Nature Centers!!!!

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Lakeside Nature Center

Nature Centers are one of my favorite types of outings. The things I love about Nature Centers are:

  1. Educational: Interesting plants and animals to learn about.
  2. Outdoors: Trails to go exploring on.
  3. Great for the Budget: The are almost always Free!

Last summer we explored many of the nature centers in the KC area. Here are my personal reviews of a few of them.

My Top 3 Nature Centers in the KC Area


Burr Oak Nature Trail

Burr Oak Nature Trail

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center:
One of my top 3 Nature Centers in the KC area. This one is located east of Blue Springs. This has a nice indoor area with different types of animals. The center focuses mostly on snakes, frogs and reptiles. They have an excellent indoor picnic area that works well for little kids. My favorite part about this nature center is the trails. There are several right outside the center that have a completely paved path which works well for strollers. It also has an outdoor activity center for the kids which provides a good learning experience. They have other trails that we will explore when my kids are no longer in strollers.

Lakeside Nature Center

Lakeside Nature Center

Lakeside Nature Center:

Another member of my top 3 Nature Centers in the KC area. This one is located in the same park as the Kansas City Zoo, just a different area. They have an excellent indoor area for animals. They have a variety of birds, turtles and snakes. They do a good job of teaching you about the different types of animals. They have a nice outdoor picnic area and a mixture of trails that are paved and unpaved.

Prairie Park Nature Center

Prairie Park Nature Center

Prairie Park Nature Center:

The last of my top 3 Nature Centers in the KC area. This one is located in Lawrence. It has the best variety of animals. They go beyond the normal birds, turtles and snakes. They have a bald eagle, caiman, and a ferret, plus many more interesting animals. I will warn you though, they have an incredibly loud parrot that likes to make his presence known and at the most unexpected times! The trails aren’t great for strollers but it is pretty.

Other Great Nature Centers in the KC Area

Ernie Miller Nature Center:

This one is located in Olathe, Kansas. The main focus of this nature center is owls and turtles. They have taken in injured owls to take care of them. Most of the trails are stroller friendly, but a few side ones are not. Our kids’ school has gone there several times and they provide good educational classes for field trips and summer camps.

KU Natural History Museum:

This is in Lawrence and is a great option to do after you visit the Prairie Park Nature Center. This Museum has an amazing amount of taxidermy animals. They have one floor that will remind you of a Cabelas or a Bass Pro Shop exhibit. As a warning, there is one whole floor that focuses on evolution and DNA mutation. Until you are ready to discuss and correct all of this information with your kids it is best to just skip this floor.

F.L. Schlagle Library:

This one isn’t worth going to unless you are a member of this library and want to check out books. They have a very small number of animals and the trails are not stroller friendly. They do have a small hands-on exhibit that lets the kids hold skulls, horns and skins. I have heard that the day camps are good and full of information for the kids.

Trees and Anita B. Gorman

Tree Trunks at Anita B. Gorman

Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center:

This center is located by UMKC. This one has a nice, short outside trail. It has an area where the kids can climb on huge tree trunks. There is even a huge sycamore tree if you ever want to see one like the one Zaccheus in the Bible climbed! It looks like they have some great centers inside the nature center but they are not always open to the public. Only one was open when we went. It was awesome because we got to watch the lady feed all the animals in the room. But it seemed to be a nature center that was more focused on serving school field trips than drop-in visitors.

Kemper Outdoor Education Center:

This is located in the same park as Old Missouri Town in Blue Springs, MO. This one is also more geared towards summer camps. There are no live animals but they do have some skulls and taxidermy animals to look at. They have a pretty landscaped area in the front of the center that has frogs and turtles.

Have you taken your kids to nature centers before? What are your favorites? We are always looking for new ones to explore, especially those in Iowa and Illinois [hint, hint]!!  : )

I encourage you to look up nature centers in your area or in a place you are going to visit over the summer. You will be surprised at how much fun your kids have at one!


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