We’re lucky in the Kansas City area to have so many pockets of nature nearby where we can hike, explore, and learn with our kids. We’ve compiled a list of Kansas City nature centers, conservation areas, nature sanctuaries, wetlands, and gardens where you can spend time in nature and learn about our local eco-systems and wildlife.
Kansas Nature Centers
1365 N 1250 Rd, Lawrence, KS 66046 | Website
The Baker University wetlands boast one of the most diverse habitats in Kansas. They’ve spotted more than 275 species of birds and 487 plant species in the wetlands. Stop by the Wetlands Discovery Center to learn about the area and then go on a hike or attend a program to explore and learn more. The Nature Tots program is designed specifically for kids 6 and under and the Wetlands Explorers program is meant for kids ages 7 to 12. You can find more events posted on their Facebook page.
Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center
909 North, KS-7, Olathe, KS 66061 | Website
Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center has trails, programming, camps, and even hosts affordable birthday parties! Check out their Friday amphitheater program to learn about all kinds of critters or go on a twilight hike (recommended for kids age 8 and up). If you want to explore without attending a program, bring your family out to visit the nature center and then go on a hike and do the family scavenger hunt.
Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
8909 W 179th St, Bucyrus, KS 66013 | Website
The Arboretum is a beautiful place to take your family to take in nature, go on a hike, and play and explore. They are well known for the train garden filled with working miniature trains that are run by a team of volunteers. Just beyond the train garden you’ll find a children’s garden for kids to explore including a nature playground. There are miles of hiking trails, gardens, public art and sculptures, programming and events, and a small visitors center. Construction is underway on the new visitors center that should be completed in 2023. Admission is free for kids five and under, $1 for kids 6-12, and $3 for all others.
Prairie Oak Nature Center at Ironwoods Park
3640 Ironwoods Ct, Leawood, KS 66224 | Website
This small nature center hosts a variety of animals, reptiles, and fish as well as a bird feeding area and a butterfly garden. There is a two mile hiking trail where you can discover differing habitats. You can even rent a cabin and have an overnight adventure. Admission to the nature center is free and you can check out their calendar to see upcoming programs and events.
Prairie Park Nature Center
2730 Harper St, Lawrence, KS 66046 | Website
Next time you make a visit to Lawrence take a little time to explore the Prairie Park Nature Center next to Mary’s Lake. They offer lots of free programs as well as plenty of animal habitats, birds, reptiles, and mammals to check out. My kid’s favorite is their loud bird named Tino. There is a small play room for kids and when you want to get outside take a walk on one of the trails that goes around the lake. If you have a fishing license you can even go fishing!
Missouri Nature Centers
Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center
4750 Troost Ave, Kansas City, MO 64110 | Website
In the city you’ll find eight acres dedicated to preserving forest, woodland, wetland and prairie habitats. You can explore them all when you visit the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center. Check out the exhibits inside, go on a hike on one of the trails, attend one of the free programs, and definitely stop to play on the nature playground.
Beanstalk Children’s Garden
6917 Kensington Ave, Kansas City, MO 64132 | Website
When you visit the Beanstalk Children’s Garden located near the Kansas City Zoo your child can see, smell, taste, and touch the plants and fruits and veggies being grown. Take a self-guided tour or pay $2 for a guided tour. They are only open from June – October so plan accordingly. Check out our full guide to the Beanstalk Children’s Garden here.
Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area
1401 NW Park Rd., Blue Springs, MO | Website
This is the home of Missouri’s first nature center and you’ll find a fun play area inside for kids to enjoy. There are several short trails to explore with your kids where you can spot wildlife, streams, birds, wild flowers, and large limestone boulders.
Cave Spring Park (William M. Klein Park)
8701 E Gregory Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64133 | Website
Here you’ll find “the hidden little forest in the city” with over four miles of easy trails to explore with your family. On the trails you’ll find old stone chimneys, caves, waterfalls, and lots of birds and animals. Visit the interpretive center to learn more about the park and then go play in the treehouse on the nature playground.
Lakeside Nature Center
4701 E Gregory Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64132 | Website
Located in Swope Park, Lakeside Nature Center features native wildlife, trails, gardens, and free programming. Print off a copy of this scavenger hunt to guide you during your visit. Every Saturday they offer a free story and craft time called Mother Nature Reads. You can even have your next birthday party here!
Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary
407 N La Frenz Rd, Liberty, MO 64068 | Website
This 100 acre nature sanctuary in Liberty, Missouri is a beautiful place to explore nature on one of their hiking trails or in the nature center. If birding is your thing, bring your binoculars, print off the bird checklist, and go in search of some of the 150 different species of birds that have been spotted in the nature sanctuary. They offer many programs and also host camps and birthday parties.
Native Hooved Animal Enclosure at Fleming Park
6010 East Park Road, Blue Springs, MO 64015 | Website
It might come as a surprise, but there is a 110 acre fenced animal enclosure in Jackson County, Missouri! You’ll find elk, bison, and deer grazing freely in this area. You can no longer feed the animals but you can observe them and enjoy a picnic next to Lake Jacomo.
Parkville Nature Sanctuary
100 E 12 St, Parkville, MO 64152 | Website
While the nature sanctuary in Parkville doesn’t have a nature center on site, it is a great area to explore nature and even take a short hike to a waterfall. Parkville has lots to offer for families so you can make a day of it!
1609 NW US Hwy 50, Kingsville, MO 64061 | Website
Pack a picnic and make the drive out to Powell Gardens to enjoy their beautiful gardens, nature programs, and special events and exhibits. Make sure you bring a change of clothes during the summer so you can splash in the fountains.