Jerome Buddie Ford Nature Center

Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center 5750 Sanger Ave. Alexandria, VA 22311. Visit Alexandria’s very own Nature Center! *Free Admission*

Page updated on Apr 24, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Visit Alexandria's very own Nature Center! At the Nature Center, see live animals up close and learn about the cultural and natural history of Dora Kelley Nature Park. With over 30 live animals residing at the center, and a 50-acre park on site, the Naturalists on staff will help you and your family explore and enjoy Alexandria's wild side! The Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center provides year-round programs and interactive exhibits to children and adults of all ages.

5750 Sanger Ave. | Alexandria, VA | 703.746.5559

Hours of Operation**The Nature Center is temporarily closed**

  • Wednesday - Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1 - 5 p.m. (April - October)
  • Closed: Monday & Tuesday
  • Holiday Schedule

City Nature Challenge 2020

CNCImagesmallerJoin us Friday, April 24 through Monday, April 27, as we participate in the City Nature Challenge (CNC)! The CNC is an annual, international bioblitz-style event in which cities compete to observe nature in urban areas. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the CNC has been modified to allow citizens to participate while following public health guidelines. In the spirit of unity, the challenge will not be a competition, rather an opportunity for us to explore nature in our own back yards (literally). We have provided several resources for you and your families to participate safely from home. 

To participate, all you need is a camera phone and the iNaturalist app (available on Apple and Android devices). Using the app, photograph and upload any and all wild, living organisms you see (birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, fungi, etc.) between Friday, April 24 and Monday, April 27. Join us in Alexandria and all over the world as we stay in and explore!


Backyard Bingo

CNC Observation Tips:

  • Flip stones and wood to find snails and small arthropods
  • Use a porch light (or set up a moth light) to attract moths and other flying insects at night
  • If you have a bird feeder, watch for visitors throughout the day
  • Shake the branch of a tree above an open umbrella and watch for falling insects
  • Record the weeds and flowers (that you didn’t plant)
  • Look for lichens on tree trunks, pavers, and exterior walls
  • Monitor flowering plants (even in your garden) and record visiting pollinators

Recreation Manager/Naturalist: Colleen Litzenberger 
Program Coordinator/Naturalist: Majd "MJ" Jarrar
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator/Naturalist: Tarryn Lee

Our Mission Statement:

The mission of the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center is to provide quality, nature-based interpretive programs for City of Alexandria residents and aid in the management, conservation, and preservation of Alexandria's natural resources through informative recommendations and conservation projects.

Our Goals:

  • To enrich the leisure-time experiences of Alexandria residents.
  • To foster greater awareness, appreciation, and concern for Alexandria's natural environment.
  • To produce interpretive programs and exhibits on Alexandria's natural history.
  • To provide residents with volunteer opportunities in conservation projects.
  • To serve as a resource base of knowledge about the natural environment for Alexandria residents.  

Weekdays at the Nature Center **Temporarily Suspended** 

Enhance your weekday visit to the Nature Center. All mini-interactives start at 11 a.m. and are free and open to the public

Wednesdays: Storytime – Join us for a short story in our library.

Thursdays: Animal Brunch – Watch our turtles, frogs, or newts dine on their favorite foods.

Fridays: Animal Meet & Greet – Get to know an animal that lives at the Nature Center.  

Upcoming Programs


 Nature Play


  Temporarily suspended

For a complete list of our programs, please click here.

**Summer camp registration is suspended until at least May 6**

Nature Buddies After School Program

*Program has been cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year**

Buddie 1 photoThe Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities offers an afterschool program at the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center. This nature-oriented after school program provides fun, imaginative ways to enrich your child's experience both indoors and out. With an excellent child to adult ratio (8:1), we give your child a personal and structured learning environment. Activities include live animal presentations, science experiments, woodland hikes, unstructured outdoor nature play, and more.

Registration fee is $350 per month. Bus transportation is available from City of Alexandria public schools. Snacks, supplies, and field trips are included in registration fee. Sibling discount and financial aid are available for qualified households.

For additional information or questions about this or any other program, email MJ, Program Coordinator at

Nature-Themed Birthday Parties

Nature_birthday1The Nature Center offers birthday parties for children ages 4 to 12. Each birthday party includes two-hour use of party room, Naturalist-led interpretive program with choice of theme, hike & craft, and 30-minutes each for set-up and clean-up. Base fee covers up to 14 children. $10 for each additional child (up to 20 children total).


  • City of Alexandria residents: $225 (additional $40 fee for nonresidents)


To secure a party date, prior registration and payment are required.

Reservation Form

To officially request a birthday party, complete the form above and return to

For general information about birthday parties and to check if your preferred date is available, call 703.746.5559 or email us.

Some of our most popular themes include:

Reptiles (Snakes, Lizards, Turtles)

Amphibians (Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, etc.)  

Turtles and Tortoises

Dora Kelley Nature Park

Just outside the Nature Center lies Dora Kelley Nature Park, a 50-acre wildlife sanctuary with a one-mile long nature trail that meanders along streams, wooded hills, and freshwater marshland.

Seasonal tours of the park are offered periodically by the City's Natural Resource Manager, Rod Simmons. Stay tuned for upcoming dates. These tours are free of charge. 

A self-guided booklet, available at the Nature Center, interprets the natural features of the park using numbered signposts along the trail. Download the Dora Kelley Guide.

A paved bike trail connecting Sanger Ave. and Van Dorn St. winds through the park which is ADA accessible. 

Year-Round Exhibits

  • Nature ExhibitsLive turtles, snakes, lizards, toads, and more
  • Children's library
  • Children's water and sand tables
  • Puppet stage
  • Natural history reference library for adults
  • Games and activity stations for children
  • Greenhouse with tropical rainforest plants and parrot
  • Mary Anne Warner's beautiful 16' x 7' oil mural, "Wildlife of the Dora Kelley Nature Park"
  • Mounted black bear, red fox, turkey, raccoon, and bobcat
  • Interpretive exhibits on local geology, prehistory, and history
  • MicroEYE: video microscope provides a zoom magnification ranging from 2x-40x

Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts

Nature ScoutsBring your troop to earn a badge, patch, bead, challenge, or "try-it" at the nature center. We will provide the learning activities, program materials, and set a time to suit your troop's schedule (you provide the badge, patch, etc.)  

Are you working on an individual badge or award? Contact us to create a project tailored to your requirements.

 $50 per troop for up to 15 children ($5 for each additional child).

School Field Trips  

Nature Center- ProgramTeachers are encouraged to set up a field trip to the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center this school year, or let one of our Naturalist staff come to your school for an outreach program! Interpretive programs are designed to assist teachers in meeting Virginia's SOL requirements.

Some of our program topics include:

  • Life Cycles
  • Animal Adaptations
  • Animal Classifications
  • Hibernation

For more information or to request a program, please email Please provide at least 4 weeks advance notice when scheduling programs.

Nature Center Volunteers

Volunteer Opportunities 

A variety of volunteer opportunities are available through the Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center for ages 16 and above. Positions include naturalist aide, trails and grounds maintenance volunteer, and visitor experience volunteer. Volunteer opportunities for groups can be arranged by contacting the Nature Center.

Visit for a list of available volunteer opportunities and position descriptions, or to submit an application.

Nature Programs

To view and register for Jerome "Buddie" Ford Nature Center's classes and activities online, use WebTrac and select our center in the Locations drop down menu (Buddie Ford Nature Center), and All in the Type drop down menu. For additional information, call the Naturalist staff at 703.746.5559.