Thank you to the New Canaan Nature Center for allowing us complimentary admission to their Family Nature Adventures program for the purpose of writing this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
During the “Summer of Two”, there was an eternally long, insufferable, heat wave. It forced us to seek solace in FREE air conditioned play spaces in Fairfield County – this is when we first discovered the New Canaan Nature Center. Now that we are on the verge of the “Winter of Five,” it is still one of our favorite local places to find adventure. Perhaps this is the reason I was so happy to discover that they are now offering Family Nature Adventures on the first Saturday of every month.
The New Canaan Nature Center was founded in 1960 on a 40-acre site that was given to the town as a gift from the former estate of Miss Susan Dwight Bliss for the study of nature, horticulture, and related sciences. Their philosophy is to “strive to create a deeper understanding and concern for the natural world through programs and exhibits that stress enjoyable and active, hands-on learning.”
Honestly, if this beautiful setting wasn’t enough to grab your attention, you had this teacher-mom at “active, hands-on-learning.” We were fortunate enough to partake in some of this hands-on-learning during our program, but I’ll tell you all about that in a little bit.
As you drive down the long , tree-lined, driveway you will find the main parking lot and Visitor Center – this is a relatively new structure and houses the Nature Gift Shop, bathrooms, administrative offices and Discovery Center.
The Visitor Center is a great first stop to get your bearings when visiting the Nature Center.
When you walk in there is a large desk with all sorts of information available for you! You can find pamphlets about upcoming events, programs, camps, what the naturalists have seen on the trail that day, trail maps and just about every other piece of information your heart can desire.
Behind the desk are large doors that lead to the field and trails. Before you head out the doors, make sure you check out the Discovery Packs and binoculars. They are FREE to borrow and are filled with all kinds of goodies to make a trip on the trails a hands-on adventure.
Right outside these doors you will also find large nets to borrow for catching frogs at the pond.
To the right of the desk, you will find the bathrooms.
To the left of the desk, you will find the Nature Shop and the Discovery Center.
The Discovery Center is where we waited out the heat wave all those years ago. The room frequently houses rotating exhibits and always has different activities set up for children to discover and enjoy.
We were a bit early for our program, so we hung out here for a bit, waited for our friend, Mr. S, to join us. We played until it was time to head over to the Education Building.
The Education Building is a separate facility that is about a 1 minute walk from the Visitors Center. This building houses a preschool as well as classrooms for Summer Camps, Birthday Parties, Scout Troops, and many other community events. It is also where our Family Nature Adventure took place!
If they gave out badges for parenting, I would have earned my “my kid didn’t have to sit with me” badge for this program. The room was set up with rows of chairs for adults and children. Miss C and Mr. S proudly walked off to the kids section and left the moms sitting all by our lonesome. I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty awesome! I found myself wishing I had a cup of coffee in my hand so I could thoroughly enjoy this mom milestone.
The Environmental Educator had and interactive slide show prepared to explain how animals prepared for winter.
Miss C had TONS of questions. As I watched her from afar, I quickly realized that she was that kid that raised her hand to answer everything and had a question about every 30 seconds. She was so excited to share what she had learned about hibernation and animals at school with the whole group! And by excited, I mean she was practically dancing in her seat and bursting at the seams to share every single thing that was going through her mind about animals. And, it was a lot – but, the Educator answered every question with grace and patience.
After the slide show, they brought out a few real live animals to touch. Miss C and Mr S happily waited in line to get up close and personal with a variety of animals. We got some up-close viewing of animals we had just learned about – birds, bunnies, and a lovely little snake.
The program lasted a little over an hour, so afterwards, we headed outside to enjoy the beautiful day. Although we had just learned all about how to prepare for the winter, it was a beautiful, sunny, warm fall day and Mr S and Miss C were ready to do a little exploring.
The Center encompasses a 40-acre site which includes a Children’s Play Garden located at the top of the hill.
This is one of my favorite play spaces in Fairfield County – it features a variety of different elements designed to inspire creative play. There are sensory garden beds, an “eagle’s nest”, a giant climbing rock, and a boxwood maze.
I love watching my daughter explore this non-traditional playground. The lack of obvious playground equipment (swings, slides, etc . .) encourages creativity and exploration. In fact, while exploring the Play Garden, Miss C discovered the most perfect little bird’s nest.
