My family and I had a great time checking out Dora Kelley Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria, VA last week. The natural 50-acre park has 1-mile of nature trail that works it way through the park. A paved bike trail starts at Van Dorn St. and reaches Sanger Avenue on the other side of the park. Dora Kelley Park is part of the City of Alexandria and is a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail System. Also if you’re into geocaching there are several caches hidden in the park.
Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center is attached to the William Ramsey Elementary School and William Ramsey Recreation Center. When you pull into the parking lot just drive all the way to the back and you’ll find the Nature Center. The Nature Center had a few animal exhibits and cultural exhibits based around the history of Dora Kelley Park and the City of Alexandria. Programs through the Nature Center are available as well as facility rental for events. The Nature Center is not open on Monday and Tuesday even during the winter months. Sunday during the winter months the Nature Center is also closed. For more information click here.
I would totally recommend doing both of these together on a nice day. Dora Kelley worked very hard to make sure open space was maintained in the City of Alexandria and her work was acknowledged by naming the park after her. Dora Kelley Park has several trail entrances around the park so you don’t have to just enter at the Nature Center parking lot. When Spring finally arrives check out Dora Kelley Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center.
*****The playground is getting an update! Stay tuned for more details!
Today we checked out Hidden Pond Park in Springfield, VA. This Fairfax County park has a Nature Center, pond, playground and tons of hiking trails and paved walking/biking trails. The trails run throughout the park and a bridge connects Hidden Pond Park to the much larger Pohick Stream Valley Park.
The Nature Center can be found by following a paved trail from the parking lot with a sign pointing the way. They had some great animal exhibits and the volunteers were quick to pull out the baby turtles for the kids to pet. Restrooms are located in the Nature Center.
After we hit up the Nature Center we set out to check out the trails and the pond. The pond can be fished and has several dock areas to stand at the waters edge. Also they are many benches in the shade to sit and watch all the turtles in the pond. The trails were great but my husband did point out the dreaded poison ivy along some of the hiking trail edges. If poison ivy is a worry just stick to the larger paved trails and the kids won’t have a chance to accidentaly wander into the poison ivy.
Since the kids still had a ton of energy we headed to the playground located near the parking lot. The playground is partially fenced in and keeps the kids seperated from the staff entrance driveway. The equipment is not in the shade but there is plenty of shade around the picnic table near the playground. The playground equipment was in good shape and had some unique climbing items. No swings at this park though. Restrooms are located in the Nature Center which is a good walk from the playground.
What a great natural park to take the family too. The park is tucked back in the middle of a neighborhood of single family homes so you wouldn’t be able to see it from Old Keene Mill Road. If you live nearby you should check it out!
The Nature House located off of Glade Drive has a small collection of reptiles and fish for the kids to check out. Also a few exhibits for them to touch and sort. They also had a nature scavenger hunt sheet while you’re out walking the trails. The Nature House has super clean restrooms and a parking lot.
The best part of the education center was the 2 miles of loop trails throughout the open space. The trails are clearly marked by logs with resting benches throughout. The trails are either gravel or dirt and can accommodate bikes, strollers and wagons. If you’re a geocacher there are lots of hidden caches found in the area.
For us the Nature House wasn’t much but the trails were great and in the summer time would be completely in the shade. If you live nearby you should check it out on a nice day!
Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA located in Fairfax County lies just above Great Falls National Park. In fact you can walk from Riverbend Park all the way to Great Falls National Park via the Potomac National Heritage Trail along the Potomac River. Unlike Great Falls where you pay a park fee Riverbend is a free regional park and open from dawn till dusk with gates closing promptly at 8:30 p.m. Riverbend Park is located off of Georgetown Pike in Great Falls, Virginia. You follow Riverbend Road through magnificent neighborhoods filled with custom Estate homes and single family homes on large wooded lots. Regional Park signs will navigate you towards the park.
The Nature Center is a neat place for the kids to see local wildlife like snakes, skinks and frogs. For the adults and older kids there is historical information about the people that once inhabited the area before the settlers took over. The Nature Center has a small snack bar, ice cream and gift shop. Outside the nature center they have an observation deck with Adirondack chairs and tables to sit and watch the river. Public restrooms and water fountains are available just outside the nature center. A small frog pond is located below the nature center and at this time of year it allows visitors to check out the newly hatched tadpoles that will eventually turned into frogs.
Once you have finished exploring the nature center you can head out on the trails. Riverbend park has 2.5 miles of Potomac Heritage Trail along the Potomac River which if you head south will take you directly into Great Falls Park. The trails are great for walkers/joggers but strollers and bikes would have a hard time getting through. More trails are available through the upland forests and a few are challenging. If you enjoy geo-caching this park has plenty hidden for you to find. A picnic area is also available right next to the river and offers grills to cook out. This upper portion of the Potomac River is a good place to drop in a kayak or canoe and a launching area is available.
The kids and I love this park! The trails offer plenty of shade and we always see lots of wildlife on our walks. Walking along the river is a great way to get away and is a very convienent location to Northern Virginian residents.
Annandale Park & Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located in Annandale, Virginia off of Route 495 in Fairfax County. The nature center has 1/3 mile of clearly marked trails to take the kids on. Small informative signs are located through the trials for the kids to read.
Inside the nature center there is no shortage of things for the kids to do. A few reptiles and amphibians are featured in exhibits for the kids to view. One exhibit features costumes so the kids can dress up like their favorite animal. After the nature center you can walk down to the play equipment and picnic tables to eat some lunch at Annandale Park. The play equipment wasn’t in the best shape but my kids didn’t care.
If you live in the area this is a great place to take the kids to learn about nature and burn off some energy.