10 Treks for Tiny Tree Huggers

Check Out These Super Cool Places Around Atlanta to Foster a Deep and Abiding Love of Nature in Your Kids

Ask any great educator and it’s likely they’ll tell you – kids learn best by DOING. Engaging young ones through play and experiential learning improves cognitive development, encourages communication about what they are seeing and experiencing, promotes relationship development through shared experiences and brings concepts to life – leaving a lasting impression. This is particularly true when fostering a love of nature in your children. You could describe the way a flower looks and smells OR you could go exploring for a flower you found in a picture book and – once found – let them describe the color, smell and insects that visit it while you’re there. It takes learning to an entirely new level. To preserve our environment for the enjoyment of future generations, it’s vital that we nurture an appreciation and sense of responsibility for the nature that surrounds us beginning at a young age. While opportunities abound throughout the state of Georgia, Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful has compiled a list of 10 of our favorite spots in and around Atlanta to help a love of nature take root and GROW in your little ones…

In and Around Gwinnett County

Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center

2020 Clean Water Dr NE in Buford

Nestled at the heart of 233 scenic wooded acres in Buford, this multi-use nature, heritage, and educational facility is surrounded by a network of picturesque walking trails and greenways. The center itself, with its grass-lined rooftop, features interactive science and historic exhibits designed for hands-on learning. Outside, kids 4 and older can tackle a series of rope courses in the on-site Treetop Quest – the older they are, the larger the challenge – adding in ziplines and obstacles with participants harnessed and helmeted for safety.


Lake Lanier

Day Parks, Camp Grounds and Lanier Islands at 7000 Lanier Islands Pkwy in Buford

The Army Corps of Engineers manages a series of day camps and campgrounds that dot the shoreline of Georgia’s sprawling man-made lake – where you can swim, fish, picnic, explore, play and camp to your hearts content. Lanier Islands also presents a slew of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful of the lake, whether sunbathing on the beach, exploring the lakeside trails or staying overnight at Legacy Lodge, in a Lake House or at the Margaritaville at Lanier RV Resort.


Stone Mountain Park

1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd in Stone Mountain

Drawing more than 4 million visitors annually, Stone Mountain Park is a 3,200-acre playground filled with natural beauty at virtually every turn. The very best view of all that natural beauty can be found at the TOP of the mountain – which can be accessed via a walkup trail or Summit SkyRide – a high-speed Swiss cable car that transports guests more than 825 feet above ground. Once at the top, you can take in views that stretch over 60 miles away on a clear day.


Chattahoochee River Tubing

4349 Abbotts Bridge Rd in Duluth

This locally owned and operated small business along the banks of the Chattahoochee River presents a wonderful way to have an “immersive” experience on the water. Offering 2- and 4-hour tubing times*, you can float downstream while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature all around you. Another fun tubing opportunity exists in Helen – slightly further upstream on this same great river. Insider Tip: If you see litter during your float, be sure to talk about it and the negative impact it can have on the environment! *Chattahoochee River Tubing’s 2-hour float is suspended for the 2021 season due to construction at Rodgers Bridge Park. 4-hour float is still available, with plans to reintroduce the 2-hour float in 2022.


Explore Gwinnett County Parks

Find a Gwinnett County Park near you at Explore Your Parks

Of course, a great way to foster a love of nature doesn’t have to come with a price of admission. Gwinnett County is filled to the brim with incredible park experiences that include everything from expansive passive parks like the 134-acre McDaniel Farm Park to the high energy draw of parks like the 95-acre Collins Hill Park with its collection of sports fields, basketball and volleyball courts, fishing lake, playgrounds, aquatic center and more. It’s great to have a favorite park, but the more parks you explore, the more conversations you can encourage about what you like best about each one.


Around ATL

Atlanta Botanical Garden

1345 Piedmont Ave NE in Atlanta

A true oasis in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Botanical Garden offers a world of wonder that has been charming (and inspiring) nature lovers since 1976. Encompassed within its awe-inspiring 30 acres are renowned plant collections, beautiful displays and spectacular exhibitions that include an award-winning Children’s Garden, the serene Storza Woods highlighted by a unique Canopy Walk, and the picturesque Skyline Garden. Every year, during the holidays, the Garden is transformed into a whimsical winter wonderland that is well-worth the drive.


Fernbank Museum of Natural History

767 Clifton Rd in Atlanta

Touted as “Atlanta’s science and nature experience,” Fernbank offers a museum that includes a collection of permanent and special exhibitions, a Giant Screen theatre that features a revolving series of nature-based films, and a 75-acre forest that Smithsonian Magazine recommends as One of Seven Places to Get Outside. Be sure to save time for the kid-friendly Wildwoods with its canopy walk, outdoor exhibits, walking trails, nature play areas and more.


Georgia Aquarium

225 Baker St NW in Atlanta

Offering a collection of animal exhibits, interactive experiences, one-on-one encounters, special presentations and more, this world-renowned Atlanta attraction is ideal for fostering an up-and-coming generation of conservationists and oceanographers. A series of webcams can help keep that love alive in between visits. You can also take it up a notch by booking an at-home learning session, scheduling a sleepover at the Aquarium or enrolling your aspiring environmentalist in Camp H2O next summer.


Zoo Atlanta

800 Cherokee Ave SE in Atlanta

Much like the Georgia Aquarium, developing a fondness for Zoo Atlanta among the members of your brood is a great way to foster future veterinarians, conservationists, environmental activists and zoologists – as well as your all-around animal lover. During your visit you can peep the lions, elephants, rhinos, zebras and giraffes of the African savanna, hang around with the Western Lowland gorillas and Sumatran orangutans, visit with the goats and sheep in the petting zoo, grab front row seats for the Wonders of Wildlife Show, test your bravery at the Scaly Slimy Spectacular with 70 species of amphibians and reptiles, and so much more. In between visits, a Panda cam and variety of virtual experiences are available through the zoo’s website. The zoo also offers Nightcrawler Overnights and Safari Camps for when you want to take their love of animals to the next level.


Chattahoochee Nature Center

9135 Willeo Rd in Roswell

Showcasing 127 acres of forest, wetland, and river habitats, the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell presents the ideal opportunity for you to “get your nature on.” With a mission to connect people to nature, the CNC offers a Discovery Center filled with engaging interactive exhibits and live native animals. It also presents a series of special events like the Enchanted Woodland Trail, Butterfly Encounter, Halloween Hikes and more. Of course, the real adventures are all outdoors – either along the banks or within the waters of the Chattahoochee – including everything from canoeing and hiking a network of trails or soaring high above it all on the Screaming Eagle Aerial Adventures zipline. There are also 3 acres of gardens displaying over 600 native plants which might resonate best with a future horticulturalist.


From all of us here at Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, we hope you have FUN exploring!