It’s been so hot this summer. And our outdoor adventures were definitely being pushed back in lieu of indoor activities and ice cream. So when we finally had a break from the insane heat, and had a day that was only in the 80s, we decided to do something outside for our next adventure. I also had found out that with my Connecticut Trolley membership, I could go to a few places in July as part of their reciprocal program for free. And that is how we ended up at Roaring Brook Nature Center this past week.
Roaring Brook Nature Center is located in Canton. It’s tucked in a wooded area not too far from Rte. 202. We made it a full day by having lunch at The Flatbread Company in the Shoppes at Farmington Valley, then grabbing ice cream on our way home in Bloomfield at the new Scoop Shoppe. With our GPS, we had no issue finding our way to Roaring Brook.
They also make it easy to find them with plenty of signs, so that helps!
We visited on a Wednesday afternoon, just after lunch. Roaring Brook is open daily during the months of July and August, but otherwise close on Mondays for the rest of the year. Their weekday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays they open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. When we arrived around 1 p.m., they were not too busy. They did have a field trip visiting from a nearby camp but otherwise, we seemed to have the place to ourselves.
Once you head in through the main doors, you’ll see instructions telling you to go to the gift shop to check in.
The gift shop is the first thing you’ll see when you walk in on your right. It’s small but just be prepared that it is right there, especially if you have little ones that like to make you buy things!
The admissions desk is located in the gift shop. If no one is at the desk, there is a bell you can ring and someone will come out quickly to check you in.
As I mentioned, we had reciprocal admission courtesy of our trolley museum membership. Otherwise, admission to Roaring Brook is just $7 for adults and $5 for children. If you have a membership to the Children’s Museum of West Hartford, you can visit Roaring Brook for free. There are also passes available at many Connecticut libraries. However, with such a low admission that actually goes towards the running of the building and caring of the animals at Roaring Brook, it is worth paying!
Once we checked in, we grabbed a map. On one side was a map of the inside of the nature center. On the other side, there was a map of all of the trails. The property is rather large and there are over 5 miles of trails located at Roaring Brook.
We also decided to do a scavenger hunt while we walked around the nature center. My son was very excited to do the scavenger hunt. Until we actually started the scavenger hunt. His attention at age 5 is still a work in progress, so he found a few things and then he moved on. So instead, I did a scavenger hunt!
The nature center is a small building, but there is a lot packed inside. We roamed through all the rooms. You’ll find live animals hiding in tanks throughout each room.
The exhibits showcase the changes to land use and wildlife throughout hundreds of years, as people settled the land in Connecticut.
The beaver wetlands included showed us how important beavers are in the Connecticut landscape.
This room had a number of live animals including frogs!
We found some hissing cockroaches and mice in the tanks in the next room. Thankfully they were behind glass!
This modern house helped tie together how human development has affected nature and the animals around us. You can see a little skunk hiding under the porch- I think a few of us have those hiding near our house!
Most of the live animals were low to the ground in tanks, which is great for little ones. He was able to see so many things at his own level. He loved that!
Down a long hallway, we found even more exhibits. The restrooms (including a family restroom) were also located in this corridor.
At the end of the hallway, there is an auditorium. Roaring Brook works with a number of schools in the region to provide educational programs and field trips.
In the auditorium, they also had more live animals including turtles and snakes.
The last room in the Nature Center had a Native American longhouse on display. There were also some beautiful photographs of birds on the wall.
Off to the side of this room, we spotted the rehabilitation clinic where Roaring Brook actually helps with rescuing and rehabilitating many animals.
After we explored the inside of the Nature Center, we headed outdoors.
The first thing this kid spotted was a little brook with toy turtles, dogs and more. He enjoyed splashing around and sending the animals down into the water.
We then checked out the turtles that call Roaring Brook their home.
Roaring Brook also has a number of birds of prey at the facility, including owls, a hawk and a turkey vulture. Each bird has a story. Many were injured and brought to the center for rescue. They are unable to survive in the wild, but with the proper care they are receiving at Roaring Brook, they are expected to live a long time.
After we explored the outdoor exhibits, we decided to take on a couple of the trails! This is when our map came in handy!
The easiest trail for younger kids is the butterfly trail, which is located directly across from the entrance to the Nature Center. This was a simple trail with a smooth walkway. It’s a very short trail and easy to move through.
We saw some butterflies fluttering around, but he was mostly fascinated with the bees. We actually just watched The Bee Movie, so he told me all about how the bee was pollinating the flowers.
Since he took this trail on with no issue, I decided we would take a shot at the next easiest trail: the red trail. He said he was up for the challenge! Now technically, we started this at the end, and went backwards. But it worked out fine for us!
The trail is marked with red paint on the trees so you can easily find your way. There was a few times I had to look for the next marker, but overall we made our way around the half-mile trail without getting lost.
The terrain was a little bumpy. When we started, it was mulched and I thought we would have no problem moving through it. However, as we got more into the woods, little branches, rocks and grass would pop up. So there were a few trips and falls.
It was rather peaceful walking through it though!
We had to take a few rests along the way. About a third of the way through, he was ready to be carried. And at the halfway mark, he wanted to turn around. I explained to him, if we turn around, it will take just as long! He used our resting times to study the trail and make sure we were going the right way!
He discovered some cool things though including a stream, some moss and of course, bugs. That distracted him from all the complaining! He wanted to find some animals but I explained to him that most of them hide in the shade during the hot day. That, and they usually run away when they hear us!
He loved when we would come upon a bridge!
When we finally neared the end, we took the time to just stop and enjoy our surroundings. I decided that this boy needs to get into nature way more often than he does. I was proud of him that he finished the half-mile trail, even though he was grumpy towards the end.
After we finished our hike, we headed back inside for a few more minutes but we were both pretty tired and hot. We spent about two hours between exploring the nature center and the trails. So we decided it was a good time to head out for that ice cream and enjoy the air conditioning in the car!
Roaring Brook Nature Center is a great place to enjoy the beauty of the Connecticut outdoors. It was fun to explore the hiking trails together, as well as learn about the Connecticut landscape. We had a fun afternoon and I will definitely plan a visit again – maybe when he’s a little older and can appreciate the educational portion of things (and not complain the entire time we go for a hike)!
If you have not yet visited Roaring Brook Nature Center, you’ll want to add it to your list. Whether you visit for just an afternoon, or go during one of their many special events, you will have a great time!
This about sums it up…
70 Gracey Road – Canton, Connecticut
Hours: Open Daily in July and August, Closed on Mondays during the rest of the year
Monday/Tuesday- Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Costs: Adults: $7, Children $5, free for members
- Nature Center includes animal exhibits, live birds of prey, auditorium and gift shop
- Stroller accessible inside Nature Center
- Hiking Trails – over five miles of different level trails including simple trails for small children
- Special Events held throughout the year; summer camp programs
- Bathrooms located in Nature Center
- Bring bug spray for hiking trails!
- Dress for hiking!