City Kids in the Woods

My son points to a wooded area about 50 feet away from an elementary school playground in Vermont and asks, “if that’s the woods, are there wolves in there?”. As a city kid, his exposure to the woods to date includes hiking in the Wissahickon and Anna and Kristoff running from wolves in the Arendelle forest in the Disney movie Frozen. My family in Vermont therefore enjoyed bringing their “city-slicker” relatives for hikes and all of the comical comments that those adventures brought from my two little urbanites.


Over our recent holiday break, we traveled to Vermont to visit family and while there we explored the Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, Vermont. While we often visit local Philadelphia farms, we have not visited a large-scale forest and farm where the primary purpose is educating the public about sustainable farming and not tourism. There is no admission fee and guests can simply park and explore on their own or stop in the visitor’s center to get information about how the land is used.


My kids enjoyed meeting a pig and horse up close and then hiking through the forest. While they have done these things before, there was something majestic about a quiet, peaceful farm atop a mountain that was unlike other farm trips we have had. While our first visit was intended to be a quick way to tire the kids out before the six-hour car ride home, we will definitely return to learn more about this precious resource.


Driving home from Vermont I reflected on how fortunate my children are to have grandparents that live in varying environments from our own: the mountains, the beach, and the tropics. They talk about how there are moose by Nana’s house, dolphins by Grandma’s, and alligators by Grandpa’s. And yet my 4-year-old says his favorite animal is a pigeon. Less than 24 hours from returning to Philadelphia, my 2-year-old shouted “I want museum” and we were in our own backyard adventure, the Franklin Institute. What our home environment lacks in fresh air and furry animals, it makes up for in culture. We are grateful for the balance that our family network provides to our children’s developing sense of the world, but plan to stay planted in the concrete jungle of Philadelphia, pigeons and all.


Places to expose your city kids to nature near Philadelphia:

Arboretums & Gardens:

Morris Arboretum

Bartram’s Garden

Longwood Gardens

Awbury Arboretum

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve


Fairmount Park Horticulture Center

Tyler Arboretum

Waterfront & Fishing:

Race Street Pier

Pier 68

Washington Avenue Pier

Parks Beyond the City:

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Binky Lee Preserve

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Educational Centers:

Schulykill Center for Environmental Education

Riverbend Environmental Education Center


Peace Valley Lavender Farm

Greensgrow Farms

Linvilla Orchards

Wyck House Farm


For many more ideas, visit:


[I have no affiliation with any of the above organizations and I am not responsible for the content of external links. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this post.]

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  1. I just came across your blog, I find it very insightful!
    I’m a new mother and my husband and I are currently living in olde city.. we have enjoyed life in this neighborhood for 10 years, but all the charm seems to be fading now that I have a stroller. Not to mention the apartment is getting cramped and we have started the great debate (city vs burbs to raise our baby)
    I find olde city isn’t very “stroller friendly” with the cobblestones and small ally ways..
    I also find that it’s tough walking as we have no parks or grocery stores within safe walking distance. Yes, I know there is franklin square, but crossing over the bridge entrance is very unsafe in my opinion!

    Fairmount seems family friendly but I don’t know anyone there to get the true inside opinion.. also, growing up I had free range living in the burbs.. I can’t ever imagine letting my child go out alone..

    I love the city, I want to stay.. the burbs seem so quiet and dare I say boring..BUT they have space and saftey..

    As you can see, I’m so torn.. can you offer any advice? Refer me to posts that can help?

    Thank you!!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Heather. I’m always up for convincing more families to stay in the city, so here’s my best shot. First of all, there are a lot of family-friendly neighbhorhoods in the city. I like Bella Vista & Queen Village– walkable to grocery, good sidewalks, great food, lots of kids activities in the area and parks. Many people also like Grad Hospital, Fairmount, and Fishtown. Second of all, I don’t think a lot of people in the suburbs let their kids roam the way we used to when we were little. Yes, they have a yard, but they still watch them out there. We have so much else to offer in the city! Culture, diversity, architecture, museums, etc. Third, there was a good piece about this decision in another blog called Wee Wander:

      Best of luck making this difficult decision!

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