Hidden Oaks Nature Center is one of our favorite spots to go on a hot day. This little gem of a nature center is located in Annandale in Fairfax County near Fairfax Hospital.
The nature center is like a smaller children’s museum with everything focused on animals, reptiles, and outdoor foliage native to the area.
During our visit, we ended up spending quite a bit of time both indoors and out enjoying everything the nature center had to offer.
If you haven’t yet visited the Hidden Oaks Nature Center, there is probably a lot more to do than you realize
Note: if you’re thinking the name sounds familiar, there is a different nature center call Hidden Pond Nature Center which is in Springfield.
The Nature Center
On the weekends, you can go inside the nature center and enjoy seeing animals and reptiles like snakes and turtles, while sitting in the wonderful air conditioning.
The kids will also enjoy the small area with:
- Dress up costumes
- Felt boards
- Nature books
- Tons of hands-on activities
- A play structure perfect for toddlers
Outside the nature center is a really amazing tree sculpture representing the outdoors with all sorts of birds and animals local to the area.
Outdoor Trail at Hidden Oaks Nature Center
If you’ve never been beyond the nature center, you must go back!
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. Kids have fun searching for animal footprints, touching the water in the creek and what kid doesn’t love throwing rocks into water?
It is through shaded woods and clearly marked. I found this to be a peaceful trail and we enjoyed seeing the trees, spring flowers and plants.
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 bingo card which completing can earn you a family field guide.
A scavenger hunt is also available for $1 that can be used to explore the outdoor trail. It encourages the kids 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.
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Children were laying on their stomachs looking under lily pads the when we were there last.
Check this trail map before your visit.
Their playground called Nature Playce is not like any other. My daughter calls it the butterfly playground, although it is a bug-themed playground. It is a 1/3 acre unstructured woodland that is design for kids to experience and explore the wonders of nature by playing in the woods.
They can be their own explorer if they want to, or get real messy with the mud, or just simply rest under the tree. This play area is so fun as it will not only bring them enjoyment but also knowledge and appreciation towards nature.
Classes & Events
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. You’ll find several different options for kids of various ages on their calendar. Some you may find depending on when you look for events are classes on:
- Animal feeding time
- Various animal classes
- Nature journaling (which we really want to do!)
- And more
It’s always best to check the current list of classes so you know which fits your kids.
Hours & When to Go
The Hidden Oaks Nature Center is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00pm to 5:00pm.
The park, however, is open from dawn to dusk.
If you visit for the playground and want to enjoy some down time, go during the week before school lets out. It seems not be too busy during the afternoons either but typically we do see at least some other families at that time. That can be helpful for keeping the kids entertained longer!
Good to Know
- Admission is free for individuals and families
- There are tables in the shade if you wanted to have a picnic lunch or snack
- They have a few items for sale like sticker books, rocks and trinkets
- The center also has an auditorium used for public programming which can be rented for birthdays and group events.
- Trails are easy for strollers and wheelchairs as they are all paved.
- Bathrooms are available next to the playground
Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located at: 7701 Royce St, Annandale, VA 22003 near Fairfax Hospital.
I find it easier to park at the Annandale Community Park and then take the trail that connects to the nature center.