Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in the NYC Area

Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in the NYC Area

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Zoos, nature centers, and botanical gardens—oh my!

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Explore zoos, nature centers and botanical gardens in New York CityLong IslandWestchester CountyRockland County, and the entire New York Metro area. Read through our guide to find petting zoos, arboretums, nature preserves, farms and public gardens, all packed with fun nature activities for the whole family. Let your little ones loose to try their hands at zoo feedings and touch tanks, explore wooded trails, and learn about exotic plants. The spring season is the perfect time to explore the outdoors. Review our comprehensive  list of zoos, nature centers, and botanical gardens throughout the New York area, including the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Rockland County, Orange County, Westchester County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County.
  





Also see: Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in New Jersey, Staten Island, and Fairfield, CT 


Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in New York City

The Bronx 

Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx
718-367-1010
Hours (through Nov. 3): Monday-Friday 10am-5pm; weekends and holidays 10am-5:30pm
Admission: Total Experience Ticket: $36.95 adults; $31.95 seniors; $26.95 ages 3-12; free for children younger than 3; pay what you wish on Wednesdays. General Admission Ticket: $19.95 adults; $17.95 seniors; $12.95 children

Immerse yourself in an animal adventure with the tropical residents inside JungleWorld, get up close with lemurs and crocs in Madagascar!, and see the scaly, spectacular World of Reptiles! Plus, hop a ride on a camel, watch penguins and sea lions enjoy mealtime, and ride the Bug Carousel year-round. 

New York Botanical Garden
Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road
718-817-8700
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm and select holiday Mondays
Prices: Weekdays: $23; $10 children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2. Weekends: $28; $12 children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2.

The New York Botanical Garden is one of the largest gardens of any in the United States, containing more than one million plants. Kids can explore the world of plants by participating in Nature Explorers Programs, drop-in gardening activities, and more.

 

Manhattan

American Museum of Natural History: The Butterfly Conservatory
Central Park West at 79th Street, Upper West Side
212-769-5100
Hours: 10am-5:45pm daily through June 22
Admission: $28; $22.50 seniors and students; $16.50 children ages 2-12 (includes museum admission)

Enter a re-created tropical forest environment filled with more than 500 live butterflies.

Wildlife Conservation Society's Central Park Zoo
64th Street and Fifth Avenue, Central Park
212-439-6500
Hours (through Nov. 8): 10am-5pm Monday-Friday; 10am-5:30pm weekends and holidays
Admission: $12; $9 seniors; $7 children ages 3-12; free for children younger than 3

This zoo has daily feedings of the sea lions at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm. You can also visit penguins at the Polar Circle exhibit and see snow leopards. The exotic indoor Tropic Zone is home to many species of free-flying birds as well as reptiles and lemurs. Admission includes entry to the Tisch Children’s Zoo, where kids can feed and pet goats, sheep, llamas, and other domestic animals.

Central Park Zoo
Julie Larsen Maher
Flock to the Central Park Zoo’s Polar Circle exhibit to see king penguins. 

 

The Met Cloisters
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park
212-923-3700
Hours (March–October): 10am-5:15pm daily
Admission (suggested): $25; $17 seniors; $12 students; free for children younger than 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; check the website for upcoming events.

Conservatory Garden in Central Park
Central Park, entrance on Fifth Avenue at 105th Street, East Harlem
Hours: May 1-Aug. 31: 8am-7:30pm daily; September-October: 8am-6pm daily; November-February: 8am-5pm daily; March: 8am-6pm daily; April: 8am-7pm
Admission: FREE

This six-acre garden features French, Italian, and English designs. Seasonal plants include 40,000 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. Conservatory Garden tours are offered on Saturdays at 11am from April through October. Tours meet inside the Park at Vanderbilt Gate, Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th streets.

Manhattan in Bloom
Parks across Manhattan, such as Theodore Roosevelt Park, Riverside Park, and Jackie Robinson Park
Hours: April–September, daily, sunrise-1am
Admission: FREE

Every month, new flowers and trees bloom in these parks and others across the city. Plants such as crocus, daffodil, butterfly bush, Asiatic lilies, roses, Hollyhock, cherry trees, and many more can be seen and smelled by all.

