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 Oct 3, 2019 at 2:43 PM

Visit Alexandria's very own Nature Center! At the Nature Center, see live animals up close and learn about the cultural and natural history of Dora Kelley Nature Park. With over 30 live 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 - 5 p.m. (April - October)
  • Closed: Monday & Tuesday
  • Holiday Schedule

Recreation Manager/Naturalist: Colleen Bernard
Environmental Educator/Naturalist
: 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.
  • To provide residents with volunteer opportunities in conservation projects.
  • To serve as a resource base of knowledge about the natural environment for Alexandria residents.  

Fall 2019 Native Plant Sale

Click here to visit the 2019 Native Plant Sale page. Orders accepted now through October 30.

Upcoming Programs


 Nature Play

 10/26   Register here


 Fledglings (series)

 10/11, 11/15, 12/13   Register here    $19/series

 School's Out, Nature's In!

 11/5 (teacher work day camp)   Register here    $65

For a complete list of our programs, please click here.

Nature Buddies After School Program

Buddie 1 photoThe Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities offers an afterschool program at the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center. This nature-oriented after school 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. Activities include live animal presentations, science experiments, woodland hikes, unstructured outdoor nature play, and more.

Open to children in Kindergarten through 5th grade, the program operates Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m., September 3, 2019 through June 19, 2020.

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 are available for qualified households.

For additional information or questions about this or any other programs, email MJ, Program Coordinator at

Nature-Themed Birthday Parties

Nature_birthday1The Nature Center offers birthday parties for children ages 4 to 12. Each birthday party includes two-hour use of party room, Naturalist-led interpretive program with choice of theme, hike & craft, and 30-minutes each for set-up and clean-up. Base fee covers up to 14 children. $10 for each additional child (up to 20 children total).


  • City of Alexandria residents: $225 (additional $40 fee for nonresidents)


To secure a party date, prior registration and payment are required.

Reservation Form

To officially request a birthday party, complete the form above and return to

For general information about birthday parties and to check if your preferred date is available, call 703.746.5559 or email us.

Some of our most popular themes include:

Reptiles (Snakes, Lizards, Turtles)

Amphibians (Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, etc.)  

Turtles and Tortoises

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. 

Year-Round Exhibits

  • Nature ExhibitsLive 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

For more information or to request a program, please email Please provide at least 4 weeks advance notice when scheduling programs.

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

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

To view and register for Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center's classes and activities online, use WebTrac and select our center in the Locations drop down menu (Buddie Ford Nature Center), and All in the Type drop down menu. For additional information, call the Naturalist staff at 703.746.5559.