Trailside Nature & Science Center in Mountainside, NJ

posted by nicole

Trailside Nature & Science Center 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside, NJ 07092     (908) 789-3670

Trailside Nature & Science Center is Union County’s Environmental Education Center located in the Watchung Reservation. It’s an educational kid-friendly museum, that’s FREE and open everyday from 12pm-5pm.  It is a place I often enjoyed visiting with my dad and grandparents as a kid. It was nice to visit here many years later with my own family and keep the tradition alive.

Trailside Museum

The Nature Center has 3-levels that feature interactive nature exhibits, learning classrooms that overlook the Reservation, a small children’s library, children’s discovery room, and some exhibits with small live animals such as snakes, turtles, and fish.

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Parking is free. There are plenty of parking spaces. You can park in the lots surrounding the Loop Playground or there is a large nature center parking lot off of New Providence Road.

Admission & Hours:

Admission is FREE.  The Trailside Center is open 12pm-5pm seven days a week, except major holidays.  We visited on a Sunday afternoon.  It was very calm at that time with only a few other families visiting with us.

Stroller Friendly

Best for kids ages 3 and up

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When you enter the building you are on the main floor which has several interactive exhibits, and a huge 34 ft American beech tree that fills the atrium. The lower level has a Children’s Discovery Room, a large fish tank with live fish and turtles, and several other interactive exhibits. The top level contains learning classrooms and two library sections with kid-friendly books and computers. New educational exhibits are listed below:

  • Forest Community Wetlands
  • Edge Habitat Night Theater
  • Meadow Geology of the Watchungs
  • Lenape Native Americans Backyard Habitat
  • Children’s Discovery Room & Wildlife Viewing Area

Main Level:

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Lower Level:

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Children’s Discovery Room:

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Upper Level:

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Food is not sold at the Trailside Center, other than a vending machine near the lower floor restroom. A picnic area is located right outside the center next to the Butterfly Garden.


Restrooms were located on each level of the museum.

Birthday Parties:

The Nature and Science Center does host birthday parties for children ages 4 and up.  All birthday parties are 45 min long and led by a Naturalist.


Trailside Nature and Science Center is a free, small, kid-friendly interactive museum. Our visit was stress-free and fun. The center was not crowded and we spent about an hour there. Several of the exhibits displayed concepts that were too advanced for my preschooler to completely understand, but the bright displays, pictures, and hands-on areas were enough to keep her entertained. Before or after visiting the Nature Center, I would also recommend visiting the Loop Playground, walking some of the nearby nature trails, visiting Watching Stables to see the horses, and/or the picturesque Lake Surprise.

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