Explore Nature – (513) 321-6070

Explore Nature

Cincinnati Parks’ Explore Nature! has a mission to educate people of all ages about our relationship with nature, and instill enthusiasm about the natural and historical resources in the Cincinnati Parks system. Then, it will only feel natural to assist in its protection and management!

Have you ever made maple syrup right from the maple tree? Did you know Cincinnati Parks has a planetarium? Or that the simple stone shelters scattered through our parks actually exemplify a variety of architectural influences?

We have so many programs and facilities designed to get you and your friends or family interacting with the abundant nature thriving right in our city. Teachers are encouraged to contact us or view our brochures below, regarding school programs, to enhance lesson plans. Exploring nature is as close as the nearest Cincinnati Park.

Harvest Day Camp
Wednesday, November 23 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Avon Woods Nature Center
Fee: $15.00 per camper 
On this Thanksgiving Eve, parents can finish last minute plans for the holiday while their children can spend part of their day with our Naturalist staff enjoying a hike, games and other hands-on activities.

Children in grades Kindergarten – 3rd can  join other campers celebrating the history of this holiday. Through Indoor and outdoor activities, learn about our local Native American tribes (Shawnee and Miami) and their cultures. Celebrate the Fall harvest and make a charming craft to take home.
Dress for the weather, pack a lunch & drink, and be ready for FUN!
Spaces are limited so

Winter in the Woodlands
Fri., December 2, 6:00 – 8:00p.m. — California Woods Nature Preserve

Families and adults can follow a beautiful, luminaria-lit trail on a leisurely self-guided walk through the forest. Decorate your own home-baked holiday cookies, make crafts and sit by a crackling fire to enjoy lively acoustic music by Ceol Mohr. Sponsored by the California Woods Advisory Council. Fee: $6 per person.  Call 231-8678 for more information.

Holiday Natural Craft Workshops
Fri., December 9, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. OR Sat., December 10, noon – 2 p.m. LaBoiteaux Woods Nature Preserve
Fee: $5 per person or $15 per family (up to 4 children and 1-2 adults)
Bring the family to enjoy crafts with natural materials or a nature theme. Choose what you want to make and
take home from numerous selections suited to all ages of children and adults too!  Staff instruct and advise but the personal touches are up to you. Call 542-2909 for information.
The overall spacing is off on this description and needs correcting.

Winter Break Day Camps
9:30am – 2:30pm. Grades Kdg – 3rd
Fee: $25 per child per camp

Blizzard Blast Camp Wed., December 21 — Trailside Nature Center
Bring on the snow! Join in on the fun as we go exploring, play seasonal games, get creative with arts and crafts and simply relax with a story. It will be snow-much fun! Call 751-3679 for more information.

Narnia Winter Beaver Camp
Thurs., December 22 — LaBoiteaux Woods Nature Preserve
Stuck inside on your day off from school? Brave the blustery wet cold on a mission through the nature preserve to study wildlife in their toasty warm habitats. But don’t worry there are plenty of indoor activities to also keep you warm and active. Not all reptiles are hibernating so enjoy a live animal presentation. Call 542-2909 for more information.

WOW! Wonders of Winter Camp
Fri., December 23 OR 30 — California Woods Nature Preserve
Don’t spend your entire winter break indoors – come out and join us for cold weather adventures, nature activities and animal encounters. Wrap up the day with hot cocoa by the fire. Register for only one of these camps; activities are identical. Call 231-8678 for more information.

Maple in Mt. Airy
Saturday March 4, 2017 – breakfast seatings by reservation starting at 9:00 a.m.
Mt. Airy Forest (Oak Ridge Lodge)
Program fee: $8.00 per person (ages 3 and under are FREE), non-refundable.
This event is perfect for scouts, organized groups and families of all ages! A free pancake breakfast is provided in Oak Ridge Lodge before your program begins. The breakfast includes pancakes, sausage, maple syrup, and your choice of beverage (orange juice, milk or coffee). You are given 30 minutes to eat breakfast.