Miss C and Mr. S were having such a fun time exploring the Play Garden, that we only got to explore a portion of the Nature Center. There are also two miles of hiking trails to enjoy, a Birds of Prey exhibit, and a variety of gardens. It is an absolutely perfect place to spend a few hours with our friends and family discovering something new about nature, and exploring this beautiful piece of Fairfield County.
Our Family Nature Adventure was a perfect reminder that with the proper attire, we can keep enjoying the great outdoors even in these colder months.
Ally Noel is a regular contributor to Out and About Mom. She is a mom, a wife and an educator living in Norwalk, CT. Her personal blog, LuCk, includes everything from play-based learning activities to unique party and playdate inspiration. Browse all her Out and About Mom posts here. Find out more about Ally here.
Upcoming Family Nature Adventures:
|Family Nature Adventures: Wildlife CSI|
|Saturday, December 3|
|10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.|
|Don’t miss your chance for outdoor family fun on the First Saturday of every month!
This December, using problem solving skills and tracking tools provided by the NCNC Naturalists, observe the animal clues left behind at the scene of a natural “crime.” Do you have what it takes to solve this eco-mystery who-done-it? Join us to find out!
|This program is perfect for ALL ages and ALL members of the family. This is not a drop off program – all children must be accompanied by an adult.
(Rain or shine)
Spaces are limited & advanced registration is highly recommended.
Register now to reserve your space
Breakfast with the Animals
Saturday, January 7 • 9:00AM-11:00AM
Have you ever wondered what the animals are eating for breakfast? Join us for this one-of-a-kind opportunity to enjoy YOUR breakfast at NCNC and then help feed the animals their breakfast too!
Adopt-a-Tree Program Kickoff
*Saturday, February 11 • 10:00AM, 11:30AM or 1:00PM
Adopt a maple tree for the season! Learn about and participate weekly in the entire syrup making process, from sap collections to boil downs! Through this 4-6 week program, you’ll experience a connection with nature and learn about an age-old New England tradition.
Members AND Non-Members: $75/family or Group
Family Boil Down
Saturday, March 4 • 10:00AM-12:00PM
Have you ever wondered where Maple Syrup comes from? Grab the entire family and meet the NCNC Naturalists out at our Sugar Shack to learn how we turn Maple Sap into delicious Maple Syrup! Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the Green or stop by the Visitor Center to warm up.
Mianus River Gorge Hike!
Saturday, April 1 • 9:30AM-12:30PM
Meet our Naturalists at the first Nature Conservancy land project for a healthy & invigorating spring hike. This two-mile loop will take us through old farmland and along the forested banks of the Mianus River. Please bring comfortable shoes, layers and a water bottle. More details will be provided upon registration.
All programs are $10/person for Members and $15/person for Non-Members, with the exception of the Adopt-a-Tree Kickoff, which is $75/family or group.
Learn about upcoming events on Facebook
The Visitor’s Center is open from 9:00A.M-4:00P.M Tuesday-Saturday. Hiking Trails are open until dusk 365 days/year.
The trails and Visitor’s Center are FREE. There is a fee for programs and special events.
If you will be a frequent visitor, we encourage you to consider membership to help support the Nature Center and its many programs. You will also receive discounts on program fees. Get more information here.
Stroller Friendly: The buildings are all stroller friendly; however, you will have difficulty navigating the trails with a stroller.
Coffee Mug Friendly: YES
Baby Changing Station: YES
Food For Sale: NO
Outside Food Allowed: Yes. We always pack some snacks if we plan on hiking. There are also picnic tables set up in the field for visitors to enjoy.
Cash Required: NO
Dress Code: If you plan on hiking, wear comfortable clothing appropriate for the weather.
Age Recommendations: Programs have age recommendations; however, the facility is appropriate for all ages.
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
Birthday Party Venue: YES. Get more information here.
Discounts: Membership to the center provides discounts to most programming.
Interested in advertising opportunities with Out and About Mom? Get more info here.
Want to keep up with things to do with kids in Connecticut?
Check back every week as we dish up more Momsense for getting out and about with your little ones. Don’t have time to check back in? Let us send you an automatic notification of new posts straight to your email inbox by signing up here. Also, you can like us on Facebook and Twitter and follow us on Instagram to keep up with the latest posts and get some extra tidbits we share only through those sites.