Trailside’s Visitor Center, renovated in September 2006, houses 4,500 square feet of interactive, state-of-the-art exhibits, featuring a towering 34-foot American beech tree exhibit which fills the building’s atrium. Other features include four classrooms, a multi-purpose room, a media center, gift shop and an auditorium with seating for more than 250 guests. Educational exhibits include:
Spend some time in our media center which features free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating. There are Surface Pro tablets available for use, as well as a wide variety of books.
American Beech Tree
Admire the immense American Beech Tree exhibit from each level of the center. You will be amazed at what you will find hidden in the branches and leaves. Something different can be found from almost every angle, whether it be a bird, mammal, or nest. Learn all about the important role that trees play for so many species in the forest community.
Learn all about what covers nearly 40% of New Jersey, forest! Discover the forest up close; learning about trees, forest mammals, birds, and even catch a glimpse of those important decomposers in the “Life in a Log” exhibit. You will also have the opportunity to go inside a hollow tree and view our charismatic live box turtles in their home on the forest floor. Keep an eye out for a family of red-shouldered hawks in their nest!
The edge habitat exhibit, located next to the meadow is a beautiful display of a very specific type of habitat that is critical for many species of plants and animals. Learn about what makes this habitat perfect for its inhabitants such as deer, rabbits and many species of birds. You will also learn about the impact that humans have on these delicate habitats and why habitat conservation is so important.
The vernal pool exhibit is located within the edge habitat, giving you an example of what can happen when a forest is cut down. The vernal pool is filled with interesting creatures such as salamanders, turtles and insects. Learn about what happens to a vernal pool and its residents when the seasons change all year long.
Enjoy the peaceful meadow exhibit and learn about what makes a meadow so important. Get a close look at some meadow insects such as bees and Monarch butterflies. The meadow exhibit features hands on activities for children such as a milkweed wall puzzle, and pull out drawers with interactive games.
Bring the whole family to view the delightful night theater, an experience like no other! You will be immersed into a quiet nighttime scene, where children and adults alike will learn new and interesting facts about what goes on in nature under the cover of darkness. From the smallest firefly, to the mighty Barred owl, learn how animals make use of their specialized skills and abilities in the dark.
Lenape Native Americans
The Lenape exhibit is a wonderful, accurate glimpse into Native American life. Sit in a life-sized wigwam around a fire, view tools that the Lenape used and learn about where and how they lived. You can learn about the language the Lenape used, and where it is still used in New Jersey to this day!
Featuring a wetland habitat filled with thousands of gallons of water, this is one of Trailside’s most popular exhibits. Children can crawl through a hollow log to view live fish and turtles. You will learn about wetland, pond, and stream habitats including the animals and plants living in them. Get to know all about one of the most important types of habitats. Learn how wetlands help to clean our water and provide sustenance to a vast amount of species.
Geology of the Watchungs
Walk through this exhibit to experience the exciting geological history of the Watchung Reservation. See and touch real minerals, and learn about how the Watchung Mountains were formed and the different types of rock found here. Find out how the earth has changed over billions of years.
Children’s Discovery Room
Visit the Discovery room for a hands-on experience designed for young children. Kids can view live snakes, curl up with a book in our reading corner, or try their skills on a puzzle. They can draw on the chalkboard, dig in the sand, watch birds in the backyard habitat, and learn about New Jersey’s State Dinosaur. There’s a fun activity for every child!
Check out the Certified Wildlife Habitat that we have right in our own backyard! Learn what makes a Certified Wildlife Habitat, and view an exciting array of birds and other animal visitors to our bird feeders and flowing stream.
Wildlife Viewing Area & Bird Exhibit
Sit in comfort and watch the birds from the large viewing windows looking out upon the Backyard Habitat. You can also enjoy learning lots of interesting facts about birds, including fascinating details on migration, form and function and a nest exhibit featuring real birds’ nests and eggs.