Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez
Natural history museums rarely have the advantage of acres and acres of actual nature just outside their doorsteps, but Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum is an exception. It sits just steps away from the 65-acre Fernbank Forest—one of the last remaining old-growth hardwood forests in the Piedmont region—which the museum has spent the past four years reclaiming from invasive species. Starting this weekend, visitors to will gain access to not only Fernbank Forest, but WildWoods, a new 10-acre outdoor educational area that bridges the space between the museum and the (mostly programming-free) urban forest. Here’s what you can expect to find:
Stroll along the elevated Montgomery Highline Trace, and you’ll encounter this “Tree Pod,” one of two spots to rest and gaze through the tree canopy.
Meant for kids ages 8 and under, Nature Stories includes a play area where young visitors can climb, slide, balance, and explore.
The play area is full of treasures for kids to find, like this nook where a (faux) lizard guards its eggs.
Next to the play area is a simulated creek bed that teaches kids how water trickles and travels.
Tweens ages 9 to 12 have their own area of WildWoods called Adventure Outpost, which feels like a huge fort in the trees. Among the places to climb and clamber: this swinging rope bridge.
Adventure Outpost also features educational activities, like this interactive Pixel Puzzle and a Weather Station where visitors can check the temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure.
Past the Adventure Outpost is Kendeda Pavilion, a covered, screened-in space for guided programming that overlooks the new Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s also where you’ll find bathrooms and water fountains.
Just outside the Kendeda Pavilion is a Sensory Wall, where children (and adults) can feel their way among fern leaves, acorns, feathers, and other textures.
The Nature Gallery hosts rotating outdoor exhibits, and is one of the last areas you’ll encounter as you head towards the Forest. First up: a series of “bug hotels.”
A “bug hotel” on display in the Nature Gallery.
This interactive animal tracking area is one of the many learning opportunities that children will encounter along the pathways.
From the Nature Gallery, a path leads toward Fernbank Forest. Visitors can explore the 65-acre area via the .8-mile Interpretive Loop or the 1.7-mile Outer Loop. Or sign up for one of the regular guided tours, like an Audubon bird walk.
Returning from Fernbank Forest, visitors can walk along the lower pathway, which runs alongside the new Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary.
A peaceful overlook at the Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary, a restored creek meadow.
WildWoods was built upon land that was once owned by private estates. As you walk back toward the museum, don’t miss this stone wall, which once marked the entrance to a backyard garden.