum and local Native American and early settler culture in the History Museum.

?On Saturday, April 24th (Raindate: April 25th), the Trailside Museums and Zoo will host an Earth Day Celebration. Enjoy earth friendly family activities throughout the zoo. 10:30am-3pm. FREE.


Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland Education Center

10 Patriot Hills Drive, Stony Point

845-429-7085; www.gardening.cornell.edu/education/mgprogram/demogardens/rockland.htm

The Master Gardener Volunteers of Rockland County designed and maintain eight demonstration gardens at the CCE Rockland Education Center, including ferns, herbs, ornamental grasses, native plants, a cutting garden, and a container garden. The Master Gardener Volunteers hold a free tour of the gardens at 1pm on the last Sunday of the month from April through October; children are welcome.

?In April, CCE Rockland will launch its Junior Master Gardener program for children in grades 3 to 5. For more information, contact Donna Cooke at 845-429-7085, ext. 108.


Hudson Highlands Nature Museum

Outdoor Discovery Center, 100 Muser Drive, across from 174 Angola Road, Cornwall; 845-534-5506

Wildlife Education Center, 25 Boulevard, Cornwall-on-Hudson; 845-534-7781


Hours: Trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: FREE.

The nature museum includes the two centers, 1.5 miles apart, along with pond, field, and woodland Quest hiking trails. Discovery Quests are interactive hikes utilizing Quest Guidebooks with hidden messages for each hike. Quests are open on weekends, May 1 through October 31. The Quest Visitor Center is open Saturday and Sunday, 9am-2pm. Quest Guidebooks cost $5 at the Visitors Center.

?The museum also offers exhibits, nature programs for children and adults, an evening speaker series, and the Summer Nature Camp for children ages 4-12.


Matterhorn and The Gardens at Matterhorn

227 Summit Park Road, Spring Valley

845-354-5986; www.matterhornnursery.com/gardens.php

Hours: Open Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. Prices for gardens: $5, $4 seniors, $2 children 12 and under, free children under 3.

This nursery and garden center has award-winning gardens to explore, including the Formal Garden, Fern Garden, Hosta Garden, and Folly Garden. The Garden Center Village, consisting of 38 acres of display gardens, natural ponds, and shops, is reminiscent of a European village.


Rockland Lake State Park

Route 9W, Congers

845-268-3020; http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/81/details.aspx

Hours: Open dawn to dusk. Parking is $6 from mid-April through late October.

Rockland Lake State Park's lake is located on a ridge of Hook Mountain above the west bank of the Hudson River. It is home to many species of fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, and birds such as raptors, water birds, and songbirds. The park has a 3.2-mile walking path.


Sterling Forest State Park

116 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo

845-351-5907; http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/74/details.aspx

Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk; the Visitor Center is open daily from 8am-4:30pm. Price: FREE.

The park offers a variety of hiking trails with scenic views of hills, valleys, and lakes. The Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center overlooking Sterling Lake features exhibits about the local environment and history. On weekends, the park offers walks and talks led by park educators and rangers. Educational programs for school groups and other organizations can be arranged by appointment.


Skylands/New Jersey Botanical Garden

2 Morris Road, Ringwood, NJ

973-962-7527; www.njbg.org

Hours: Open daily 8am-8pm. Price: Admission is FREE. Parking is $5 on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

At Skylands, visitors can wander through formal gardens or along paths through the woods and see unusual plant species from around the world. Skylands' specialty gardens include the Annual Garden, Perennial Border, Crab Apple Allée, Wildflower Garden, Lilac Garden, Peony Garden, and Octagonal Garden. Free guided garden tours are available 2pm on Sundays from May through October. The botanical garden also offers tours especially designed for kids ages 8-12. Visitors can also take guided tours of the 1920s Tudor Revival Skylands Manor House for $5, $3 for seniors, $1 for children ages 6-18.

?Manor tours will be offered on Sunday, April 11, and Sunday, May 2, from 11am to 3pm.



Westchester County, NY

Beczak Environmental Education Center

35 Alexander Street, Yonkers

914-377-1900; www.beczak.org

Hours: Interpretive Center open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm. 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

914-428-1005; http://parks.westchestergov.com

Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-4pm. 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 ages 4-12.


Croton Nature Center

Croton Point Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson

914-862-5297; http://parks.westchestergov.com

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 4 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.

?There are year-round interpretive programs, presentations, and exhibits.


Greenburgh Nature Center

99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale

914-723-3470; www.greenburghnaturecenter.org

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/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.

