9 Best Nature Centers in Virginia!

While there is no shortage of natural wonder in Virginia, many residents simply don’t have the time to take a weekend off to enjoy the view. These 9 nature centers sprinkled throughout the state offer some of the best opportunities to take in the natural Virginia charm on an afternoon with the family, no tent equipment required. 

Chesapeake Bay Center at First Landing, Virginia Beach, VA

Enjoy the Bay like never before in this “environmentally-focused, interactive Visitor Information Center in First Landing State Park.” First Landing is where the original settlers landed in 1607, and the mission of the center is to recreate through historical exhibition, fine art, aquariums, and environmental exhibits a similar experience. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., this is a great day-trip for the whole family. 

Audubon Naturalist Society Rust Sanctuary, Leesburg, VA

The Audubon Naturalist Society, named for famed bird watcher and chronicler John James Audubon, continues his legacy of making nature enjoyable and accessible for all. The Rust Sanctuary offers free training and programming regarding the watershed process. The sanctuary is situated on 68 acres of forest, ponds, and meadows in which one might encounter any number of wildlife. The sanctuary is open seven days a week. 

Broadlands Nature Center, Broadlands, VA

The Broadlands Nature Center is over 5,000 square-feet of natural wonder. Events are hosted throughout the year for residents to enjoy the flora and animals that live in the center. This center is part of a greater planned community, which means potential new Virginia residents should consider moving here if proximity to nature is important to them. 

Gulf Branch Nature Center, Arlington, VA

The Gulf Branch Nature Center is situated in a park setting and provides “interpretive environmental education programs for all ages.” In addition, the center offers a pollinator garden in which natives can garden. The Blacksmiths Guild of Potomac hosts open meetings on the first and third Friday at the center. Check the website for a full listing of their ever-changing events. 

Maymont Park, Richmond, VA

The center “holds close to 30,000 gallons of aquaria that showcase many of the animals, aquatic and terrestrial, that inhabit the waters and land of the James River and Chesapeake Bay.” In addition, the Discovery Room offers an up-close look. The Animal Encounters on Saturday and Sunday also lets visitors see the animals up close and personal. 

Rockwood Nature Center, Chesterfield, VA

The Rockwood Nature Center is a log cabin-style center that offers programs to explore nature for all ages. “Preschoolers can have their first encounter with wildlife and explore the forest. Adults and families can learn about the snakes of Virginia or hear tales around a campfire. Boy and Girl Scouts can bear badges, and teachers and home-school parents can enlist a naturalist for their nature studies.” Sports, such as archery and letterboxing, are also available for groups. 

Virginia Living Museum, Newport News, VA

The Virginia Living Museum is an open-air museum that combines the aquarium, zoo, botanical garden and science museum experience in one. The main exhibits showcase native Virginian animals and plants. The Virginia Living Museum has so much to offer, it might best be split over two days.

Riverbend Park, Great Falls, VA

With over 400 acres of forest, meadows, and ponds, the Riverbend Park is a little known gem. The park is open form 7 a.m. until dusk, but make sure to take a look at the posted hours. Enjoy nature links with wonderful bird watching, picnic areas, and regular programing. Bring your kayak and canoe to enjoy “exploring the many islands of the Potomac River.” 

James River State Park, Gladstone, VA

The James River State Park preserves the Kanawha Canal, and offers visitors over 15 miles of biking, hiking, and horseback riding, in addition to the regular wildlife views. Primitive campgrounds are on-site and open year-round, which is good, because if you visit you might not want to leave. The nature center is great, but make sure to spend time enjoying the rest of the park, too!

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3401 Courthouse Road, Richmond, VA
Rockwood Nature Center is the only county-operated nature center in Chesterfield County. The log cabin-style facility is nestled by the forest in R... Read More
1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, VA
Our Mission: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden provides education to the community about the plant world, promotes the best in horticulture and landsca... Read More
4308 Hermitage Road, Richmond, VA
Bryan Park, located on the city's Northside, is another of Richmond's historic parks. The entrance to the park is located near the I-95 interchange... Read More
2201 Shields Lake Drive, Richmond, VA
A first visit to Maymont is best started at the Robins Nature & Visitor Center—Maymont's front door-but a history lover will soon find a ... Read More
4000 Pilots Lane, Richmond, VA
HistoryEstablished in 1922 Forest Lawn is a place of beauty and serenity, with more than 200 acres of well-cared-for lawns, flowering shrubs, state... Read More
400 Sausiluta Drive, Richmond, VA
Three Lakes Park and Nature Center bring together the three worlds of air, water, and land for visitors to explore. The Nature Center is a 6,500 sq... Read More
780 University Boulevard, Harrisonburg, VA
The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum (Arboretum) is a 125-acre urban botanical preserve located within the city of Harrisonburg and the campus of James M... Read More
963 Ross Road, Lexington, VA
MissionTo educate and inspire people of all ages to become successful stewards of the Earth.GoalsTo develop and administer year-round activities, p... Read More
400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce, VA
The State Arboretum of Virginia (also known as the Orland E. White Arboretum) occupies the central 172 acres of Blandy Experimental Farm. Started i... Read More
26320 Ticonderoga Road, Chantilly, VA
About Us Welcome to Our Garden The National Botanic Garden is dedicated to education and research, connecting adults and children to nature. This ... Read More
5040 Walney Road, Chantilly, VA
Walney Visitor Center is a public park facility which offers educational exhibits, programs and information to over 30,000 visitors per year. Situa... Read More
8511 Greeley Boulevard, Springfield, VA
Acres of undisturbed woodland, quiet trails, splashing streams and a tranquil pond are just a few of the reasons to visit Hidden Pond Nature Center... Read More
21085 The Woods Road, Leesburg, VA
The word "banshee" is a Gaelic term for a female spirit and the word "reeks" is a Gaelic term for hills and dales. Legend has it that around the 18... Read More
901 Amherst Street, Winchester, VA
MissionThe mission of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is to preserve and enrich the cultural life and heritage of the Valley.HistoryThe Museum ... Read More
5535 Centerville Road, Williamsburg, VA
Our mission is to enhance the life of residents and visitors by promoting beautiful gardens for the enjoyment of plants and the environment through... Read More
11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA
The Walker Nature Center is the heart of Reston’s 1,300 acres of open space. The Center provides a variety of educational and recreational re... Read More
7701 Royce Street, Annandale, VA
Hidden Oaks Nature Center, minutes inside the Beltway, features a pond and an interactive exhibit ideal for children two years and up. Located in t... Read More
3200 Mt Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA
George Washington oversaw all aspects of the landscape at Mount Vernon. He extensively redesigned the grounds surrounding his home, adopting the le... Read More
6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA
Mason District Park is located at 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale. It has playing fields, a large natural area, a hiking trail, play ground and tot... Read More
3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria, VA
 The Huntley Meadows Visitor Center is a great place for a meeting, training or team building. The multi-purpose room can be set up with table... Read More
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