Best Nature Centers in Southeast Michigan
Get in touch with the great outdoors with hikes, interpretive programs, exhibits, crafts, events and more at the region's best nature nooks
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What better way to experience Michigan's outdoor wonders than a family stroll through a park? Well, from metro Detroit to Ann Arbor, our nature centers offer just that – and up the ante with a variety of interpretive programs that seriously immerse kids in nature. From in-house wildlife exhibits and trail hikes to crafts, major events and live animals eager to say "hey," don't miss these incredible recreational gems right in your backyard.
- Address: 1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor
- Phone: 734-997-1553
- Hours: Critter House: 4-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-3 p.m. Sunday. Contact for program hours. Grounds: Dawn-dusk daily.
- Admission: Free/general, $1 suggested donation/Critter House, fees vary/programs
Oodles of cool creatures call this 50-acre "center" home – and you can meet them! Select weekend hours, The Critter House is filled with about 30 Ann Arbor-native frogs, turtles, snakes and rabbits, plus some exotic animals, like a bearded dragon, all in their unique habitats (desert, rainforest, wetlands, etc.) And don't miss the raptor enclosure, home to hawks, owls, a bald eagle, vultures and more. Stroll the mile-long trail through the Black Pond woods, too, or try a Leslie Science & Nature Center family event.
- Address: Metro Beach Metropark, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township
- Phone: 586-463-4581
- Hours: 1-5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends (watch for extended spring/summer hours)
- Admission: $5/vehicle, $25/annual, fees vary/programs
Set close by the Lake St. Clair shoreline, this center is a hub for exploring Michigan's wildlife. Live amphibians and reptiles call this spot home (you might even get to hold a snake!) – and there's an eye-popping array of cool taxidermic critters, from squirrels to fox. Hands-on fun is over in the Kids' Corner; take a peek through the nature window, too. And be sure to check out the roster of interpretive programs, from seasonal to historical.
- Address: 4101 River Bends Drive, Shelby Township
- Phone: 586-323-2478
- Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission: Free; small fees/programs
Known as "little Grand Canyon of Macomb County," this habitat-rich gem touts an interactive crawl-through tunnel with scenes of wildlife you might find in and under the Clinton River. Touch real live reptiles and amphibians, to boot. Nature and historical programs and special events abound – and be sure to explore River Bends Park and the surrounding 80 acres.
- Address: 333 N. Hill Circle, Rochester
- Phone: 248-656-0999
- Hours: 9 a.m.-noon Monday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday (watch for extended spring/summer hours), noon-3 p.m. most Sundays. Closed Saturdays. Trails: Dawn-dusk daily.
- Admission: Free/general, fees vary/programs
How much fun can you dig up at Dinosaur Hill? Thanks to a partnership between the city of Rochester and nonprofit Friends Group, tons! This serene 16-acre oasis is known for family programs at reasonable rates (watch for their Family Campfire activities). There's plenty more nature to explore inside their award-winning nature center.