 

Queens

Alley Pond Environmental Center
228-06 Northern Blvd., Douglaston
718-229-4000
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-4:30pm; weekend times vary, check the website
Admission: FREE; donations accepted

The center is an aquatic and terrestrial habitat and nature preserve that features a learning center and environmental laboratory. The center offers animal, science, and nature programs for both children and adults. The site also hosts weekly events, including nature walks, workshops, and an Evening with the Stars astronomy program. Pre-registration is required for all events. There is also a small live animal room that has a variety of smaller ambassador animals. 

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Grand Central Parkway, Whitestone Expressway (Between 111 Street and College Point Blvd., Park Drive E)
718-760-6565

At 897 acres, it’s the largest park in Queens, which means there’s plenty of recreational space. The park is home to the Queens Zoo, Queens Museum, Queens Botanical Garden, New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium (home of tennis’ U.S. Open), Queens Theatre, Citi Field (home of the Mets), an aquatic center, an ice rink, a carousel, seven playgrounds (including a wheelchair-accessible playground for kids with all abilities), and two lakes. In the summer, trees and flowers in bloom include the Cornelian cherry tree, forsythia, redbud tree, roses, and other planted beds. Paddleboat, kayak and bike rentals are also available in the park at Ederle Terrace.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Courtesy NYC Parks
The Unisphere was commissioned for the New York World's Fair of 1964-65. 

 

Forest Park
Myrtle Avenue, Union Turnpike, Park Lane South between Brooklyn-Queens County Line and Park Lane, Forest Hills/Woodhaven
718-235-0815
Hours: Dawn to dusk, unless otherwise posted
Admission: FREE, excluding golf course and carousel rides

In this large, multi-neighborhood park, there is a golf course, carousel ($3 per ride), seven playgrounds, a picnic area, hiking trails, and a walking and bike trail that weaves through the entire park. Visitors can also explore the park on horseback.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
After North Channel Bridge on 175-10 Cross Bay Boulevard, Broad Channel
718-318-4340
Hours: Trials open sunrise to sunset daily; visitor center open daily, 9am-5pm (summer hours).
Admission: FREE

A 1.75-mile loop trail features views of West Pond, Jamaica Bay, and an osprey nest. A shorter trail, a little less than a mile, features views of East Pond and bird life. There is a wide variety of programs offered at the site, including presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips, family programs, a monthly book club, and an annual lecture series; check the website for details.

Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main St., Flushing
718-886-3800
Hours: (April–October): Tuesday-Sunday 8am-6pm. November–March: 8am-4:30pm Tuesday-Sunday (free admission during the winter)
Admission: $6; $4 seniors; $4 students with ID; $2 children ages 4-12; free for children 3 and younger; free for all Wednesdays 3-6pm and Sundays 9-11am; group rates: 10 percent off for groups of 10 or more

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. The garden regularly hosts programs that demonstrate environmental stewardship, promote sustainability, and celebrate the rich cultural connections between people and plants. Children ages 2-14 can get involved in seasonal, hands-on gardening experiences year-round. Visit queensbotanicalgarden.org/kidsprograms for more information.

Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Glen Oaks
718-347-3276
Hours: Grounds open 10am-5pm daily. April through November: Hayrides ($2) and farmhouse tours offered weekends, 11am-4pm; farmer-led tours offered the first Saturday of the month.
Admission: FREE, except on special event days

The farm is the longest continuously farmed site in New York City. The site includes historic farm buildings, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard, and an herb garden. Each month offers new events and programs.

Wildlife Conservation Society's Queens Zoo
53-51 111th St., Corona
718-271-1500
Hours (spring/summer): Monday-Friday 10am-5pm; weekends and holidays 10am-5:30pm.
Admission: $8; $6 seniors; $5 children ages 3-12; free for children ages 2 and younger; free parking

Besides being home to a wide variety of wildlife—from penguins, to mountain lions, to Andean bears—that visitors can view at their leisure, the zoo also offers a walk-through aviary and 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. Plus, watch California sea lions Taylor and Butch 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
32-01 Vernon Blvd. (at Broadway), Long Island City
718-956-1819
Hours: 9am–sunset daily
Admission: FREE

This outdoor park features large-scale sculptures and hosts free weekly summer workshops for children, in which they can work with a different artist each week (workshop schedule is posted online). Popular family programs include Queens Green Day on June 2 and the Summer Solstice Celebration on June 21.

