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Best Family Nature Centers in Southeast Michigan

Experience the great outdoors and adventure in nature at these Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw centers in Metro Parent's 2014-15 guide

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In southeast Michigan, there are tons of places for families to get outside and experience all that nature has to offer. Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties all tout a wealth of nature centers, giving kids the perfect place to explore, have fun and learn something, to boot. With hiking trails, live animals, special programs and hands-on activities abounding, what are you waiting for? Find a center near you to start the fun!

Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center

  • 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-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission: Free; small fees/programs

This nature-filled spot lets kids crawl through a tunnel complete with scenes of wildlife. Plus, kids get the opportunity to touch real reptiles and amphibians. Don't forget to check out Burgess-Shadbush's special events and programs – or explore the area around the center.

Crosswinds Marsh Wetland Interpretive Preserve

  • Address: 27600 Haggerty Road, New Boston
  • Phone: 734-654-1220
  • Hours: Dawn-dusk daily
  • Admission: Free/general, fees, fees vary/programs

Find year-round activities the whole family can enjoy at this Wayne County spot, including hiking trails. Also, families and schools can get involved with the educational programs here to learn more about nature, with topics ranging from geology to wetlands.

Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve

  • Address: 333 N. Hill Circle, Rochester
  • Phone: 248-656-0999
  • Hours: School year: 9 a.m.-noon Monday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Summer: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Open occasional Sundays. Trails: Dawn-dusk daily.
  • Admission: Free/general, fees vary/programs. Note: Preregistration required for programs and events here!

The 16-acre preserve has lots for families to explore. With family programs galore at affordable rates, kids are sure to learn a lot and have fun while they're at it while visiting Dinosaur Hill.

Drayton Plains Nature Center

  • Address: 2125 Denby Drive, Waterford
  • Phones: 248-674-5441
  • Hours: Center: 1-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Grounds: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. April 15-Oct. 15, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Oct. 16, 2014-April 14. 2015.
  • Admission: Free/general, fees vary/programs

Kids can get a look at real animals, both native and to the area at not. See everything from fish and turtles to caterpillars, hedgehogs and ferrets. Plus, kids will want to watch for birds here, where you can look out a one-way window and see feathered friends eating from the feeder. With 13 different tanks and aquariums here and summer camps for all ages, there's no shortage of fun at Drayton Plains. Check with the Waterford Parks and Rec department for special programs.

E. Dale Fisk Hawk Woods Nature Center

  • Address: 3799 Bald Mountain Road, Auburn Hills
  • Phone: 248-370-9353
  • Hours: 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Trails open dawn to dusk daily.
  • Admission: Free/nature center; some fees may apply to programs

Swing by for a hike on the nature trails, or walk the boardwalk over the marsh. Families can find a wealth of family programs here, like the father-son campout. Looking to camp? Rent one of the five log cabins, or just book a lodge for a birthday party!

E.L. Johnson Nature Center

  • Address: 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills
  • Phone: 248-341-6485
  • Hours: Trails: 8 a.m.-dusk Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Center: Hours vary weekdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, noon-3 p.m. Sunday.
  • Admission: Free; donations welcome

Explore this 40-acre site, complete with pond (with real live fish!) and tons of plants and wildlife. Walk the trails, or stop by the visitor center to check out the displays and pick up some bits of nature knowledge.

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