UPDATE September 2015: This post is from 2013 and it is possible that it may contain some out-dated information. While this post should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, please be sure to check the Roaring Brook Nature Center website for details about things like hours and pricing.
Thank you to the Roaring Brook Nature Center for providing us with complimentary admission. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.
When I start to feel a chill in the air, it can sometimes be hard to motivate myself to take the kids outside.
I’ve got to bundle myself up, bundle them up, deal with potty training kids in multiple layers of clothing, and make sure everyone is happy and warm. Ugh.
Sometimes during the cold days of fall and winter it can be all too tempting to just stay inside. But, I’ve come to realize that getting outside, for at least a little bit of time, usually puts everyone in a much better mood.
So, one of my favorite fall outdoor adventures is a good old nature walk and when Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton invited us out for a visit, I was happy to head over the mountain to do a little OAAM scouting.
In 1964, the 100 acre farm adjacent to the center, Werner Farm, was donated to the State of Connecticut. This land became a public wildlife sanctuary and outdoor classroom complete with over 5 acres of nature trails and a birds of prey exhibit.
In 1973, the center became affiliated with The Children’s Museum located in West Hartford.
And in 2013, the Pike family made their first visit.
I plugged the directions into my GPS and had no problems finding the destination. It is located just a little ways off the main road, Route 44.
As we pulled into the parking area and found a spot, we couldn’t miss the Nature Center building.
My husband and I got the kids out of the car and we made our way inside the center. The parking lot is located right next to the main building so it was an easy walk with the kids from the car to inside.
Because my husband was with me and could help wrangle the kids, I didn’t bring a stroller. If you need one for a sleeping baby or a feisty one year old (like mine) it would be feasible to bring one inside. There is a small step up from the sidewalk to the front entrance, but it wouldn’t be a problem. The inside of the nature center is pretty small, though, so if it is busy it might be tough to maneuver a stroller inside. The best option for a baby for the outing would be a baby bjorn or similar carrier.
Inside the gift shop there were a variety of items available for purchase. Of course my little ones immediately made a bee-line to anything breakable. Fortunately my husband ushered them out of there quickly.
It is here that you can also get information on the nature center itself and the surrounding grounds. It is also here that you can pay the admission fee to visit the nature center.
The fee is $6 for adults and $4 for children. If you happen to be a member of The Children’s Museum, then entrance to the Roaring Brook Nature Center is free.
While we were in the gift shop I picked up a trail map. They also suggested I grab a copy of the scavenger hunt for the kids. There were two versions available based on difficulty level needed. I grabbed the easy one for my kiddos and headed out to explore the center.
The building is relatively small and has just a few exhibits.
The newest exhibit shows how changes in land use in Connecticut impacts the surrounding wildlife and plants.
The displays include beautiful work by local artists including Ted Esselstyn.
I did not recognize the artist’s name, but that is only because I am rather illiterate when it comes to local art. I did a little research to find out more about this artist and realized, I actually do know him. Well maybe I don’t know HIM but I definitely know his work (and you probably do too). Check out his list of projects. I think I will pay a little more attention to the art work next time I’m visiting Kidcity or one of our Connecticut Libraries!
Well, I don’t do his work any justice with my photography skills, but here are a few snapshots of the artistic work at Roaring Brook.
Interspersed in the exhibits were live animals that the kids could observe. One of the nature center employees even took an animal out so the kiddos could get a closer look.
There was also an exhibit displaying a replica of a Native American Longhouse. The kids really enjoyed this one and fortunately they weren’t tall enough to reach the fragile items in the exhibit’s upper section 🙂
Our last stop inside was a visit to the back room where there were even more animals on display. The day we were there was actually the day before their annual Hobgoblin Fair, so this room was arranged differently than normal, but we still got a chance to take a look at the animals inside.
Now, while we were all busy checking out the exhibits and the animals, Sparkles was busy with a task of her own. Come to find out, Sparkles is a scavenger hunt guru. This girl was laser focused on finding each item on her sheet.
And when she found four across and found out she got a prize (it was a bingo game), she was rather excited. (FYI, if your little one plays the scavenger hunt bingo game, just have them bring their completed game back to the gift shop to collect their prize.)