 

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Ave., Crown Heights
718-623-7200
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 8am-6pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm; Closed Mondays (but open Memorial Day and Columbus Day, 10am-6pm)
Admission: $15; $8 seniors and students; free for children younger than 12; free for all on Fridays from 8am-12pm and March-November. Combo tickets, which include admission to the Brooklyn Museum, are available for $25; $16 seniors and students; free for children younger than 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. Must-see May highlights include Bluebell Wood, the Lilac Collection, tulips in the Annual Border, and azaleas and wisteria in the Osborne Garden. Check bbg.org/bloom for updates on what’s in bloom. BBG also hosts nature-based educational programs and camps for young children and their caregivers year-round, including a children's garden program, discovery garden for kids, and summer camps.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Brooklyn Queens Expressway between Joralemon Street and Grace Court, Brooklyn Heights
212-639-9675
Hours: Open daily, dawn to 1am
Admission: FREE

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

Fort Greene Park
Myrtle Avenue and De Kalb Avenue between Washington Park and St. Edward’s Street, Fort Greene
718-722–3218
Hours: 5am-1am daily
Admission: FREE

Visit the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, which towers over the crypt where more than 11,000 people who died in the Revolutionary War are buried. The park also includes a basketball court, playgrounds, tennis courts, sloping hills, and majestic trees.

Prospect Park
95 Prospect Park West
718-965-8999 (events hotline) or 718-965-8951 (general info)
Hours: Park is closed 1-5am daily. Carousel re-opens on March 26 and operates 12-5pm Thursday-Sunday and holidays (through June 29). Lefferts Historic House is open 12-5pm Thursday-Sunday (through June). The Audubon Center is open Thursday-Sunday 12-4pm and Saturday-Sunday 10am-1pm (through June).
Admission: FREE park admission. Carousel is $2 per ride. Lefferts Historic House has a $3 suggested admission for adults.

This 585-acre park includes a 90-acre meadow, 60-acre lake, and Brooklyn’s only forest. It’s also home to four hiking trails; trail guides are available at the Audubon Center. The Audubon Center at the Boathouse, dedicated to wildlife preservation and natural education, hosts interactive nature programs for kids and adults, including scavenger hunts, bird watching tours, opportunities to see animal feedings, and nature play activities. Lakeside transforms the southeast corner of the park into a popular scenic and recreational destination. Lefferts Historic House is located in the park’s Children’s Corner, near the carousel and Prospect Park Zoo (see following entry), and encompasses a working garden, historic artifacts and documents, and 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. 

Wildlife Conservation Society's Prospect Park Zoo
450 Flatbush Ave., Prospect Heights
718-399-7339
Hours (through Nov. 6): Monday-Friday 10am-5pm; weekends and holidays 10am-5:30pm
Admission: $8; $6 seniors; $5 children ages 3-12; free for children younger than 2

Meet 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.


Julie Larsen Maher
Visit the sea lions in the Sea Lion Court and watch them do training sessions daily.

 

Salt Marsh Nature Center
3302 Avenue U, Marine Park
718-421-2021
Hours: April-November: Saturday-Sunday 12-4pm
Admission: FREE

The center houses nature exhibits and fish tanks for viewing. It serves as starting point for walking tours and workshop sites for nature-themed educational programs.

Underwood Park
Lafayette Avenue between Waverly and Washington avenues, Clinton Hill
Hours (April-September): 5-1am daily
Admission: FREE

As one of Brooklyn’s most blossom-filled parks, Underwood features daffodil, forsythia, flowering dogwood, mountain laurel, rose, butterfly bush, black-eyed Susan, and more in the spring and summer seasons. The park has two playground areas and public chess and checkers tables.

 

Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in Westchester, Orange, and Rockland Counties

Rockland County

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland Education Center
10 Patriot Hills Drive, Stony Point
845-429-7085
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm
Admission: FREE tour of the gardens on the last Sunday of each month (April–October) at 1pm; prices vary for other educational programs.

