Tag Archives: Places to see animals around DC

Explore the Local Environment at Buddie Ford Nature Center

Watching a skink eat a cricket

Watching a skink eat a cricket

I really enjoy hearing from you guys. And not just with feedback about my blog, positive or otherwise (luckily it’s been more of the former than the latter). I especially love when readers let me know about a place or activity in the area that we haven’t yet experienced.

That’s how I learned about Buddie Ford Nature Center. A few weeks ago when I shared The Great Indoors list on Facebook, as I do every now and then when it’s been updated, someone left a comment letting me know about the facility in Alexandria. She called it the “best nature center in the area” and also mentioned they might have to reduce hours due to lack of traffic.

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That was about all I needed to know. When something is recommended as the best, my interest is piqued. And when a great place isn’t getting the attention it deserves, I like to help out with that if I can. So, I made a point to visit with the kids over the winter break to check it out for ourselves.

As soon as we walked into Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center on an early Wednesday afternoon, I understood. The large space is filled with exhibits that catch the eye immediately, all of them showcasing the nature and wildlife of the local environment, yet we were the only visitors there. We took advantage and quickly got started exploring it all.

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While I was drawn to the many terrariums housing creatures found in the nearby woods, the kids went straight for a table topped with items to examine under a microscope and view on a large monitor. They were fascinated by close-ups of snake skin, shells, feathers, rocks and other objects collected from the outdoors nearby.

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In fact, there are interactive opportunities all around the huge room. There’s a cute area for little ones with a small activity table and plastic animals to play with. There’s a challenge to spot all the toads in a tank. A “Please Touch” table lets guests check out larger items from the outdoors up close. And there’s a nice sun room to stroll through to see all kind of plants and “chat” with Rio the sun conure.

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But one of the best things about Buddie Ford is the staff, who are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They gave us a little meet and greet with some of the creatures, let the kids help feed the turtles, pointed out some neat things to see (like the skink mid-cricket meal), and shared interesting information about the collection on view, including neat facts about the wildlife and how they acquired some of them. They work with kids quite a bit, hosting classes and school field trips as well as offering birthday parties.

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The staff also let us know about Dora Kelley Nature Park adjacent to the Nature Center that is easily accessed right off the parking lot. So after our nature center visit, we headed over for a short hike. A paved mile-long trail winds through the woods and marshland of the 50-acre wildlife sanctuary. It’s a nice stroll, and you can keep an eye out for some of the animals and plants you just learned about. (Be sure to pick up a trail guide while you’re at the nature center to help.)

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So, I owe KFDC reader Lis a huge thank you for this one. I agree: Buddie Ford does rank among the area’s best nature centers and is absolutely worth a visit!

Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Sanctuary and Dora Kelley Nature Park are located at 5750 Sanger Avenue in Alexandria, VA. Hours are 10am – 5pm Wednesday – Saturday, and 1-5pm on Sunday. Admission is free. (Covid update: Hours are currently  10am – 5pm Friday & Saturday.)

 

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Filed under All ages, Animals, Birthday Parties, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Where to Play on the Weekdays: June 30 – July 4

Zip among the trees at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring

Zip among the trees at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring



Monday – Play it cool at a spraypark! The Palisades Playground includes a wet area with a water slide, sprinklers, and get rave reviews. And the dry area sounds super fun, too. Hours are 10am – 7pm. Admission is free.

Tuesday – Head to the National Building Museum for play and storytime. The Book of the Month program takes place in the Building Zone at 10:30am and 11:30am with readings of Who Stole My House by Barbara Veit and Anna Laura Cantone. Admission to the Building Zone ($3/non-members) is timed and on the hour, and after you can head up to the PLAY WORK BUILD exhibit (for non-members: $8/adult, $5/child; free for members) or hang out in the magnificent Great Hall.

Wednesday – Hang out in the trees at the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring. Kids as young as 5-years-old can experience fun and adventure on the ropes courses and ziplines in the park’s aerial forest, the largest in North America. For $49, children ages 5-6 and an accompanying adult have access to two of the easier courses. Older kids can do even more. Hours are 9am – dusk, and admission is $39/ages 7-9, $44/ages 10-11, $49/ages 12 and older. And if you’re looking for fun with little ones… Experience adventure on a smaller scale at the Cabin John Regional Park Adventure Playland. Kids can climb, swing, jump, slide, and run amid the lovely wooded setting, and the miniature train that guests can ride ($1.75/passenger) is a fun bonus.

Thursday – Take a day trip out to Luray Caverns to behold the spectacular underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing limestone formations in the massive cave system. Afterward, make your way through the Garden Maze or check out vintage rides in the Carriage and Caravan Museum. Hours are 9am – 7pm. Admission for the caverns is $24/adults, $21/seniors, $12/ages 6-12, free for ages 5 and under. Other attractions cost extra.

Friday – Come “fourth” and celebrate! This post has a list of ways to do so throughout the DC-Metro. Happy Independence Day!


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Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays

Where to Play on the Weekdays: September 9-13

Exploring art at the National Portrait Gallery

Exploring art at the National Portrait Gallery



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Monday – Discover history through art at the National Portrait Gallery. Children up to age 5 are invited to become Young Portrait Explorers and learn about George Washington as they view his portrait, hear a story about our first president, and participate in a related hands-on activity. The program runs from 10:30-11:30am. Admission is free, but registration is required — go here to sign up. In the evening, head to The Coupe in Columbia Heights for a special Back to School Family Night. Kids can enjoy craft activities, a screening of Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the $4 kids’ dinner menu, while grown-ups will appreciate a chance to dine while their children are occupied by the activities. It all starts around 6pm.

Tuesday – Visit the animals, take a tractor-pulled wagon ride, play on kid-sized tractors, romp on the playgrounds, and much more at Frying Pan Farm Park. The locale in Herndon is a guaranteed hit with kids, and parents always rave about it, too. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk, the farm is open 9am – 5pm, wagon rides 10am – 4pm. Admission is free, though the wagon rides cost a little extra.

Wednesday – Cool off on what’s forecast to be a hot day at a DC spray park. The Department of Parks and Recreation has extended the season for a few parks with water features until September 29. Go here to see which parks are still welcoming visitors.

Thursday – Get a glimpse of the underwater world at DC’s National Aquarium while you still can; the small but interesting showcase of marine life will close it’s doors for good after September 30. Located in the lower level of the Department of Commerce building, it’s a great place for small children to see colorful fish, sharks, turtles, and more. Admission is $9.95/ages 11 and up, $4.95/ages 3-11, free for 2 and under. Open 9am – 5pm.

Friday – Hike along the Potomac, see nature indoors and out, have a picnic, and hang out and relax at Riverbend Park. The Fairfax County locale makes for an ideal outing with little ones — easy trails, great nature viewing, and never a big crowd. Free admission, and the Visitor Center is open 9am – 5pm on weekdays.

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Filed under All ages, Animals, Art, DC, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Farm, Free, Movies, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Weekdays