After breakfast, participants head outside to interact with sugar makers from the past and present to learn how trees produce the sugar and how people have tapped into this sweet source over the centuries. Participants visit 4 stations outside of the lodge: At the Maple Tree station learn how the trees make sap (sugar water) and stop by the Evaporator station to discover how we turn the sap into syrup. The Native American station will delight you with small samples of pure maple sugar while the Pioneers will warm your mouth with a taste of maple tea. Yum…lots of tasting! 

The program including breakfast takes approximately 1.25 hours. Reserve your seat early for this popular event. Call 321-6208 for additional information.

Scout Programs

Scout Registration Form

If you would like additional information on Cincinnati Parks’ various types of scout programs and opportunities, please click on the appropriate link below:

Program Listings


If you would like additional information on Cincinnati Parks’ various types of preschool programs and opportunities, please click on the appropriate link below: Preschool Program


If you would like additional information on Cincinnati Parks’ various types of School Programming and opportunities, please click on the appropriate link below:

Caldwell Nature Center School Programming
California Woods School Programming
LaBoiteaux Nature Center School Programming
Trailside Nature Center School Programming

For more information please call (513) 321-6070 or view the full School Programs brochure.

A Pioneer Experience
Ages 9 – 13  
Sold Out!
Thursday, November 10 – 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
California Woods Nature Preserve
How did pioneer children and families live in the early 1800’s? Learn how children and families lived in 1803 the year of the Louisiana Purchase and Ohio’s statehood. See how lifestyle challenges, religion, and traditions help shape Cincinnati. Play an “Oregon Trail” style game and make choices and “purchases” for your interactive journey west. On your trek, encounter characters such as a school teacher and medicine woman. Bring a lunch with a drink and dress for the weather. Adults assisting children with program activities are not charged the fee.

Cincinnati Skies at Wolff Planetarium
Thursday, December 8 –  10 – 11 a.m.  OR  1 – 2 p.m.
Trailside Nature Center in Burnet Woods
Ages 5 and up
Experience the oldest planetarium west of the Allegheny Mountains. Discover stars, constellations, galaxies and more. Learn the stories behind Orion, the Big and Little Dippers and many other constellations in the night time sky. The program includes information pertaining to how stars form and function, star types, nebulas, novae and more. Choose only one session; program activities repeat.

Nature Centers & Preserves

See What Our Nature Centers Have to Offer

Cincinnati Parks offers programming and education for all ages at its five nature centers located around the city. Krohn Conservatory, our beautiful showcase of a greenhouse in Eden Park, also features special programs for the general public and for schools. Our archives and library are located at the Bettman Natural Resource Center. Reserve a Nature Center!  See below for more information regarding special features and programming at all of these unique facilities:

avon-woodsAvon Woods Nature Center 4235 Paddock Road
Ph: (513) 861-3435

The Avon Woods Natural Area/Preserve is located only four miles from downtown Cincinnati. It features rolling hills, hiking trails, a stream-cut valley and community gardens. The trails are easy to locate and rated as moderate hiking. Avon Woods’ programs serve participants citywide and are designed for preschool age through senior citizens.

beetmanBettman Natural Resource Center 4 Beech Lane
Ph: (513) 321-6070

This is where Cincinnati Parks houses its rich collection of books and other materials regarding its history as well as nature education. Bettman also has a small nature preserve that is wheelchair accessible. The library and archives are open to the public by appointment; our volunteer staff is available on Tuesdays from Noon to 2pm. Please call 513.321.6070 for an appointment.

caldwellCaldwell Nature Center  430 W. North Bend Road
Ph: (513) 761-4313

These parklands have a long history, going back to Cincinnati’s earliest days. Today Caldwell has approximately 3.5 miles of nature trails and a variety of wildlife (including a flying squirrel population that can be spotted gliding among the treetops in the evenings) and wildflowers. Near the Nature Center is an amphitheater and an Access Trail so that even wheelchair users can venture into the woods. A deck along the Access Trail overlooks the ravine and creek, providing a lovely view in all seasons.