Once we had completed our tour of the nature center, it was time to head outside and check out the trails.
Since I always like to get my bearings before I get started, here is the trail map for reference.
It was suggested that we check out the Butterfly Garden which was right in front of the building and then, if we wanted a little more adventure, we should take the Werner Pond Trail (red trail).
One thing to note is that the trails are all FREE and open to the public. The only activity at Roaring Brook that has a fee, is the Nature Center itself. Everything else you can enjoy from dawn to dusk daily.
We headed on over to the Butterfly Garden. The trail was short, easy, flat and could easily accommodate a stroller. Unfortunately, given that it was the fall, there were no butterflies to be found in the butterfly garden. I look forward to coming back and checking them out next summer.
After we were done in the Butterfly Garden, we headed back towards the nature center and down a set of stairs to begin the Red Trail. The Werner Pond Trail or Red Trail was a 1/2 mile loop.
I’ll let Sparkles show you the markings . . .
Before we made it too far down the trail, we took a quick detour behind the Nature Center to check out their Birds of Prey exhibit. It was a little hard to see the animals, but the exhibit contained several birds including Owls (Sparkles’ favorite), a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Turkey Vulture. The Center is in the process of raising funds to expand and improve the birds of prey exhibit.
After our quick stop to see the birds, we headed back onto the trail.
Now this trail wasn’t very difficult. Like I mentioned previously, it was 1/2 mile long, but there were no steep climbs or overly treacherous terrain. It was, however, full of rocks to walk over and sticks and uneven ground to cross. A stroller would definitely NOT work for this trail (or probably any trail on the property given that the red trail is the easiest).
If you have a non-walker or early walker in your crew, I would suggest bringing a backpack carrier, baby bjorn, or something similar. My 2 1/2 year olds easily walked the whole trail but my 1-year-old was constantly falling over when she tried to walk.
They found sticks, leaves and acorns.
We went over two bridges.
And by the end of the trail, they were rather tired. They decided to take a little rest.
We made it back to the Nature Center and back to our car. There was a little picnic area on the side of the Nature Center building where we could have had lunch or a snack when we were done. My kids were worn out, though, and I wanted them to eat lunch in the car in an attempt to keep them awake until we got home and we could hopefully salvage their afternoon nap (this momma needs a little quiet time to write her blog posts!)
I’m looking forward to heading back out to Roaring Brook in the winter to see how the trails change once all of the leaves have fallen. It would also be tons of fun to visit after it snowed. How beautiful that must be.
Have you been to the Roaring Brook Nature Center? Have you tried any of the other trails? What did you think?
Phone: (860) 693-0263
- Nature Center
- Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 5 pm
- Sunday 1-5 pm
- Closed Mondays except July and August
- Walking trails are open daily from dawn to dusk
- Nature Center
- Adults: $6.00
- Seniors: $5.00
- Children: $4.00
- Members: FREE (Membership is through The Children’s Museum located in West Hartford)
- Walking trails are FREE
Parking is available in front of the Nature Center.
Tips and Things to Bring:
- Nature Center
- A stroller could be used in the nature center but the limited space inside may make it challenging.
- You can pay for the Nature Center admission in the gift shop area.
- While you are in the gift shop, grab a trail map and a scavenger hunt. For the little ones there is a scavenger hunt bingo. If they find four items across the kids can collect a small prize.
- The Nature Center has a family restroom (with a changing table) located in the main hallway inside.
- There are both real and fake animals in the center. Of course the real animals are kept safe and sound in their cage!
- Walking trails
- The butterfly trail in the front of the nature center is a quick, easy walk perfect for little ones. It can also accommodate a stroller if needed.
- The red trail begins at the bottom of the stairs in front of the nature center. The red trail is the easiest of the main trails.
- The red trail is about 1/2 mile long.
- A stroller would not work on the red trail. For non-walkers or early walkers bring a backpack carrier, baby bjorn or a similar device.
- You can find more information on the trails here.
- Bring a lunch. There are plenty of locations on the property where you can enjoy a lunch or snack. There is a picnic area right next to the nature center.
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