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:
Waterfront & Fishing:
– Pier 68
Parks Beyond the City:
For many more ideas, visit: http://www.visitphilly.com/outdoor-activities/nature-parks-and-gardens/
[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.]