The Master Gardener Volunteers of Rockland County design 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. Educational programs for children include 4-H youth development, gardening classes and workshops, and a horticulture lab.

Rockland Lake State Park
299 Rockland Lake Road, Valley Cottage (pool entrance: 153 Rockland Lake Road)
845-268-3020
Hours: Dawn to dusk
Admission: FREE. Pool: $3. Parking is $8 from early 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 eagles, water birds, and songbirds. The park has a 3.2-mile bicycle path. The pool will open on May 27 and be open weekends and holidays through Sept. 4 (also open weekdays, 10am-5:45pm, late June through late August). Pets are not permitted May through September 30. Pets are permitted on leash (maximum 60’) through March, but pets are not permitted on paved paths.

 

Orange County

Bear Mountain Trailside Museums and Zoo
Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades Interstate Parkway and Route 9W (55 Hessian Lake Drive, Highland Falls)
845-786-2701 x265
Hours: 10am-4:30pm daily
Admission: FREE, but $1 donations are appreciated. Parking is $10.

Enjoy paved walking trails, scenic views of the Hudson River, and learn about plants and animals native to New York State. All the animals here 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.

Hudson Highlands Nature Museum
Outdoor Discovery Center: 120 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, 10am to dusk. Wildlife Education Center is open Friday-Sunday 12-4pm year-round. Outdoor Discovery Center visitor center is open weekends, 10am-4pm. Admission: Wildlife Education Center: $3; free for children 2 and younger. Outdoor Discovery Center: $3; free for children younger than 2.
Admission: Wildlife Education Center: $3; free for children 2 and younger. Outdoor Discovery Center: $3; free for children younger than 2. Event and program costs vary.

The Nature Museum includes the two centers listed above, 3 miles apart, along with pond, field, and woodland hiking trails. Visitors can participate in weekly interactive programs, events, and activities, all with a basis in environmental education and conservation, for toddlers, adults, and everyone in between. The Outdoor Discovery Center is the home base for the museum’s Young Naturalist Preschool, Summer Science and Nature Camp, and Grasshopper Grove, the Hudson Valley's first nature playground. The Wildlife Education Center houses live native animals, where visitors can get an up-close look at the wildlife at the Meet the Animals programs on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 2:30pm. They can also learn and play in the new Birds on the Wing interactive exhibit in the Ogden Gallery.

Grasshopper Grove
Courtesy Hudson Highlands Nature Museum
Kids can play in Grasshopper Grove, the nature play area that allows them to connect with the outdoors.

 

Sterling Forest State Park
116 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo
845-351-5907
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily. Visitor center is open 8am-4:30pm daily.
Admission: 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. Lectures and hikes are led by the nonprofit organization Friends of Sterling Forest.

 

Westchester County

Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak
35 Alexander St., Yonkers
914-377-1900 x12
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm year-round; weekend hours vary based on events
Admission: FREE, but donations are appreciated. Program prices vary.

Center for the Urban River at Beczak features a riverside park, sandy beach, and tidal marsh. It offers educational programs for children, adults, and groups about rivers, local beaches, marshes, fish, birds, and the weather. The Interpretive Center presents interactive exhibits, seasonal displays, and an aquarium with Hudson River species.

Cranberry Lake Preserve
1609 Old Orchard St., West Harrison
914-428-1005
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily. Nature lodge and front gate are open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-4pm (July–August: Monday-Friday 9am-3pm, closed weekends).
Admission: FREE

This 190-acre park includes a variety of habitats, including a 4-acre lake, cliffs and scrubland, mixed hardwood forest, vernal pools, and a pond. 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 grades.

Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale
914-723-3470
Hours: Grounds: daily, dawn to dusk. Indoor exhibits: Monday-Thursday, 9:30am-4:30pm; Fridays (April-October), 9:30am-1pm; Saturday-Sunday,10am-4:30pm.
Admission: $7; $6 seniors and students; $5 children ages 2-12; free for children younger than 2

The Greenburgh Nature Center is a nonprofit nature preserve and wildlife refuge with a mission to ignite passion, curiosity, and respect for our natural world. Its 33-acre property includes hiking trails, a pond, organic garden, nature discovery playground, native plant meadow, and more than 100 rescued and rehabilitated animals. It also offers nature and sustainability education programs, seasonal camps, and weekly programs for kids.

