The 10 Best Nature Centers in California!

California is home to natural wonders and stunning terrain that varies across the massive state. Nature centers throughout the Golden State educate the public about the splendor that you can discover in nature and the environment. These nature centers celebrate everything from glistening beaches, to vast oceans, to dense forests, and dry deserts, in keeping with the state’s array of diversity. Here are our 10 favorite nature centers in California. 

1. Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Carlsbad, CA

The Agua Hedionda Lagoon is the home of many natural wonders and the Foundation seeks to preserve it for future generations through education. It also seeks to offer public access to nature through wilderness trails and volunteer efforts.

2. Cachuma Lake Nature Center, Santa Barbara County, CA

Cachuma Lake is a woodland habitat home to fish, birds and more wildlife. The Neal Taylor Nature Center is one part museum and one part hands-on activities. It offers a diverse array of learning activities and things to do for kids, ranging from workshops to puppet shows. No matter what, everyone is encouraged to touch and discover new things.

3. Ventana Wildlife Society Nature Center, Big Sur, CA

Big Sur is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular places on earth, filled with stunning ocean views and ancient forests. Located within Andrew Molera State Park, The Ventana Wildlife Society Nature Center helps visitors better understand what makes the views so stunning and unique and helps to preserve flora and fauna, include California’s condors for years to come.

4. Sooky Goldman Nature Center, Beverly Hills, CA

Located in Franklin Canyon Park, the Sooky Goldman Nature Center offers information about the cultural and environmental implications of the surrounding 600 acres of open space, including ponds, trees, grasslands and more. Visitors and volunteers are strongly encouraged.

5. Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Tiburon, CA

The Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located on the banks of the San Francisco Bay and provides a refuge for water birds and Pacific herring. It is closed for part of the year to make way for conservation efforts. Nearby is acreage that offers space for youth camps and other learning experiences.

6. Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve Visitors Center, Guerneville, CA

Once upon a time, redwoods filled Northern California up to the Oregon border. With the gold rush, came logging and a loss of trees. Now there are nature preserves to save the trees and grow new ones. At the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve Visitors Center, you can learn about the history of the trees and the impact they have on current ecosystems.

7. Shipley Nature Center, Huntington Beach, CA

The Shipley Nature Center opened in 1974 as a way to showcase what Huntington Beach might have looked like 100 years ago, before development. Now the nature center offers several different California habitats and a chance to experience the wonder of the natural world through a variety of activities and sights and sounds.

8. Environmental Nature Center, Newport Beach, CA

The Environmental Nature Center is dedicated to providing hands-on experiences with nature for people throughout life. To that end, the nature center offers a variety of programs including preschools, camps and the opportunity to celebrate weddings and special events. The mission is to help students enjoy nature’s beauty through a variety of vegetation that is native to California.

9. Idyllwild Nature Center, Idyllwild, CA

The Idyllwild Nature Center offers a variety of educational programs as well as seasonal events that attract families and visitors to the beautiful grounds. You can learn about the habitats that surround the trails as well as bring something home from the nature shop, which supports the center and its variety of programs and things to do.

10. Placerita Canyon Nature Center, Newhall, CA

Set in a canyon and surrounded by a variety of plant and animal life, the Placerita Canyon Nature Center offers various programs including guided weekend walks to encourage bird watching, a hike to waterfalls, and other events that help visitors to the surround park better enjoy and understand the natural wilderness area. 

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