Greater Nashville boasts a bevy of nature centers that offer various programs year round ... and there’s no better time than spring to get outdoors and enjoy all they have to offer.
Have your kids ever seen 55,000 tulips in bloom in one place? They’ll get to this spring at Cheekwood, and that’s an increase of 33,000 more than last year! Woo-hoo! Go check ’em out, and let your kids experience all the other great nature centers in our backyard and enjoy some hands-on fun.
Beaman Park Nature Center
5911 Old Hickory Blvd., Ashland City
862-8580 • nashville.gov/parks/nature
Located in Northwest Nashville near Joelton, Beaman boasts a rugged sanctuary of natural beauty, offering programs that help kids connect with nature.
Bells Bend Outdoor Center
4187 Old Hickory Blvd., Nashville
862-4187 • nashville.gov/parks/nature
Part of Metro Parks, Bells Bend offers programs for all ages that range from geology to animal wildlife and nature hikes.
Bowie Park Nature Center
7211 Bowie Lake Road, Fairview
799-5544 • bowiepark.org
Families can embark on guided walks with naturalists to discover the flora and fauna in the area, or participate in one of many programs. The Nature Center and Outdoor Classroom play host to many nature-related activities for kids with topics including butterflies, ecology, wildlife, nature photography, tree identification and more.
Cheekwood (pictured above)
1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville
356-8000 • cheekwood.org
There’s no better place for spring than Cheekwood’s expansive botanical gardens (eight total) which display some of the most vibrant colors in the area. Be sure to visit in late March or early April when the spring tulips and daffodils are in their prime. Springtime programs for kids include exploration of the gardens combined with related hands-on art projects.
Discovery Center at Murfree Spring
502 S.E. Broad St., Murfreesboro
890-2300 • discoverycenteronline.org
The Discovery Center sits adjacent to the 25-acre Murfree Spring wetland. Stroll the quarter mile raised boardwalk and paved trail for a spectacular view of the area and wildlife. Kids love looking for tadpoles in the lily pad pond, and the center hosts a Nature Nuts program every Thursday as well as Wetland Walks on Fridays.
Longhunter State Park
2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage
885-2422 • tn.gov/environment/parks/LongHunter/
The Nature Circle is the park’s “learning adventure for young children.” Programs for ages 3 – 5 run twice a month May through August. The program includes stories, crafts and occasional animal visits.
Merritt Nature Center at
Cedars of Lebanon State Park
328 Cedar Forest Road, Lebanon
443-2769 • tennessee.gov/environment/parks/cedars/
The nature center features exhibits on geology and natural features of the park. Public programs include tours of the nature exhibits, wildlife video programs, nature hikes, fossil hunts and more. Spring is a great time to see the rare wildflowers.
Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary
545 Beech Creek Road, Brentwood
370-4672 • owlshill.org
Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary is situated on 160 acres of rolling hills adorned with deciduous forests and several species of local flora and fauna. The sanctuary for native species allows owls to educate as their nesting and migration patterns are tracked. Wildflowers, butterflies and bluebirds are among the sanctuary’s most popular subject matter as well. Owl’s Hill offers a variety of nature programs for children throughout the year.
Radnor Lake State Park
1160 Otter Creek Road, Nashville
373-3467 • radnorlake.org
The Environmental Education Center features a nature discovery room for children ages 4 – 10, a nature reference library and a wet laboratory that hosts public nature programs for all ages.
Shelby Bottoms Nature Center
1900 Davidson Drive, Nashville
862-8539 • nashville.gov/parks/nature
Nestled within Shelby Park, the nature center provides free monthly programs for kids of all ages that range from nature hikes to animal programs to ecology education.
Warner Parks Nature Center (WPNC)
7311 Hwy. 100, Nashville
352-6299 • nashville.gov/parks/nature
Nature enthusiasts of all ages will find a treasure trove of activities at WPNC. Housed on 2,684 acres of natural areas, the nature center itself is a year-round environmental education and recreation facility that features a museum showcasing the area’s geological and wildlife species. Nine different trails vary in length and ease, perfect for hiking and nature observation. WPNC is renowned for the programs it offers to kids of all ages throughout the year, most of them free.
Wilderness Station at Barfield-Crescent Park
697 Veteran’s Pkwy., Murfreesboro
217-3017 • murfreesborotn.gov/parks
Tucked a half mile behind the park’s ball fields, the Wilderness Station’s goal is teaching wilderness and outdoor awareness as well as environmental education to kids of all ages. The 300 heavily wooded acres surrounding the station provide for nature education. A weekly Animal Encounters program teaches youngsters about critters native to Tennessee.