californiaCalifornia Woods Nature Center 5400 Kellogg Ave.
Ph: (513) 231-8678

This park is set on 113 acres of pristine forest that includes 53 tree species, as well as, dozens of plant and flower species; Lick Run Creek runs through this nature preserve, and is home to wildlife that is a treat to see, such as kingfishers or snapping turtles. On one of California’s hiking trails, look for pileated woodpeckers and even great horned owls at home among the tall sycamores. There’s also a butterfly and hummingbird garden located directly in front of the nature center.

laboiteauxLaBoiteaux Woods Nature Center 5400 Lanius Ln.
Ph: (513) 542-2909

LaBoiteaux offers busy city-dwellers a true retreat into nature and local history. The hundreds of acres that make up LaBoiteaux Woods are home to deer, red and gray fox, mink, hawks, owls and turtles, and those woods are accessible via four miles of hiking trails. A rustic nature center houses nature displays, animal mounts, live animals, and a small nature library.

trailsideTrailside Nature Center Burnet Woods
Ph: (513) 751-3679

The Trailside Nature Center is located in Burnet Woods Park, adjoining the University of Cincinnati and one of Cincinnati’s oldest parks. It includes a children’s museum, a handicap-access meeting room for nature education programs, and a fishing lake created in 1875. While you’re at Burnet Woods, check out the schedule for the newly reopened Wolff Planetarium

Birthday Parties

For Ages 5 – 12

 *Most weekends are available August 15 – April 15 but call 321-6070 to check on availability during unlisted dates.

For a two hour party at a Nature Center, the Naturalist provides 90 minutes of fun-filled nature activities such as a short hike, hands-on activities, and a simple craft to keep as a memento. Please schedule at least 3 weeks in advance of your proposed dates.

Fee: $150 for up to 10 children; $15 for each additional child.

If more time is needed for the food and gift portion of the party, the cost is $25 for each additional 30 minutes.


*Creepy Crawly (Insects, Spiders, Reptiles and Amphibians)

*This theme is more appropriate during the Spring and Fall months.

Outside: Bingo hike; Insect Hunt with nets and games such as Creepy Crawly Crunch, Eeek! Spider! or Lemonade will be played.

Inside:  “What is an Insect vs Spider” presentation; Live animal presentation and a choice of craft, such as the Turtle Shell Hide or Climbing Spider.

Activities for older participants may include: Quick Frozen Critters game; frog catch craft (an adaptation of the ball in the cup craft); and a deeper investigation on common insects and how to identify them on the hike.


Forest Friends

Outside: Camouflage Hike which will include an activity where two teams take turns hiding and finding different color cut-out rabbits and Forest Friends Bingo. Games include Fox and Rabbit, Camouflage and Animal Catchers.

Inside: Taxidermy and live animal presentation; mammal puppet craft.

Activities for older participants may include: How Many Squirrels Can Live in This Forest and Bat and Moth games outside. Craft for this age group may include the Bat Catch (an adaptation of the ball and cup craft).


Winged Wonders (Birds, Butterflies and Bats)

Outside: Bingo hike; Games such as Birds-n-Worms and Build a Bird relay race.

Inside: Depending on the topic chosen, “How do birds and others fly” presentation, Feather Fun and Build a Bird activity. Craft choices are Butterfly Clothes Pin Craft; Tic-Tac-Toe Birds or Butterfly Suncatchers

Activities for older participants may include:  Scavenger Hunt; Migration Headache game; Paper Animal flying contest.


Fantastic Fossils

*not available at Trailside in Burnet Woods or Avon Woods (no creek for fossil hunting).

Outside: Fossil Hike in creek. Game: Fossil puzzle relay race and Trilobite Tag.

Inside: ”How did fossils form” presentation; Fossil Bingo and Fossil Wheel Craft.

Activities for older participants may include: Fossil card slap game; Fossil Cootie Craft.