Greenburgh Nature Center
Courtesy Greenburgh Nature Center
Visitors can connect with wildlife at family-friendly events around the nature center.

 

Lasdon Park, Arboretum and Veteran’s Memorial
2610 Amawalk Road (Route 35), Katonah
914-864-7263
Hours: Park and Veteran's Memorial is open 8am-4pm daily. Veteran’s Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-3:30pm, May–November. Garden Shop hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-3:30pm. Year-round.
Conservatory admission: Monday-Friday: $5; $2 for children 12 and younger; Saturday-Sunday: $7; $3 for children 12 and younger

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 dinosaur 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 veterans. The park offers botanical art classes, a plant sale, a Halloween train show in October, and a Christmas train show in December. There is also a summer concert series Friday evenings in July, weather permitting.

Lenoir Preserve
19 Dudley St., Yonkers
914-968-5851
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm from September –June; Monday-Friday 9am-4pm from July–August. Trails open every day from dawn to dusk. 

The 40-acre nature preserve is home to many species of birds, plants, and trees from around the world. Summer is a prime time to visit the butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, and dragonfly pond.

Marshlands Conservancy
220 Boston Post Road, Rye
914-835-4466
Hours: Nature center: 9am-5pm daily and most holidays; call to confirm Friday openings (July–August: 9am-5pm, Monday-Saturday). Trails/grounds are open dawn to dusk daily.
Admission: FREE

The 147-acre wildlife sanctuary borders 23 acres of Jay property and is comprised of forest, meadow, salt marsh, and shore. There are 3 miles of trails and ½ 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 registration. The conservancy also offers a summer ecology program for children and a conservationist-in-training summer program for kids in grades 7-9.

Muscoot Farm
51 Route 100, Katonah
914-864-7282
Hours: 10am-4pm daily
Admission: FREE; small fee for groups.

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, wagon shed, farm museum, blacksmith shop, and 7 miles of diverse hiking trails. It is home to cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, horses, and pigs (visit the newborn animals in the spring for a special treat). Muscoot also offers a variety of programs and special events for families throughout the year, including a farmers market (10am-3pm every Sunday from May through October). Group tours are available, and farmyard visits and hayrides are available by reservation. Public hayrides are offered on Sunday afternoons ($2), weather permitting, May through October. Young Farmer’s Camp Program (grades 1-8) during summer gives children the opportunity to learn about the farm and the animals that reside on Muscoot. Children will collect eggs, milk cows, groom animals, and bake traditional Muscoot recipes.

Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary and Nature Center
100 Playland Parkway, Rye
914-967-8720
Hours: Trails open daily dawn to dusk; nature center hours 9am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday
Admission: FREE; parking fee in effect May-October

Three miles of trails navigate through the 179-acre sanctuary, which is full of diverse marine life, both plants and animals. The park also has views of Long Island Sound and Manursing Lake and a nature center building. Educational programs are offered through the nature center. Please call or visit the website for updates.

Rye Nature Center
873 Boston Post Road, Rye
914-967-5150
Hours: Trails open daily dawn to dusk; nature center hours 10am-4pm, Monday-Saturday
Admission: FREE; educational program costs vary; scholarships are available

With 47 acres of wildlife preserve, the Rye Nature Center has ponds, bee observation hives, and hiking trails. Kids ages 3½-13 can enroll in a summer ecology camp June-August, and preschoolers and kindergarteners can do a weeklong June Bug program to learn about animals on the trails throughout June. A Paddle Adventure kayaking camp is also offered during the summer for kids in eighth through 10th grades.

Sheldrake Environmental Center
685 Weaver St., Larchmont
914-834-1443
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily
Admission: Free for hiking; program fees vary

Located at the 60-acre Larchmont Reservoir, Sheldrake offers hiking trails and environmental programs for families and schools. The School Group programs combine in-class discussion with on-site visits to one of three local sites: Larchmont Reservoir, Sheldrake River Trails, or Dog Beach. At summer and vacation week camps, children explore the trails, investigate pond life, and search for animals in nature’s playground. Adults programs include composting and volunteer environmental education.