?Trees: Heroes of Our Planet is on exhibit through October 3.

?The center will hold a free Earth Day event on Sunday, April 18, from 1-3:30pm, when families can help the center prepare its gardens, clear the trails, and learn about sustainability practices. 


Lasdon Park, Arboretum and Veteran's Memorial

Route 35, Somers

914-864-7263; http://parks.westchestergov.com

Hours: Open daily, 8am-4pm. Veteran's Museum only open on weekends. Garden Shop: March-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 and Culture Garden, the Famous and Historic Tree Trail, the 22-acre Mildred D. Lasdon Bird and Nature 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.


Lenoir Preserve

19 Dudley Street, Yonkers

914-968-5851; http://parks.westchestergov.com

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. The preserve also offers a summer ecology program for children ages 4-12.


Marshland Conservancy

Route 1, Rye

914-835-4466; http://parks.westchestergov.com

Hours: Nature Center: Wednesday-Sunday and most holidays, 9am-5pm. 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.


Muscoot Farm

51 Route 100, Katonah

914-864-7282; http://muscootfarm.org

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 1st-8th grade.


Read Wildlife Sanctuary and Nature Center

Playland Parkway, Rye

914-967-8720; http://parks.westchestergov.com

Hours: Nature Center: Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: FREE. Parking is $4 weekdays, $5 weekends from May-October. 

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 more than 5,000 ducks. There are three miles of trails through forest and field, and along the shoreline. The Nature Center houses small exhibits on local ecology and provides checklists of seasonally distinct bird species and maps.


Rye Nature Center

873 Boston Post Road, Rye

914-967-5150; www.ryenaturecenter.org

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, butterfly house, and a museum with 25-30 animals including birds, snakes, gerbils, flying squirrels, and honeybees. 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.

?The center will hold an Earth Day celebration on April 22. Check the Web site for more information.


Sheldrake Environmental Center

685 Weaver Street, Larchmont

914-834-1443; www.sheldrakecenter.org

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.

?Check the Web site for events during Green Week (last week of April), which culminates in the center's Spring Festival on May 2, featuring nature activities, live animals, and music.


Teatown Lake Reservation

1600 Spring Valley Road, Ossining

914-762-2912; www.teatown.org

Hours: Open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm. Trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: FREE; program prices vary.

Teatown Lake Reservation's 834-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 variety of activities, programs, and events for adults and children.


Trailside Nature Museum at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation

Routes 35 and 121, Cross River

914-864-7322; www.trailsidemuseum.org

Hours: Trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Museum open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday, 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 Web site.

?The museum offers interpretive nature programs for children and adults, and the reservation offers a summer ecology program for children ages 4-12.


Weinberg Nature Center and Trailside Museum

455 Mamaroneck Road, Scarsdale

914-722-1289; www.weinbergnaturecenter.org

Hours: Spring: Wednesday-Sunday 9am-5pm; Summer: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: FREE; 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.

?On Saturday, April 24, from 12-5pm, the Earth Day Green Fair will demonstrate to visitors how to become more environmentally conscious in their everyday lives.


Westmoreland Sanctuary

260 Chestnut Ridge Road, Bedford Corners

914-666-8448; www.westmorelandsanctuary.org

Hours: Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday10:30am-5pm. The trails are open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: FREE.

This 630-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

South Salem

914-763-2373; www.nywolf.org

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. The center is home to an ambassador pack of four gray wolves that visitors can observe in spacious natural enclosures.

?A variety of age appropriate daytime and evening programs for children and adults are offered.



Fairfield County, CT

Audubon Center of Greenwich

613 Riversville Road, Greenwich

203-869-5272; www.greenwich.audubon.org

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset. Price: $3, $1.50 children and seniors.

The Audubon Center's walking trails span 7 miles and 285 acres, past lakes, ponds, and rivers. The center also has bird blinds, a place to watch for birds where they can't see you, including many species of hawks.


Bartlett Arboretum

151 Brookdale Road, Stamford

203-322-6971; www.bartlettarboretum.org

Hours: Open daily, 8:30am to sunset. Price: $6.

The arboretum features extensive gardens and a collection of plants and trees, as well as hiking trails in the woodlands nearby.


Connecticut Audubon Society

Birdcraft Museum

314 Unquowa Road, Fairfield

203-259-0416; www.ctaudubon.org  

Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9am-1pm.  Price: suggested admission $2, $1 children.

