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
Director: Mary Farrah
Naturalist/Environmental Educator: Jane Yeingst
Program Coordinator: Majd "MJ" Jarrar
For more information, please call the Nature Center at 703.746.5559.
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.
- 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.
Nature Buddies Afterschool Program
The 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 6, 2016 through June 22, 2017.
Program is currently accepting online enrollment! Registration fee is $350 per month. Bus transportation is available from City of Alexandria public schools. Snacks are included in registration fee.
For additional information about the program, or if you have any questions, email MJ, Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
A paved bike trail connecting Sanger Ave. and Van Dorn St. winds through the park which is ADA accessible.
Native Plant Pollinator Garden
On 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.
- Live turtles, snakes, lizards, toads, and more
- Children's library
- 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
MicroEYE Interactive Exhibit at the Nature Center: 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.
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).
School Field Trips
Teachers 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
Please call 703.746.5559 for more information.
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.
The 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 for a party of up to 12 children. $10 for each additional child (up to 17 total children).
- City of Alexandria residents: $165 (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.
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.