Public Info

Put a Little Spring in Your Step at Trailside Nature and Science Center

Spring has sprung and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders invites you to investigate the wonders of the spring season at Trailside Nature and Science Center.  Located in the scenic 2065-acre Watchung Reservation, the Trailside center offers a wide variety of programs for children, adults and families in April, May and June.  The Visitor Center houses 4,500 square feet of interactive, child-friendly exhibits featuring a towering 34 foot American beech tree exhibit which fills the building’s atrium. Visit the Night Theater, the Lenape Native American wigwam and the Wetland Habitat with live fish and turtles. 

“There is something for everyone who has an interest in nature,” states Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen, “Trailside is the perfect place to visit and have fun while learning about the natural world around them.”

Parents with children up to age three can enjoy TODDLER TIME, a series of workshops that incorporate sensory hikes, stories, crafts and activities to acquaint adults and children with the natural world.  Due to popular demand, this workshop series is now offered weekly on Thursdays, from 9:30-10:30 am and again at 11:15 am to 12:15 pm and on Fridays, from 10:00-11:00 am.  Families will delight to learn about animal mothers, numbers in nature, ladybugs, Earth Day and much more. 

For children, ages 3 or 4, with an adult, Trailside offers TWO OF US, an interactive program that encourages nature discovery through hikes and other indoor/outdoor activities with a parent. This program is offered on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. or Wednesdays from

10:00 to 11:00 a.m.  Among the many topics explored this spring will be Masters of Music, Lucky Ladybugs, the 3 R’s and Wet-n-Wild.

SMALL FRY DAYS, a drop-off program for children ages 4-6, is offered on Tuesdays, from 9:45 to 11:00 a.m. This workshop series is designed to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world through hikes, explorations and nature related activities.  Participants in this educational workshop series will learn how opossums survive in the wild, the lifecycle of a ladybug, the water cycle and how wildlife mothers care for their babies.

Children in the 1st to 3rd grades can take part in AFTERSCHOOL EXPLORATIONS, a drop-off program designed to acquaint children with nature explorations, hikes and outdoor activities.  Children enrolled in this workshop series meet on Thursdays at 3:30-4:45 p.m.  Learn interesting facts about why trees are important to people and wildlife, the different mammals, birds, reptiles and insects that live in the Watchung Reservation and ways to go green for Earth Day.  In one of the many workshops, youngsters will investigate the stories about the legendary constellations of Orion the Hunter, Draco the Dragon and the Big Dipper.

Trailside’s spring workshops are held April, May and June.  Registrants can sign up for the series or choose only those topics that are of interest.  Pre-registration is required and the fee is $10.00 per class for Union County residents and $12.00 per class for out-of-county residents.  Walk-ins can be accommodated if space permits.  A new online registration system designed to make access to our Parks and Recreation services easy and convenient has been adopted.  Register online at and create a new account and password.

To see our spring brochure with a complete listing of workshops offered; including, dates, times and fees for children’s workshops, family programs, teacher training, Trailside Talks and special events visit us on the web at or call 908-789-3670.  Trailside Nature & Science Center is located at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside and is a service of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.