Lansing Family Fun

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6 Must-Visit Lansing Area Nature Centers with Play Areas, Trails, Animals, & More

Howell Nature Center

Unique Outdoor Destinations for Families

Experience the natural beauty by visiting one of many area nature centers and immersing yourself in the great outdoors.

As you traverse the various walking or hiking trails, you may feel transported to another era, away from the commotion of modern life with its paved roads, cars, and mobile devices.

The sounds of chirping crickets, singing birds, and rustling leaves of nearby wildlife are both energizing and rejuvenating. We are fortunate to have a wealth of nature preserves in our area, providing ample opportunities to explore the serene and wild side of life.

Each nature center offers:

  • Events
  • Camps and workshops
  • Learning opportunities
  • Visitor Centers
  • Trails
  • Play areas and structures
  • Live animals

Although all nature centers pack the same type of adventures, NONE are the same. Each of our centers in Greater Lansing has successfully created its own unique vibe and experience.

I truly can’t say I have a favorite because they are all so different.

Fenner Nature Center Trails
Fenner Nature Center

Here’s why you’ll love each of our local centers:

Fenner Nature Center

Peace and tranquility await at Fenner Nature Center which is smack dab in the heart of Lansing.

As you wind around the entrance, you’re immediately surrounded by the sounds of nature.

Their visitor center has stations for hands-on learning and play, while their outdoor space naturally invites kids to explore in participatory ways. You’ll experience bird watching, the interactive playground where Fenner Nature Center encourages kids to add to the designated structure and miles of grounds to venture.

It’s no wonder my family can’t leave Fenner without at least taking a mini-hike every time we visit.

Fenner Nature Center Animals

Reasons to Visit Fenner Nature Center

1 – Davis Nature Pavilion

Hands-on learning stations make this a must-do when you visit Fenner Nature Center.

Turtles, a bunny, snakes, and other wildlife can be observed inside along with exhibits and public events.

Fenner Nature Center welcome center
Fenner Nature Center Davis Pavilion

2 – Hiking Trails

Fenner Nature Center has 4 miles of trails with 7 different routes meaning you can discover something new during every visit.

Some stops include the butterfly garden, barn, playscape, and observation decks over several ponds.

Fenner Nature Center community interactive playground
Fenner Nature Center community interactive playground

3 – Festivals

Fenner Nature Center’s festivals are one-of-a-kind!

Churn the apple butter in the fall, tap a tree for maple syrup in the spring, and give back to the earth during their Earth Day Extravaganza.

Many families make these events annual traditions.

Waiting for the maple syrup to come at the Fenner Nature Center

4 – Summer Camps

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and discover the wonders of nature. Camps at Fenner Nature Center run all Summer long with additional learning opportunities throughout the year. Each camp has a different weekly theme.

Their 60 years of experience is stunning and kids continue to have a blast learning and exploring.

Getting close to a maple sugaring tree at Fenner Nature Center

Woldumar Nature Center

Nestled on Lansing’s southwest side is the awesomeness that is Woldumar Nature Center!

A fun fact about Woldumar is that it is privately owned and relies on donations and supporters as a non-profit 501(c)3. Why is this so cool? The volunteer opportunities are great for kids, and their programs and events are community-minded.

We love walking the trails of Woldumar, going to weddings on their beautiful grounds, listening during folk festivals, and have even caught a theatre play there once.

It’s one thing to read about something cool, but it’s even better to experience it for yourself. Here are our top 3 reasons to plan a visit to Woldumar Nature Center:

Natural Playground at Woldumar Nature Center

Reasons to Visit Woldumar Nature Center

1 – Visitor Center

You’ll love hanging out in their Visitor Center where you get to inspect the educational displays of insects, wildlife, and more! Woldumar’s “Pop Up Discovery Nook” includes a gift shop for naturalist-led games and activities most Saturdays from 11 AM – 3 PM.

Welcome Center at Woldumar Nature Center

2 – Hiking Trails

Explore Woldumar’s diverse natural wonders along 5 miles of trails winding through 180 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, nestled beside 1.25 miles of Grand River shoreline. With trails up to 1.6 miles long, they offer easy exploration year-round, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.

Hiking Trails at Woldumar Nature Center

3 – Explorer Programs

Explore, learn, grow, and more during camps at Woldumar that run during spring, summer, and winter. Camps are secure location where campers connect, explore nature, and engage in both guided and free play. Here, children thrive in an inclusive environment that celebrates curiosity and diversity.

Holiday Event at Woldumar Nature Center

Harris Nature Center

“Whoa!” is what I thought the first time I visited Harris Nature Center. Their grounds are shockingly artistic and creative and are located in Okemos.

Not only that, the welcome center is packed full of great wildlife exhibits with a library on-site! You cannot borrow the books, but you’re welcome to stop in to read for a while with their collection. A visit to Harris will leave you refreshed.

Reasons to Visit Harris Nature Center

1 – Outdoor Play Area

Climb the beaver lodge, hang out under the huge tiled art turtle, lay in the spider web, and dig for fossils!

You could almost spend your whole time in this area.

Beaver Lodge at Harris Nature Center

2 – Hiking

Trails are multi-use for walking, biking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Bring your leashed dog or ride horseback for added adventure. Be cautious near the Red Cedar River as flooding may occur. The park offers a paved 1/2 mile loop and miles of connecting natural trails to Eastgate Park and Legg Park. Trails are accessible daily from dawn to dusk.