Teatown Lake Reservation
1600 Spring Valley Road, Ossining
914-762-2912
Hours: Nature Center is open 9am-5pm daily; trails are open dawn to dusk daily
Admission: FREE; program prices vary; $5 parking on weekends

This 1,000-acre nature preserve hosts nearly 15 miles of marked hiking trails. The nature center contains nature education exhibits and a variety of amphibians, birds of prey, mammals, and reptiles. Wildflower Island, a 2-acre island sanctuary located within Teatown Lake, is home to more than 230 native and endangered species of wildflowers; guided tours available (by reservation) Saturdays at 10am and 1pm, Sundays at 1pm from April through September. Teatown offers a Natural Science Summer Day Camp throughout the season in four two-week sessions, and mini camps are offered during school breaks.

Trailside Nature Museum at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Routes 35 and 121, Cross River
914-864-7322
Hours: Trails are open dawn to dusk daily; museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-4pm
Admission: FREE; car fees: $5 with Park Pass; $10 without Park Pass

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 40 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
914-722-1289
Hours: Monday, 11am-5pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 10am-3pm; Wednesday and Friday, 10am-5pm; and Saturdays and Sundays for birthday parties and special events. Trails open daily, dawn to dusk.
Admission: FREE, but donations are appreciated; program fees vary

The Weinberg Nature Center sits on 8½ acres of conservancy property and is home to an array of animals. There are student art displays, a toddler activity area, a rock, fossil, and mineral exhibit, as well as Native American lifestyle items. You can visit the Woodland Native American encampment with a wigwam, dugout canoe, and more for hands-on interactive activities. Weinberg also has an outdoor pre-release enclosure for squirrels. Weinberg’s trails include the Homestead, Discovery, Geology, and Terrell Trail.

Westmoreland Sanctuary
260 Chestnut Ridge Road, Bedford Corners
914-666-8448
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday, 10:30am-5pm. Trails are open dawn to dusk daily.
Admission: FREE

This 640-acre sanctuary features more than 7 miles of trails, plus 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
7 Buck Run, South Salem
914-763-2373
Hours: Call or register online to arrange a visit.
Admission: Varies 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 (online registration required).


Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens on Long Island

Nassau County

Clark Botanical Gardens
193 I. U. Willets Road, Albertson
516-484-2208
Hours: 10am-4pm daily
Admission: Donations appreciated

A 12-acre living museum and educational facility dedicated to understanding and appreciating the world’s plant life through horticulture, education, and research. Garden collections include conifers, roses, perennials, daylilies, wetland plants, rock garden plants, herbs, butterfly plants, medicinal plants, and more than a dozen collections of particular plant families. The garden offers regular programs for families and children (registration required).

Garvies Point Museum & Preserve
50 Barry Drive, Glen Cove
516-571-8010
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm; closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays
Admission: $4; $2 children ages 5-12; free for children younger than 5 with an adult

A 62-acre site set along Hempstead Harbor, Garvies Point has permanent exhibits and educational programs about Long Island and New York state geology and Long Island Native American culture and archaeology. Exhibits cover a variety of natural history subjects, including the glacial exhibit, which illustrates and explains the formation of contemporary land features. The Discovery Room is an interactive Native American-themed exhibit for kids in second grade and below.

Hofstra Arboretum
Hofstra University, Hempstead 
516-463-6623
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily
Admission: FREE

This 240-acre, nationally recognized arboretum houses more than 12,000 evergreen and deciduous trees that represent in excess of 625 species and varieties, including both Native American and rare exotic trees. Two acres of the campus are home to a distinctive bird sanctuary featuring hummingbirds and a naturalistic rock waterfall, which is currently closed.

LIU Post Community Arboretum
720 Northern Blvd., Brookville
516-299-3500
Hours: Dawn to dusk daily
Admission: FREE

Forty acres of the LIU campus is designated as an arboretum, which features more than 125 trees (some very rare). Each tree is labeled with interesting horticultural facts and origin information. The trees are located along a self-guided walking trail that encircles the campus’ main academic buildings. One of the landmarks along the trail is the breathtaking Tudor mansion that was once the home of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. The self-guided walking trail starts and ends at Hillwood Commons and takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. Pick up a free map at the Hillwood Commons Information Desk. 

