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 Dec 8, 2016 at 10:26 PM


5750 Sanger Ave.
Alexandria, VA

Director: Mary Farrah

Naturalist: Jane Yeingst

Program Coordinator: Majd "MJ" Jarrar

Hours of Operation: 

Wednesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Sunday: 1 - 5 p.m. (April - October)

Closed: Monday & Tuesday

Holiday Schedule

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. The Naturalists on staff are here to help you and your family explore and enjoy Alexandria’s wild side! The Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center provides year-round programs and exhibits on Alexandria’s human and natural history. For more information, or to make program reservations, please call the Nature Center at 703.746.5559. 


Nature Buddies Afterschool Program

The Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities offers an afterschool program at the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center. This alternative program provides a safe, quiet setting for homework, study, reading, nature walks, live animal care and other nature-oriented activities. Open to children ages five to ten, the program operates Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., September 6, 2016 through June 22, 2017.

Program is currently accepting online enrollment! Registration fee is $350 per month. Bus transportation is available from select City of Alexandria public schools. Juice and snacks are included in registration fee.

For additional information about the program and for information on how to register, email MJ, Nature Buddies Program Coordinator:


Dora Kelley Nature Park

Nature Center- Owl

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.

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

Native Plant Pollinator Garden

BFNCNativePollinatorGardenOn July 27, 2015, 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.

Year-Round Exhibits

    Nature Center- Programs
        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

      MicroEYE station (NEW!)

      Interpretive exhibits on local geology, prehistory, and history

      Live turtles, snakes, toads, salamanders, and more!

      Reference library with children’s section

      Games and activity stations for children

      Greenhouse with tropical rainforest plants and live parrot 

      Girl Scouts & Boy 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.) $50 per troop for up to 15 children ($5 for each additional child). Please call 703.746.5559 to reserve. 

      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 call 703.746.5559 for more information. 

      Volunteer Opportunities 

      Nature Center Volunteers

      A variety of volunteer opportunities are available through the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center for ages 16 and above. Positions include front desk attendant, park conservation aide, and park watch assistant. Volunteer opportunities for individuals or groups in outdoor conservation and trail maintenance are also available from 10 am - 12 pm on the first Saturday of each month. Sign-up for volunteer training or schedule community service hours by calling the Naturalist staff. 

      Birthday Parties 

      Nature Center- BirthdayThe Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center offers birthday parties for children ages 4 to 12. Each 2 hour birthday party features live animals, a nature-oriented activity, and use of a private room. Fee for City of Alexandria residents: $165 for a party of up to 12 children (Nonresidents: $200). $10 for each additional child (up to 17 total children). 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

      Facility Rental

      The Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center’s activity room is available for use and rental by community groups and organizations. Please call 703.746.5559 for more information.

      Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center "Nature News"

      Good News! The Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center’s quarterly “Nature News” is now digital. You can learn about nature programming and special events free of charge. Upcoming weekend nature programs, volunteer opportunities, adult hikes, and special events are listed with direct links to the City’s registration webpage. In addition, the new and improved newsletter features informative articles and photo features depicting the latest information on the flora and fauna of Dora Kelley Nature Park. 

      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 in the Location drop down menu (Buddie Ford Nature). For additional information, call the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center staff at 703.746.5559.