3 – Welcome Center

The Center welcomes visitors Tuesday through Saturday, 9 AM to 3 PM. Inside, explore native Michigan reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

Harris Nature Center Welcome Center
Welcome Center at Harris Nature Center

4 – Community Events

The events at Harris Nature Center happen frequently and are AWESOME! You’ll enjoy things like night story walks, owl observing, camp fires, and a lot more events scheduled throughout the year.

Howell Nature Center

Howell Nature Center should be considered a day trip adventure. There is SO MUCH to do here and each portion of the grounds lends to hours of play.

Reasons to Visit Howell Nature Center

1 – Alexandria’s Naturescape Treehouse

Um, did someone say treehouse?! And adult supervision is required?! Sign me up. Not to mention the waterfall for splashing on hot summer days plus so much more fun in this area! Bonus: It’s wheelchair accessible!

Treehouse at Howell Nature Center
Treehouse at Howell Nature Center

2 – Wild Wonders Wildlife Park

This teaching zoo is open to the public 365 days a year! That’s right – ALL YEAR LONG! Watch this video to learn more about what you can do and see here.

Entrance to Howell Nature Center
Entrance to Howell Nature Center

3 – Adventure Education

Experience the thrill of soaring through the trees on zip lines, scale to new heights on the outdoor climbing tower, and tackle mid-air obstacles on the high ropes courses. What could be a more immersive way to connect with nature than being right in the midst of it all! Little explorers can now enjoy a miniature ropes course designed just for them with the addition of Sky Tykes.

4 – Stay

Howell Nature Center invites you to hang out for the day or stay overnight in one of their lodges. See – like I said, so cool right?!

Wading pond at Howell Nature Center

DeVries Nature Conservancy

Situated along the Shiawassee River, a mere five-minute drive from downtown Owosso, DeVries Nature Conservancy offers serene surroundings and invigorating fresh air, bringing nature right to your doorstep. Open every day of the year from dawn to dusk, enjoy 136 acres of ideal settings to savor the changing seasons, whether you prefer exploring on foot, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or enjoying a tranquil kayak or canoe ride.

DeVries Nature Conservancy - photo belongs to DeVries
Photo Credit: DeVries Nature Conservancy

Reasons to Visit DeVries Nature Conservancy

1 – Nature Center

The Nature Center welcomes visitors Monday through Friday between 9 AM to 4 PM. Inside, you can observe a variety of live animals.

2 – Trails

Four nature trails to explore. Trail maps are available in the parking area kiosk and the Nature Center.

3 – Nature Playscape

Designed for children aged 3 to 12, the Playscape offers a range of exciting features, including a digging pit*, climbing wall, climbing tree, and zip line. *Digging tools are available onsite and should be returned same-day.

4 – Educational Programming

Nature story times, homeschool programs, field trips and hands-on activities are just some of the educational programming that DeVries Nature Conservancy offers. Spring and summer break camps are also available.

Dahlem Environmental Education | Jackson’s Nature Place

Vibrant gardens, dense forests, flower-filled grasslands, expansive meadows, marshes, and ponds adorn the nearly 300-acre landscape, showcasing Michigan’s diverse seasons at Dalhem. Featuring five miles of hiking trails, including the inclusive 3/8 mile Nature for All Trail, along with engaging exhibits and ongoing educational programs, guests have the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature’s beauty and explore the outdoors throughout the year.

Reasons to Visit Delham Environmental Education | Jackson’s Nature Place

1 – Visitor Center

In the visitor center discover an indoor exhibit area with live animals. The Nutshell Gift Shop is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a diverse selection of nature-related items like books, clothing, bird-feeding supplies, jewelry, and more, including fresh wreaths for the holidays.

2 – Trails

The nature trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset at no cost. Choose from woodland or grassland trails, an ecology farm trail or an arboretum trail. Views include the glacial pond, the vernal pond, and a stream.

Map of Dahlem Center trails
Credit: Dahlem Center

3 – Special Event Programming

Summer camps, intro to bee keeping, nature preschool, mighty naturalist, and Annie’s Big Nature Lesson are just a few of the programs that Delham offers.

Nature Centers around Michigan Worth The Drive

Have you checked off the everything on the Nature Center bucket list locally and are craving more outdoor fun?!

Check out our top pick places to visit within about an hour from the Greater Lansing area.

Kalamazoo Nature Center
We loved visiting their trails, welcome center, and indoor rainfall area.

Kalamazoo Nature Center Indoor Rain Forest

Belle Isle Nature Center
Play, explore, see animals, and hang out in their indoor treehouse.

You’ll also enjoy lots of interactive nature games as well as hiking and many other great experiences on the island.

Belle Isle Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center
Read all about why Blandford is a great gem to discover in Grand Rapids.

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery and Visitor Center – DNR
Travel through the museum and exhibit area, hike their trails, and feed the fish out in the pond for free with a token from the front desk.

Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery

We love hearing about the fun you’re having in Lansing and beyond. Comment below to let us know what you love about the places you’ve visited.

Have fun adventuring in Nature, Lansing!

Carla Brooks

Carla is Oregon born, Michigan raised, so it comes as no surprise she's an avid adventurer in all things nature and water fun. She's passionate about storytelling and the power it has to engage the community, give voice to the teller, and invoke a call to action. She is a proud Mexican-American woman who loves to travel (while eating and cooking delicious foods from around the globe), is grateful for her daily yoga practice, and garners much joy from spending time with friends and family. Life is ripe with story and she is always working to capture the magic wherever she goes, so don’t be surprised if you catch her jotting notes with a camera in hand.

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