Blandford’s Dedication to Nature & Wildlife Education Can’t Be Beat
Blandford Nature Center is a major asset for Grand Rapids nature enthusiasts.
It hosts popular community events, beautiful trails, summer camps, wildlife education and even a CSA.
This 264 acre place is way more than just an extensive trails system. (Even though that’s worthy of visiting on its own.)
This is the place to explore and learn about Michigan’s wildlife system, where you can see animals up close, and get hands on through many events and tours.
Here are some of the best things to do at Blandford Nature Center.
Experience Native Habitats Through 8 Miles of Trails
A good place to start when hiking Blandford Nature Center is their trail map. The trails cover eight miles, with one mile of accessible trails. They’re open year round, dawn – dusk.
Blandford’s trails span several native habitats, giving visitors the chance to see many kinds of wildlife, including an array of wildflowers. Find meadows, wetlands and woods.
Younger hikers will appreciate the two open playscapes and mud kitchens. Find them at the Farm (at the end of the two farm trails) and on the Prairie trail in the meadow.
The Wildlife Trail is also a favorite for kids.
Blandford’s paved, accessible trail means that all people can enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the woods.
The one-mile trail has two entrances. One is in front of the Visitor Center and Environmental Education Center. The other entrance starts at The Highlands parking lot. See where the trail is on this virtual map.
Each season brings something unique to the trails at Blandford.
If you’re visiting Blandford Nature Center in the spring after the snow has melted, a chorus of frogs will greet you as you walk up to the nature center.
Spring is the season to take a walk around the wetland areas near the parking lot and see who you can spot peeking out from the water.
Around this time of year, you can also see the lovely wildflowers. Blandford is packed with some of Michigan’s most prominent and beautiful wildflowers. The Trout Lily is a favorite of mine!
And of course, fall at Blandford is simply beautiful.
Take an afternoon and enjoy the fall colors in cooler temps. There is a short hike that will lead you from the main parking area over to the school and farm–autumn is a great time to check both of those out!
Winter holds its own beauty at Blandford! Crisp snow blankets the landscape, providing a bright, serene hiking experience. Snowshoeing is a popular activity at Blandford and they even offer rentals. (Free to members!)
No matter when you visit Blandford’s trails, dress for the weather, and have footwear that can go through woodsy, possibly wet terrain. Blandford’s trails are not paved – they’re as natural as possible.
Meet Animal Ambassadors and Book a Wildlife Experience to get up Close
Did you know that Blandford Nature Center has over 40 wildlife ambassadors?
These rehabilitated animals cannot survive in the wild, so Blandford gives them a safe home and welcomes them into their education program.
Many animals are found in the Visitor Center, while others are in habitats on the grounds. These include owls, hawks, porcupines, turtles and a bobcat.
We saw Quillber the porcupine outside on our last visit. Currently the outdoor birds are not viewable, as they are indoors to avoid the avian flu that’s going around.
You can also book a Wildlife Experience at Blandford. Sign up for a storytime, or go behind the scenes to see what it’s like to care for these wildlife and help staff with feeding and cleaning.
Popular Community Events at Blandford
Blandford knows how to host a good event! These are yearly traditions for many families. You can track upcoming events on their calendar.
Mini Maple (Sugarbush) Festival
held in March
This is a great outside-in-the-spring outing for families. There is music, horses, hands-on activities and more.
Try your hand at tapping for syrup, sit on a horse and learn all about Native American and pioneer life.
There are fun presentations galore as you travel paths around Blandford. Some are given by adults, and others by the middle school students at Blandford Nature Center. It’s fun to see them so excited about what they’re learning.
Stop at the sugar house where they’re making maple syrup and even try some. You can also buy Blandford maple syrup in the gift shop at the Visitor’s Center.
held in early October
Experience autumn during simpler times at this festival.
There’s the iconic fall treat apple cider here. Face painting, candle making, scarecrow assembly, a horse petting zoo and other hands-on ideas will keep the kids entertained.
After you’ve had your fill of activities, you must hike the trails. Fall is the most beautiful time of year for a hike, and the woods at Blandford will not disappoint.
held in late October
Each year near October 31, Blandford hosts a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt.
Pick up a map and clues, and hit the trails to pick up spooky facts and creepy tales of Michigan nature.
Costumes are encouraged, and prizes are given out.
Explore Blandford’s 2.5 acre farm with a CSA
Just west of the visitor center is the farm.
Here you’ll find a nature-themed playscape, a children’s garden to explore, and of course, animals! Say hi to sheep, goats and chickens at this 2.5 acre farm.
Sign up for experiences at the farm and do things like gather eggs, paint a pumpkin, tap a tree or learn to garden.
This farm is also a CSA program! Buy a share and get a summer-ful of organic, locally grown veggies and flowers. They’ve been growing over 200 varieties of vegetables here.
Blandford is dedicated to educating families about local agriculture, so they hold lots of interactive programs at the farm.
Summer Camps at Blandford Nature Center
Blandford’s Summer Camps are a big hit with kids.
They have a wide variety of camp offerings for children ages 4-12.
These camps get kids outside and hands on. Choose from half day (ages 4-5) or full day options. And they even have after care!
Teens can volunteer at the camp aide program (ages 13-18) to earn community service hours, develop leadership skills, and sometimes even earn a stipend.
And while the weather is working in your favor, you may as well hike around a little after you drop off your child for the day. Blandford is a whole other experience without kids in tow.
Tips for your Visit to Blandford Nature Center
There’s so much to do at Blandford, it’s wise to come prepared for anything. You may just be planning for a simple walk near the visitor’s center, but when you arrive your adventure could take a fun turn to … anywhere!
Check their community calendar to see what’s happening at Blandford the day of your visit. There might be an interesting program for you and your kids that you’ll want to check out.
More ways to ace your visit to Blandford:
Become a Member and Get Discounts and Reciprocal Admission to Other Nature Centers
Members can visit Blandford for free, over and over again.
It also gets you discounted and early registration for popular programs like summer camps and the CSA. (This may mean all the difference between your kid getting into the camp they want.)
Oh, and discounts on the wildlife care experiences, free snowshoe rentals and more.
Members also get free or discounted admission to over 125 nature centers across the U.S. through the ANCA nature centers program. (A great idea when you’re on vacation in a new place and are looking for something to do.)
Individual memberships are only $45; family memberships are $70.
About Blandford Nature Center
The Visitors Center is open from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday through Saturday (closed on Sunday).
Trails are open dawn to dusk.
Admission is free for members, and $3/person for non-members.
Blandford Nature Center
1715 Hillburn Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504