Sneak Preview: What you’ll find at Fernbank’s new “WildWoods”

Opening this weekend, the 10-acre outdoor area leads into Fernbank Forest
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Fernbank's new WildWoods area opens this weekend

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:

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Museumgoers can enter WildWoods via the terrace, just outside the lower level.

The Petal Tree Pod
The Petal Tree Pod

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.

The Nature Stories area
The Nature Stories area

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

Meant for kids ages 8 and under, Nature Stories includes a play area where young visitors can climb, slide, balance, and explore.

The Nature Stories area
The Nature Stories area

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

The play area is full of treasures for kids to find, like this nook where a (faux) lizard guards its eggs.

The Creek Run
The Creek Run

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

Next to the play area is a simulated creek bed that teaches kids how water trickles and travels.

The Adventure Outpost area
The Adventure Outpost area

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.

The Adventure Outpost area
The Adventure Outpost area

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.

Kendeda Pavilion
Kendeda Pavilion

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.

The Sensory Wall
The Sensory Wall

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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
The Nature Gallery

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.”

The Nature Gallery
The Nature Gallery

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

A “bug hotel” on display in the Nature Gallery.

Simulated animal tracks
Simulated animal tracks

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

This interactive animal tracking area is one of the many learning opportunities that children will encounter along the pathways.

Fernbank Forest
Fernbank Forest

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.

The Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary
The Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

Returning from Fernbank Forest, visitors can walk along the lower pathway, which runs alongside the new Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary
The Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

A peaceful overlook at the Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary, a restored creek meadow.

The original stone wall
An original stone wall

Photo by Jennifer Rainey Marquez

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.

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