Philadelphia is a goldmine for fun kids activities. From exploring and playing in the Please Touch Museum to seeing all sorts of animals at the Philadelphia Zoo, the city is full of activities to keep children of all ages entertained.
But the fun isn’t limited to within the city limits. When planning Philadelphia kids activities for your family, put down the iPads and get out in nature to learn about the environment. “Kids are innately full of wonder and awe, so we should foster that,” says Shannon Fredebaugh-Siller, community engagement programs manager at the Heritage Conservancy at Bristol Marsh. “Learning about nature—and having experiences in it—will ultimately help kids care for our planet into the future.”
If you’re looking for fun and educational nature-themed activities to enjoy with your kids, don’t miss these easy day trips to take from Philadelphia.
Nature Play Zone at Berks Nature Place
Sometimes, the best type of natural education is when it’s uninhibited and free. That’s exactly what kids get when they enter the Nature Play Zone at the Berks Nature Place, located in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Play Zone lets children explore on their own terms and encourages imagination and exploration.
“Inside of the Nature Place, children can visit our three rescue turtles, learn about watersheds, borrow one of our free ‘explorer packs’ to take into the park, and visit our live honey-bee observation hive,” says Tami Shimp, Vice President of development and community relations at Berks Nature.
The Play Zone is open from dawn to dusk every day, making it the perfect option for a day visit from Philadelphia.
Camden Children’s Garden
Just a quick jaunt across the Delaware River, the Camden Children’s Garden offers a variety of nature-themed kids activities that will fill an entire day.
“Children are able to dig for fossils in the Dinosaur Garden, tunnel underground in the Red Oak Run Maze, climb in the Treehouse, learn all about butterflies in the Butterfly House, and ride the garden themed carousel and train,” says Valerie Frick, director of education for the Camden Children’s Garden.
If you’re planning a visit in the summer, don’t miss the Splash Pad, a fountain exhibit where kids can run and play in the water. Parents are encouraged to bring swim gear and a towel to enjoy some warm-weather splashing!
Tulpehaking Nature Center at the Abbott Marshlands
The Abbott Marshlands of Mercer County, New Jersey offer 3,000 acres of open, outdoor space that are both beautiful and environmentally diverse. The Tulpehaking Nature Center, located on the property, regularly hosts kid-friendly events and things-to-do. These special activities include story time, pond exploration excursions, bug-hunting adventures, and animal-feeding opportunities.
“Nature is our first playground, where we get to try and learn and build confidence,” says Kelly Rypkema, manager of the Tulpehaking Nature Center. “There are always hands-on activities to try in our children’s play space inside or trails to explore outside. One of our most popular programs is Feed the Animals, where kids get to help us prepare meals for our education animals.”
Visit the Nature Center’s event calendar for a full list of upcoming family-oriented events.
Bristol Marsh Preserve
As part of the nearly 15,000 acres of open space, farmland, and wildlife habitats preserved by the Heritage Conservancy in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, the Bristol Marsh Preserve runs along a main stem of the Delaware River and includes a freshwater tidal marsh that kids can explore.
“Our center doesn’t have a physical building, but there are paved sidewalks and trails to walk and viewing platforms for wildlife observation,” says Fredebaugh-Siller. “Along the path, the blue posts mark the historic end of the Delaware Canal. Kids will certainly enjoy imagining that the area is a large ship yard with a canal running through it.”
After a day of exploring the preserve, stop for lunch or some shopping on Bristol’s historic main street.
Pocono Environmental Education Center
Heading up to the Pocono Mountains for a day trip offers families the chance to really get out and explore nature. One must-stop site is the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC), which is close to Bushkill Falls in Dingmans Ferry.
Some of the popular kid-friendly activities at PEEC include pond paddling, bug exploration, frog frolics, interpretive hikes and exploring in the center’s EcoZone Discovery Room.
“Giving kids the ability to run around in an unstructured environment has not only physical health benefits, but encourages creativity,” says Derek Scott, director of operations at PEEC. “If we know you’re coming, we can provide all kinds of advice on what activities and events we may have going on that would be fun for kids.”
The Watershed Center
“The Watershed Center is a hub of interactive displays, live animal exhibits, and play areas for children,” says Communication Manager Rob Nicolaides. “We have an accessible boardwalk that connects our nearly 10 miles of trails including a pond and seasonal Butterfly House.”
Additionally, the center is in the process of building a highly-anticipated nature play area for children, which will encourage unstructured, outdoor play.
When planning your visit to the Watershed Center, Nicolaides recommends that parents and children dress comfortably and be prepared to get a little bit muddy!
First State National Historical Park
For families with older children, a relaxing day trip to First State National Historical Park in Delaware provides a great time for outdoor activities and family bonding. While there aren’t any guided kids’ activities, the park boasts 18 miles of multi-use trails and plenty of space to spread out and enjoy games and conversation.
“There are plenty of options for self-guided, family fun,” says Lorin Felter, interpretation and education coordinator for the park. “A picnic area, where visitors can grill and picnic, also provides access to a beach area along the Brandywine Creek where visitors could drop their canoes, kayaks, or tubes in the water.”
Learn more about the 23 environmental education centers that make up the Alliance for Watershed Education, explore everything they have to offer, and plan a trip today!