Jerome Buddie Ford Nature Center

Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center 5750 Sanger Ave. Alexandria, VA 22311. Visit Alexandria’s very own Nature Center! *Free Admission*

Page updated on May 2, 2019 at 9:38 AM

Visit Alexandria's very own Nature Center! At the Nature Center, you can see live animals up close and learn about the cultural and natural history of Dora Kelley Nature Park. With over 30 lives animals residing at the center, and a 50-acre park on site, the Naturalists on staff will help you and your family explore and enjoy Alexandria's wild side! The Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center provides year-round programs and interactive exhibits to children and adults of all ages.

5750 Sanger Ave. | Alexandria, VA | 703.746.5559

Hours of Operation

  • Wednesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. (April - October)
  • Closed: Monday & Tuesday
  • Holiday Schedule

Naturalist/Environmental Educator: Jane Yeingst 
Program Coordinator/Naturalist: Majd "MJ" Jarrar
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator/Naturalist: Tarryn Lee

Our Mission Statement:

The mission of the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center is to provide quality, nature-based interpretive programs for City of Alexandria residents and aid in the management, conservation, and preservation of Alexandria's natural resources through informative recommendations and conservation projects.

Our Goals:

  • To enrich the leisure-time experiences of Alexandria residents.
  • To foster greater awareness, appreciation, and concern for Alexandria's natural environment.
  • To produce interpretive programs and exhibits on Alexandria's natural history in compliance with ADA requirements.
  • To provide residents with volunteer opportunities in conservation projects.
  • To serve as a resource base of knowledge about the natural  environment for Alexandria residents.

Upcoming Programs


Summer Solstice Overnight (Ages 7-11)

 Friday, June 21

 Register here


Insect Safari (Ages 5-8)

 Saturday, June 29

 Register here


National Aquarium Field Trip (Ages 7-12)
 Monday, July 29 Register here


For a complete list of our summer programs, please visit

Nature Buddies After School Program

Nature BuddiesThe Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities offers an afterschool program at the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center. This nature-oriented afterschool Program provides fun, imaginative ways to enrich your child's experience both indoors and out. With an excellent child to adult ratio (8:1), we give your child a personal and structured learning environment.

Open to children ages five to ten, the program operates Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., September 4, 2018 through June 20, 2019.

Program is currently accepting online enrollment! Registration fee is $350 per month. Bus transportation is available from City of Alexandria public schools. Snacks, supplies, and field trips are included in registration fee. Sibling discount and financial aid available for qualified households.

For additional information about the program, or if you have any questions, email MJ, Program Coordinator at

Nature Center- Owl

Dora Kelley Nature Park

Just outside the Nature Center lies Dora Kelley Nature Park, a 50-acre wildlife sanctuary with a one-mile long nature trail that meanders along streams, wooded hills, and freshwater marshland.

Naturalist-led tours of the park are offered every season and are free of charge. 

A self-guided booklet, available at the Nature Center, interprets the natural features of the park using numbered signposts along the trail. Download the Dora Kelley Guide.

A paved bike trail connecting Sanger Ave. and Van Dorn St. winds through the park which is ADA accessible. 

Native Plant Garden

Native Plant Pollinator Garden

Volunteers and Nature Center employees worked together to landscape and plant a native plant pollinator and meadow habitat garden, featuring native grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs of the Holmes Run Gorge and Dora Kelley Nature Park environs. It is the only example of a southwest-facing Acidic Oak-Hickory Forest edge garden in the City of Alexandria. Volunteers from Earth Sangha, Virginia Native Plant Society Potowmack Chapter, and Arlington Regional Master Naturalists, as well as Alexandria residents planted 327 individual plants of 18 different species.

Nature Exhibits

Year-Round Exhibits

  • Live turtles, snakes, lizards, toads, and more
  • Children's library
  • Children's water and sand tables
  • Puppet stage
  • Ant colony exhibit
  • Natural history reference library for adults
  • Games and activity stations for children
  • Greenhouse with tropical rainforest plants and parrot
  • Mary Anne Warner's beautiful 16' x 7' oil mural, "Wildlife of the Dora Kelley Nature Park"
  • Mounted black bear, red fox, turkey, raccoon, and bobcat
  • Interpretive exhibits on local geology, prehistory, and history
New Star

New Exhibits

MicroEYE: A new, interactive exhibit promoting hands-on and up-close exploration of objects found in nature has been added to the Nature Center. Meet the MicroEYE from New Zealand, a video microscope that provides a zoom magnification ranging from 2x-40x that displays on a high definition television monitor to inspire and intrigue people of all ages.

Ant Colony: Our new ant habitat will allow guests to get a closer look at the interesting behavior of native carpenter ants. The exhibit provides an inside-look into underground ant colonies and is more than just a classic ant farm!


Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts

Nature Scouts

Bring your troop to earn a badge, patch, bead, challenge, or "try-it" at the nature center. We will provide the learning activities, program materials, and set a time to suit your troop's schedule (you provide the badge, patch, etc.)

Are you working on an individual badge or award? Contact us to create a project tailored to your requirements.

 $50 per troop for up to 15 children ($5 for each additional child).

School Field Trips  

Nature Center- ProgramTeachers are encouraged to set up a field trip to the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center this school year, or let one of our Naturalist staff come to your school for an outreach program! Interpretive programs are designed to assist teachers in meeting Virginia's SOL requirements.

Some of our program topics include:

  • Life Cycles
  • Animal Adaptations
  • Animal Classifications
  • Hibernation

Please email for more information on school programs and field trips.

Nature Center Volunteers

Volunteer Opportunities 

A variety of volunteer opportunities are available through the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center for ages 16 and above. Positions include naturalist aide, trails and grounds maintenance volunteer, and visitor experience volunteer.
Volunteer opportunities for groups can be arranged by contacting the Nature Center.

Visit for a list of available volunteer opportunities and position descriptions, or to submit an application.

Citizen Science Opportunity - City Nature Challenge

Join us at Dora Kelley Nature Park for a Naturalist-led survey of the park's biodiversity or explore the region on your own. This survey will take place from April 26th - April 29th

This event is open to all ages and skill levels.

Join the project:

Naturalist-led surveys will take place on:

Friday, April 26 at 10 a.m.

Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m.

Sunday, April 28 at 1 p.m.

Monday, April 29 at 10 a.m.

Please meet at the Nature Center. Contact the Nature Center if you have any questions.

Nature Center- Birthday

Nature Birthday Parties 

The Nature Center offers birthday parties for children ages 4 to 12. Each birthday party includes 3-hour use of party room, Naturalist-led interpretive program with choice of theme, hike & craft. $10 for each additional child (up to 20 children total).


  • City of Alexandria residents: $225 (additional $35 fee for nonresidents)


To secure a party date, prior registration and payment are required. For booking information and forms, please call 703.746.5559.

Some of our most popular themes include:

  • Amphibians (Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, etc.)
  • Reptiles (Snakes, Lizards, Turtles)
  • Turtles and Tortoises

Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center "Nature News"

Send us an email to receive our free quarterly newsletter. You will receive information about upcoming nature programs, volunteer opportunities, free adult hikes, and special events with direct links to the City's registration webpage.

Nature Programs

All classes are held at the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center (BFNC) unless otherwise noted. To view and register for Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center classes and activities online, use WebTrac and select our center and park in the Locations drop down menu (Buddie Ford Nature Center, Dora Kelley Nature Park). For additional information, call the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center staff at 703.746.5559.