The six-acre sanctuary contains hiking trails, including the Connecticut Women's Heritage Trail. The museum also hosts wildlife exhibits and dioramas.


Nature Center

2325 Burr Street, Fairfield

203-259-6305; www.ctaudubon.org  

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-3pm. Price: suggested admission $2, $1 children.

The birds of prey compound is a viewing area for raptors. The center also includes a sanctuary and wigwam replicas, and is home to animals like blue-tongued skinks, snakes, turtles, and millipedes.


Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo

1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport

203-394-6565; www.beardsleyzoo.org

Hours: Open daily 9am-4pm; closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Price: $11, $9 seniors and children ages 3-12, free children 2 and under.

The zoo includes the New England Farmyard, Wolf Observation Learning Facility, and South American Rainforest exhibits, with more than 300 animals representing mainly North and South America. Plus, keep a lookout for the peacocks wandering about! Also make sure you stop by to see Naka, the zoo's newest addition: a 275-pound female Amur (Siberian) tiger who recently arrived from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.


Darien Nature Center

120 Brookside Road, Darien

203-655-7459; www.dariennaturecenter.org

Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-4pm, Saturday 9am-1pm, Sunday 11am-2pm. Price:  FREE; donation suggested.

The center features a small trail system, ideal for kids; a pond with ducks, as well as rotating exhibits and a constant exhibit with more than 40 animal species.



10 Woodside Lane, Westport

203-227-7253; www.earthplace.org

Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 1-4pm,  grounds open 7am till dusk daily. Price: $7, $5 seniors and children under 12, free admission to grounds.

With a mission to educate the community about nature and the environment, Earthplace offers 62 acres of wildlife sanctuary, which includes hiking trails, an interactive natural history museum with live animals, and public nature programs and events. For kids, there's the Explorer's Clubhouse, Tiny Tree House, Nature Lab, Backyard Resource Center, and Nature Theater.


Nature Conservancy's Devil's Den Preserve

33 Pent Road, Weston

203-226-4991; www.nature.org

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset. Price: FREE.

The preserve offers more than 20 miles of trails, acts as a habitat to about140 bird species, and holds the remains of charcoal and lumber production sites. The area is deeply wooded, with rock formations, streams, and swamps.


New Canaan Nature Center

144 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan

203-966-9577; www.newcanaannature.org

Hours: Visitor Center and Greenhouse: Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm; Birds of Prey, Arboretum, and Gardens: dawn to dusk daily. Price: FREE.

The center includes two miles of hiking trails on the grounds, which include wet and dry meadows, two ponds, wet and dry woodlands, dense thickets, an old orchard, and a cattail marsh. The center also encompasses seven aviaries in its Birds of Prey exhibit, an arboretum full of native and nonnative trees, several specialty gardens including a Wildflower Garden and The Bird and Butterfly Garden, and a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse featuring exotic species of flora.

The center hosts a variety of nature based family and youth programs, like its Spring Break Nature Program, April 7-9.


Pee Wee Horse Farm

5 Silver Hill Road, Easton

203-268-9994; www.peeweehorsefarm.com

Hours: Daily 9am-2:30pm. Price: Lessons and trail rides are $40/person (check or cash only).

The farm offers 30-minute lessons and 45-minute trail rides for kids ages 8 and older, as well as an orchard ride to Slatys Tree Farm, which includes an orchard and pine forest. Walk and trot rides only.


Stamford Museum & Nature Center

39 Scofieldtown Road, Stamford

203-322-1646; www.stamfordmuseum.org

Hours: Vary based on events and attraction. Price: $8, $6 seniors and students, $4 children ages 4-17, free children 3 and under. Planetarium: $3, $2 children ages 5 and up. Observatory: $3, $2 children.

The center is a New England working farm with heirloom breeds of animals, an otter pond, an observatory with a 22-inch research telescope, changing exhibition galleries,  a planetarium, early education classrooms, and a vast hardwood forest with 80 acres of hiking trails.



Suffolk County, Long Island

The Animal Farm Petting Zoo

296 Wading River Road, Manorville

631-878-1785; www.afpz.org

Hours: Open weekdays 10am-5pm, weekends 10am-6pm. Price: $13.50, $11.50 seniors and children ages 2-16, free children under 2.

At the zoo, see a large selection of rare and unusual birds, monkeys, llamas, reptiles, and other exotic animals. Hold and bottle-feed baby cows, goats, pigs, and lambs. There are also pony rides, turtle train rides, a Super Cow musical puppet show, and Safari Tour Train.

