Explore Nature

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.

Program Listings

At Cincinnati Parks, we think you can enjoy the outdoors all year long, and our Parks programs will encourage you to do just that. We have two types of seasonal program listings: one is intended for the general public, and the other is for schools, scout troops and youth groups. Nature lovers of any age, click on one of the links below to find an enjoyable Cincinnati Parks activity coming up soon!

Public Program Calendar!
School Programming:

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.

Nature Next Door!

Nature Next Door is a free, year-round outreach program designed to reach Cincinnati’s urban youth. NND school year program targets classes within the city where the majority (85% or more) of the students are eligible for the free lunch program. Naturalists visit with students three times during the school year and bring activities to the school, eliminating a cost-prohibitive field trip. New standard-based science concepts are reinforced through hands-on exploration, lively demonstrations and fun games. The learning doesn’t stop when the school year ends – NND summer camp offers an enriching program at several inner-city park sites where neighborhood day-cares and organizations can bring their groups to visit with naturalists for eight nature-themed weeks. Crafts, games, live animal talks and guest speakers keep each week new and interesting.

Nature Next Door has over 7,200 visits with children each year through both of these fantastic programs. Wonderful sponsors such as the Segoe Foundation and the Hatton Foundation, as well as tremendously popular fundraisers such as the Gentlemen of Style & Substance help to fund NND. For 2014, NND was fortunate to receive a transportation grant through Time Warner Cable, giving students the opportunity to attend an actual field trip to Avon Woods Nature Preserve this Spring.

Nature Next Door gives an opportunity for an under-privileged population of children to experience nature in a positive manner.

For 14 years, the Cincinnati Parks’ Nature Next Door program has been providing safe, engaging summer fun for children of inner city and low-income homes. The program inspires positivity and curiosity by giving kids the opportunity to experience the outdoors beyond what they might see in a city park.

Gentleman of Style & Substance has been supporting the Nature Next Door program since 2006. Guests will come together September 3 at Ault Park Pavilion to honor 13 local gentlemen for their service to the Greater Cincinnati community while benefiting the summer camp program. The honorees are invited to spend an hour at one of the camp sessions learning, watching and participating with the children.

Gentleman of Style & Substance has raised more than $130,000 for Nature Next Door and enabled thousands of Cincinnati kids to delve into the world around them.

“It is fun and challenging to create new ways our participants can learn about the natural world around them,” says Rachel Rice, program director. “We always encourage them to look right outside their own back door for any signs of nature, no matter how small.”

The free nine-week summer camp travels to different Cincinnati Parks each day with planned activities to keep the kids focused on the environment, with fun at the forefront. Children from urban areas who have not had the same experiences with nature as children from suburban areas are often wary about the unfamiliar territory.

“The outdoors is met with trepidation,” Rice explains. “We hope that by exposing children from a young age to how amazing our world is, they get that first positive familiarity with nature that maybe carries on with them through life.”

Nature Next Door offers a school program in the fall and winter for Cincinnati schools at no cost. The program comes to schools and immerses students in hands-on learning experiences.

“Not only do they come away with a better respect for their surroundings, but also a fun, educational way to learn about them,” Rice says.

To purchase tickets or explore sponsorships for Gentleman of Style & Substance, contact Jennifer Stieser, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Parks Foundation at 513-861-0023.

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 Mondays from Noon to 3pm. 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: $125 for up to 10 children; $10 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.


Seasonal Program Registration Form

Use this form to register for programs that occur during September – May (ie: homeschool, weekend series, and other non-camp activities). To submit your form and find out more information about fees for specific programs, please call 513- 321-6070 or email Haley Long at haley.long@cincinnati-oh.gov for more information.

Nature Education Pre-School Programs:

In this guide, you will find Park Naturalist-led programs specifically designed for preschoolers. Use this guide to locate the programs that best compliment your classroom lessons, and to help you schedule a field trip for your class.

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: