One of our favorite summer spots to go on a hot day is this little gem of a nature center located in Fairfax County near Fairfax Hospital. Hidden Oaks Nature Center is like a smaller children’s museum with everything focused on animals, reptiles, and outdoor foliage native to our area.
We first learned of this center when we signed up for a program about feeding reptiles through the Fairfax County Park Authority. It was a small class that was (and still is) offered to less than twelve children at a time. The kids are able to get hands-on and practical instruction about snakes and other reptiles.
The classes offered at Hidden Oaks are very reasonably priced (Sundaes at the Park $2, Dino Day Camp, Science & Art, etc).
On any given weekday you can go inside the nature center and enjoy animals in cages and behind glass while sitting in the air conditioning.
There is a small area with dress up costumes, felt boards, nature books, puppets, puzzles, tons of hands-on activities and even a play structure perfect for toddlers.
The outside of the center has a wonderful shaded path that is a 1/3 of a mile and easy to navigate with a stroller. It is through shaded woods and clearly marked. There is a longer path that is one mile that is manageable with young children but harder with a stroller. If you take either path, stop by the nature center first and they will give you a scavenger hunt on a bingo card.
It encourages you to look for various items like squirrels and ivy.
At the end of the hike, you end up back at the nature center near a pond that is full of frogs and tadpoles. This is a small pond not much bigger than a baby pool and is very manageable. Children were laying on their stomachs looking under lily pads the when we were there last.
There are also tables in the shade if you wanted to have a lunch or snack. They have a few items for sale for under a dollar like sticker books, rocks and trinkets. Hidden Oaks is open in the summer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (closed Tues) and 12 to 5 p.m. on weekends. It is also open in the winter but opens at noon.