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Nature’s fun zone

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With its acres of green space and hiking trails, exhibits and viewing room, plus a full roster of ecologically grounded programs and events geared to kids, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont is nature’s very own fun zone for kids.

Irresistible to kids is the Children’s Play Garden, which beckons with its swings and slides, along with nature-based play features: rolling hills, fossil-filled rocks, and a dry creek bed. The Education Center, offering hands-on learning exhibits and an art gallery, is where kids can peer into the Wildlife Viewing Room to watch birds and small mammals in action, as well as a bee hive.

Bernheim’s I Spy Trail behind the Education Center presents a scavenger hunt activity so kids can tap into their powers of observation to find items that naturally belong in a forest landscape. A Canopy Tree Walk leads adventurers 75 feet aboveground via a boardwalk that extends into the forest canopy.

“If you have only the morning to spend at Bernheim, don’t miss our Canopy Tree Walk,” says Amy Landon, manager of Communications and Marketing. “It’s a short hike, but it takes you out onto a wooden path that cantilevers up into the tree tops. We also have our Edible Garden that shows the fruits and vegetables that grow well in the area—a great way for kids to connect with what they eat.”

Bernheim, served by Salt River Electric, has more than 35 miles of trails, many of them designated as easy for all members of the family and just long enough to hook the hiker in everybody. These include the half-mile Bent Twig Loop and half-mile High Point Loop, and sections of the Nursery Loop Trail and the Two Ponds Loop, which are paved to allow easy access for strollers and bicycles.

Year-round programming includes fun for all age groups: ECOKids (Every Child Outside) Discovery Days take place on the first and third Saturday of the month and include hands-on discovery stations at the Visitor Center, an “On Your Own Challenge” (a self-guided adventure that ties into the day’s theme), and a 45- to 60-minute hike of the day led by a Bernheim guide.

On the first Saturday of the month, kids 5 and under can explore during Bernheim’s Pollywog Play Parties, each a celebration of art, music, language, and outside play that includes a song and story circle, nature-based explorations, arts and crafts projects, science investigations, and free play.

Bernheim’s many program offerings include night hikes, free play days, and more. Pick up information and maps at the Visitor Center, where restrooms and water fountains are also located.

Bernheim Arboretum, Clermont, Bernheim.org, (502)955-8512.

For more information on fun zones for kids, read Kidding Around.

Kathy Witt from April 2016 Issue

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