Archives For Nature Centers

Whale Watching from Shore

Maruska —  March 14, 2017

Whale Watching from ShoreWhale watching on a boat is not an option for me. I get sea sick just thinking about it. A visit to the Dana Point Interpretive Center is a great alternative and a cheap one.

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First explore their natural history exhibits which are fun for the whole family, then borrow their binoculars and go outside to look for whales. It is actually much more fun to walk down the trail behind the center so you get closer to the ocean. The trail is really short, but you won’t be able to use a stroller, so if you have a little one just enjoy the breathtaking view from the interpretive center.

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Make sure to talk to the volunteers since they will share all kind of neat information with the kids and they will also teach you how to spot a whale.

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Address:

Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center
34558 Scenic Dr
Dana Point, CA, 92629

Hours:

Tuesday-Sunday: 10am – 4pm

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Muth Interpretive Center

Click on image to enlarge

A visit to the Muth Interpretive Center is a must for all Orange County families. This 10,000-square-foot educational facility is dedicated to the preservation of the Upper Newport Bay, the largest of only a few remaining natural estuaries in Southern California. This wonderful place has tons of free activities that will entertain you and your kids for several hours. 

Free Activities at the Muth Interpretive Center:

  • Lots of exhibits and interactive displays that teach you about the wildlife of the Upper Newport bay.
  • Watch the award-winning “Saltmarsh Seasons” in the Ray and Elsa Watson Theater.
  • Check out live reptile and amphibian displays.
  • Have fun with animal puppets, puzzles, books and crafts.
  • Take a walk or a bike ride around the bay and look for birds, fish and animals that hang out in the area. Do you know that Upper Newport Bay is an important rest stop for birds migrating from Canada and Alaska? Up to 30,000 birds can be seen here on any one day during the winter months.

Other Kids’s Activities at the Muth Interpretive Center:

  • On Friday morning from 10:30-11:30 they have super fun parent & child classes which may include arts and crafts, storytelling, live animal presentation, hands-on activities and a nature walk. The class is $5 per child and it is well worth it. Reservations are preferred so that they can make sure they have enough craft material for everyone. For ages 2-5. To register call (949) 923 2275 or email unbic@ocparks.com.

Other Activities close by:

  • Free: explore the Back Bay Science Center, tour the teaching lab and aquarium tanks, visit the touch pool touch tank, and do some bird watching. Every Sunday from 10am-2pm. Click here for more info.
  • Free: see the diverse plants, birds and other wildlife of six distinct habitats as you take a self-guided tour on a ½ mile nature trail starting at the Big Canyon parking lot. Click here for more info. 
  • For a fee: on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 12pm you can join an experienced naturalist for a guided kayak tour of the back bay. $25/person, ages 8 and up. Click here for more info. 
  • For a fee: you can also rent a kayak any day of the week for $15/hour ($20/hour for a two person kayak). Ages 8 and up. Click here for more info.

Address:

2301 University Avenue, Newport Beach, 92660

Opening Hours:

Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 4pm.
Free admission, free parking.

Listing On PlanDayOut:

Click here to get all the information about the Muth Interpretive Center. If you scroll at the bottom of the page you will see a list of events at this location.

 

Tucker Wildlife SanctuaryTucker Wildlife Sanctuary is another hidden gem in Orange County. Located in the heart of Modjeska Canyon, this sanctuary includes family-friendly nature trails, a bird observation porch, a sensory garden, and lots and lots of wildlife. They even have a wonderful Natural Science Center with interactive exhibits, live animals, animal taxidermy, and several children’s activities. This is an amazing place to visit with kids of all ages.

Inside the Natural Science Center

Inside the Natural Science Center

Things You Should Know:

  • The drive itself is quite an adventure. Just a few minutes after leaving Lake Forest, you start seeing horses in people’s backyards. Once we got closer to the Sanctuary we had to stop because several chickens were crossing the street. You totally feel like you are in another world.
  • There are several picnic tables just outside the nature center, so feel free to bring a picnic.
  • You can use a stroller to explore the Oakwood trail located across the street from the nature center. However, you will need a baby carrier to explore the sensory trail or the Chaparral trail which are the two trails next to the Natural Science Center.
  • The sensory garden can be walked easily by toddlers and preschoolers since it is really short.
  • The Chaparral Trail is short but it is a little steep, so your toddler might not like it. But give it a try. It is worth it. Preschoolers and older kids can easily walk this trail.
  • You can park across the street from the Natural Science Center for free.
  • There are lots of animals living in this area, so your kids can look for track casts along the trails. You can use this map to try to identify them.
Chapparal Trail

Chapparal Trail

Where:

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
29322 Modjeska Canyon
Silverado, CA, 92676

When:

Tuesday-Sunday 9am-4pm. Closed on Monday and major holidays.

Cost:

Free

Oakwood Trail across the street from the Natural Science Center