Old Westbury Gardens 
71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury
516-333-0048
Hours: March 31-Oct. 31: Wednesday-Monday 10am-5pm
Admission: $12; $10 seniors; $7 children ages 7-17; free for children 6 and younger

This historical site features a Gold Coast mansion among 200 acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds, and lakes. Summer activities include outdoor concerts, the Long Island Scottish Festival (Aug. 25), and environmental educational programs that teach children about plants, wildlife, and agriculture.

Planting Fields Foundation
1395 Planting Fields Road, Oyster Bay
516-922-8600
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Admission: $8 per car, April 1 through Labor Day

This site is home to one of the few remaining Gold Coast estates on Long Island’s North Shore to retain its original 409 acres of historic buildings and landscape. Families can visit rolling lawns, formal gardens, hiking trails, and specimen plantings as well as the Camellia Greenhouse and the Main Greenhouse, which have seasonal displays. The grounds are both wheelchair- and stroller-accessible.

Science Museum of Long Island
1526 N. Plandome Road, Manhasset
516-627-9400
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30am-3:30pm
Admission: Varies by program

A science activity center located on the Leeds Pond Preserve, this museum offers hands-on science workshops and summer camps for children. All programs and workshops are by registration only.

Science Museum of Long Island
Courtesy Science Museum of Long Island
Kids can participate in fun and educational programs outdoors at the museum.

 

Tanglewood Park and Preserve
1 Tanglewood Road, Rockville Centre
516-764-0045
Hours: Park is open 9am-5pm daily; Center for Science Teaching and Learning is open Wednesday-Sunday 10am-4pm
Admission: Park is free; center is $5

The 17-acre park and preserve allows families to enjoy a lovely nature trail and a beautifully renovated brick walkway surrounding a pond. The pond permits fishing (children ages 16 and younger are not required to have a fishing license). Tanglewood also houses the nonprofit educational organization Center for Science Teaching and Learning, which hosts regular science learning programs for kids. Exhibits are closed until the fall.

 

Suffolk County

The Animal Farm Petting Zoo
296 Wading River Road, Manorville
631-878-1785
Hours: Weekdays 10am-5pm; weekends 10am-6pm through November
Admission: $14.95; $12.95 seniors and children ages 2-16; free for children younger than 2

This 10-acre park allows you to pet and feed most animals. See a large selection of rare and unusual monkeys, parrots, llamas, wallabies, reptiles, and other exotic animals. Bottle-feed baby pigs and hand-feed baby goats. There are also free pony rides, a musical puppet show, playgrounds, and the Safari Tour Train ($2.50).

Bayard Cutting Arboretum
440 Montauk Highway, Great River
631-581-1002
Hours: April-October: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; November-March: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm
Admission: FREE. $8 parking fee per car

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 trees. The arboretum is also home to many varieties of bird species.  

Bridge Gardens 
36 Mitchell Lane, Bridgehampton
631-238-3195
Hours: 10am-4pm daily
Admission: FREE

Bridge Gardens is a unique, five-acre public garden in the heart of Bridgehampton. Not only are there traditional gardens of seasonal flowers and herbs, 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 garden paths and enjoy its diverse plantings, including a rose garden and a water garden.

Brookhaven Ecological Site and Animal Preserve/Holtsville Park and Zoo
249 Buckley Road, Holtsville
631-758-9664
Hours: Through May 26: Monday-Friday 9am-3pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-3pm; May 27-Sept. 24: 9am-4pm daily
Admission: Parking department parking sticker and fees apply May-October 

The Brookhaven Ecological Site offers walking and exercise trails, a community gardening lot, and goats to feed at the Animal Preserve. Food is provided to feed the goats for 25 cents a handful. With more than 100 animals to see, the Brookhaven Ecological Site features American bald eagles, American black bears, bobcats, buffalo, and more. Children’s educational classes are available all year-round. This spring, children ages 3-5 can participate in gardening classes on select days. Please call or visit the website for more programs and information.

