Brookside Nature Center & Wheaton Regional Park

With so many options, we highly recommend that you get out and enjoy the park!

Brookside Nature Center is one of the lesser visited attractions in the park, but it is worth a stop. The Nature Center’s building has a lot to offer from a playroom where children can dress-up in various animal costumes and handle animal shells, to an Earth Sciences room where older children can learn about rocks and minerals and see live turtles, toads, and snakes.

On a bad-weather day the nature center can keep kids busy for an afternoon.

The real attraction at Brookside Nature Center is its outdoor features. The center of outdoor activity at the Nature Center is the play area built out of (nearly) all natural materials.

There is a giant nest built out of sticks for children to play in, enormous hallowed logs for children to crawl through, a digging area, and logs of various heights to walk on. My daughter’s favorite feature is the Music and Movement area which has numerous bells suspended from a high structure that children play by using sticks found on the park grounds.

There are tables in the play area that are great to use for a snack or lunch. The grounds of the nature center also feature an observation deck and walkway through the woods that provide information on the many species of birds that live in the park as well as several trails, a meadow, a pond, and even a bat house.

Brookside Nature Center also offers many classes and has a few events each year if you prefer a guided visit. We have attended classes on topics ranging from worms to maple syrup and have loved them all. Some classes for older children are held at night and end with a campfire. Although admission to the nature center and its grounds are free, there is a small fee to attend classes.

The nature center is stroller-friendly and can be accessed via a ramp. The grounds of the nature center are mostly flat, but the ground is uneven and difficult to navigate with most strollers. There is plenty of free parking.

Wheaton Regional Park

Wheaton Regional Park also features a miniature train and carousel and the amazing Adventure Playground. These three attractions are located within the same area of the park and are usually visited together. At this unique playground kids will enjoy the thrill of sliding down small, medium, and large slides again and again. Younger children can enjoy the playground’s many swings and sandbox with diggers kids sit on to operate.

The park’s most popular attractions are the miniature train and carousel. The train winds through the park’s wooded and open areas and little gnomes are hidden along the train’s path. If you get lucky, you may see deer along the way. Most children, including my son, greatly enjoy the train’s trip over a bridge and through a tunnel. Train rides last approximately 15 minutes. Most days, the train runs on the hour and half-hour. As of April 30th, 2021 @ 5pm: The Wheaton Miniature Train can operate at a 50 percent capacity. Be aware that if the tracks are wet, the train cannot run. Thus, if it has recently rained you may want to make sure the train is running if your child is expecting a ride. Access to both the train and carousel are stroller-friendly and have stroller parking while you and your child go for a ride. There is plenty of free parking. There are several pavilions at the park that can be used for lunch. However, be aware that on weekends these are often booked for parties so if you plan on having lunch at the park you may to bring a blanket as a back-up. Tickets are limited so be sure to pre-purchase online at ActiveMontgomery.org

Brookside Gardens

Brookside Gardens is a vast 50 acre park open from sunrise to sunset offers a beautiful setting for children to play. There are several different types of gardens located within Brookside Gardens including Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. Getting there over a footpath through the pond or a footbridge is part of the fun. Brookside Gardens is a great place to spend any warm-weather day, but they also offer special events throughout the year that may appeal to children including a St. Patrick’s Day scavenger hunt, a large Christmas lights and train display, and monthly Flower Buds classes. Admission to the gardens is free although there may be a charge for special programs. There is plenty of free parking. There are flat paths and ramps you can use to get around the gardens with a stroller. Stop by the visitor’s center before heading into the gardens to pick up a map. However, taking the flat path may not always be the most convenient or most scenic route so you may want to leave the stroller in the car if you can manage without it.

Due to the current times, they have several etiquette rules listed below:

• Face coverings are required indoors and outdoors when near other people
• Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from others
• Gathering in large groups is prohibited
• Follow CDC Guidelines for health and safety:
• If you are sick, or have symptoms, please stay home
• Wash your hands and use sanitizer frequently

Photos courtesy of Montgomery Parks

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