Bayard Cutting Arboretum

440 Montauk Highway, Great River

631-581-1002; www.bayardcuttingarboretum.com

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm.  Price: FREE.

Located along the Connetquot River, the arboretum contains more than 690 acres of meadows, centennial oaks, and brightly colored nature walks among rhododendron and swamp cypress. Don't miss the Pinetum-it has one of Long Island's largest collections of fir, spruce, pine, and hemlock. The arboretum is also home to many varieties of bird species.

For information on classes and programs, visit www.bcahs.net.


Bridge Gardens Trust

36 Mitchell Lane, Bridgehampton

631-537-7440; www.gardensoflongisland.com

Hours (late May through late September):Wednesday and Saturday 2pm-5pm. Price: FREE.

Bridge Gardens Trust is five acres of lush Long Island landscape. Not only are there traditional gardens of seasonal flowers and herbs, but there are also unique garden mazes, a knot garden, and beds of culinary, medicinal, ornamental, textile, and dyeing herbs. Learn how herbs and plants are cultivated and used in kitchens, hospitals, and factories. Walk through the woodland paths, smell the lavender and roses, and view the water garden.


Caleb Smith State Park Preserve

Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown

631-265-1054; www.nysparks.com

Hours: Trails open 9am-5pm daily. Price: FREE.

Most of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve's 543 acres are undeveloped, allowing views of its many different habitats, including freshwater wetlands, ponds, streams, fields, and woods. The preserve is a refuge for wildlife and its diverse habitats support a variety of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and ferns. It offers hiking opportunities and also operates a nature museum with wildlife displays and nature programs for children and adults.


Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium

1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor

516-692-6768; www.cshfha.org

Hours: Open 10am-5pm daily, closed Easter Sunday. Price: $6, $4 seniors and children ages 3-12, free children under 2.

The nonprofit center is dedicated to educating visitors about the freshwater ecosystems of New York. It has the largest living collection of New York State freshwater reptiles, fish, and amphibians. Tour two aquarium buildings and eight outdoor ponds, feed the hungry trout, or try the Catch and Keep Fishing.


Long Island Game Farm Wildlife and Children's Zoo

638 Chapman Boulevard, Manorville

631-878-6670; www.longislandgamefarm.com

Hours (April 1-28): Thursday and Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm; open daily starting April 29. Price: Off-season (before May 24 and after September 6): $15.95, $13.95 seniors and children ages 3-11, $9.95 handicapped, free children under 3. Memorial Day through Labor Day (May 27 through September 4): $17.45, $15.45 seniors and children ages 3-11, $9.95 handicapped, free children under 3.

"Please touch" is the motto at Long Island's largest zoo and encounter park. There are hundreds of animals, including an 18-foot giraffe, red kangaroos, kinkajous, cougars, peacocks, and the only lemurs born and bred on Long Island. Pet-able animals include ducks, rabbits, ponies, and turtles. Pony rides are also available.


Sweetbriar Nature Center

62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown

631-979 6344; www.sweetbriarnc.org

Hours: Preserve open 8:30am-4:30pm daily; butterfly and moth vivarium open 10am-4pm daily (in season). Prices: FREE, donations accepted. Butterfly House: $3, $2 seniors and children under 12.

The center is located on 54 acres, with nature trails going through diverse areas that include wetlands, fields, and forests along the Nissequogue River. It is home to a large rehabilitation aviary, public gardens, working farm, and the Butterfly House (open June through September) that contains more than 20 species of native North American butterflies and moths.


Uplands Farm Nature Sanctuary

The Nature Conservancy, Long Island Chapter

250 Lawrence Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor

631-367-3225; www.nature.org

Hours: Grounds open daily, dawn to dusk. Price: FREE; donations appreciated.

At the sanctuary, you can walk trails through 97 acres of fields; the marked, mostly level trails make this a good place for family friendly hikes. Red maple, black cherry, red cedar, and hickory trees are in the eastern woodlands, while tulip trees, black birch, and maple-leaf viburnum are in the western woodland. The fields and hedgerows provide habitats for a wide variety of animals, including birds, small mammals, and 40 species of butterflies.


White Post Farms

250 Old Country Road, Melville

631-351-9373; www.whitepostfarms.com

Hours: Starting March 26, open daily 10am-5pm. Starting in early November, the Farm is open indoors with a new schedule. Price: $8; free children under 16 months old.

White Post Farms is home to a large playground and numerous animals, including zebra and buffalo.  Families can also go shopping at the Farm Market, which offers local produce and home-b