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve 
581 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown
631-265-1054
Hours: 8am-4pm Wednesday-Sunday, year round except holidays
Admission: FREE. $8 parking fee per car, April 7-Oct. 31. Interpretive program fee: $4; free for children 3 and younger

Most of the 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, trout fly fishing ($25 per session; must have a permit and proper fishing gear), and also operates a nature museum with wildlife displays and nature programs for children and adults. Must call and make a reservation for fly fishing and programs.

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium
1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor
516-692-6768
Hours: 10am-5pm daily; extended weekend hours (10am-6pm) June–August
Price: $6; $4 seniors and children ages 3-12; free for children 2 and younger

This 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, or feed the hungry trout.

Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium
Courtesy Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium 

Families can visit the Turtle Pond to see a variety of species.

 

Long Island Aquarium
431 E. Main St., Riverhead
631-208-9200 x426
Hours: daily, 10am-5pm (closed Christmas and Thanksgiving days).
Prices: Aquarium tickets (includes exhibition center): $29; $25 seniors; $22 children ages 3-12; free for children 2 and younger. Exhibition center: $10; $8 children ages 3-12 and seniors; free for children 2 and younger. Add-on fun: $6 (includes $5 arcade card, unlimited rides on Simulator Ride and Discovery Tower). Memberships available.

Features one of the largest all-living coral reef displays in this hemisphere, a 120,000-gallon shark tank, year-round sea lion shows, numerous touch tanks, butterflies from all over the world, and more than 100 exhibits and interactive experiences, including Shark Dive, Penguin Encounter, Pirate Snorkel, and Shark Keeper.

Long Island Game Farm Wildlife and Children’s Zoo
489 Chapman Blvd., Manorville
631-878-6644
Hours: May 23-Sept. 3: 10am-6pm daily
Price: $16.95; $14.95 children, seniors, and military personnel; free for children 2 and younger

The facility is home to a variety of animals including giraffes, kangaroos, cougars, lemurs and a variety of farm animals. 

Suffolk County Farm and Education Center
350 Yaphank Ave., Yaphank
631-852-4600
Hours: 9am-3pm daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter
Admission: Donations accepted

Youth development programs are available to children of all ages, including hands-on learning activities taught by professionals. The farm features a seasonal butterfly house, a nature explore classroom, weekend wagon rides, and an animal discovery area. Summer camp and birthday party options are also available for children all ages. Check the website for more information on programs.

Sweetbriar Nature Center
62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown
631-979-6344
Hours: Nature Center open 9am-4:30pm daily; Butterfly House open 10am-4pm daily (June through September)
Admission: Free for preserve (donations accepted). Butterfly House: $5; $3 seniors and children younger than 12; free for children 2 and younger

The center is located on 54 acres, with nature trails winding through diverse areas that include wetlands, fields, and forests along the Nissequogue River. It is home to a large wildlife rehabilitation center, public gardens, a nature museum, simulated rainforest room, and the Butterfly House that contains about 20 species of native North American butterflies and moths. There are also public programs, school break programs, scout programs, and birthday parties.

Uplands Farm Nature Sanctuary
The Nature Conservancy, Long Island Chapter, 250 Lawrence Hill Road, Cold Spring Harbor
631-367-3225
Hours: Grounds open dawn to dusk daily
Admission: FREE

The preserve offers visitors the chance to enjoy a variety of natural habitats and native species. Nearly 2½ miles of marked trail meanders from bird and butterfly meadows, through deciduous forests, and into a white pine-shaded ravine.The trail begins in the sanctuary's most popular attraction—the vast wildflower meadows which provide important habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including milkweed, goldenrod, and dozens of butterfly species. Bird species associated with this type of habitat are Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and Blue-winged Warbler. Groundhogs have also become common on the preserve, so visitors can look for them feeding along the edge of the meadow along the Daniel P. Davison trail.

 

From our sponsor:

The Wildlife Conservation Society Education department’s goal is to spark connections with animals and nature.  At the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and the New York Aquarium, we encourage children, teens, and families to conserve wildlife and wild places through our educational programs. For more information about our programs, please visit wcs.org/education/programs or call 1-800-433-4149. Five parks, endless opportunities!


RELATED: Zoos, Nature Centers, and Botanical Gardens in New Jersey and Staten Island


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