Tucked away in a beautiful 10-acre canyon, Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward is an animal welfare oasis perfect for little kids to get up close with animals. The mission of the Center is to care for and rehabilitate wild animals, while also doubling-up as an educational center for the public. Pack a lunch and enjoy a late morning of gazing at birds of prey, sneaky foxes and slithery snakes. Oh, and the best part? It’s free!
Sulphur Creek Nature Center for Little Kids
In the outdoor space at Sulphur Creek, animals are on display – ducks, chickens, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, raven, hawks, owls, and eagles – each with a placard that teaches guests about the species. You can get pretty close to the enclosures and watch the animals go about their day, sometimes even catching them enjoying a snack or playing around.
There are also several friendly Naturalists there to greet and chat about the animals. Scheduled thematic educational events for kids are listed on the website, but as of this writing, all are full. Check the Activity Registration page for more details >
Pro tip: Pack a lunch for this half-day trip as there are ample lunch tables, trees to provide shade, and space to run around (although don’t head into the overgrowth as there is poison oak).
After seeing all the outdoor animals, head into the Discovery Center, where you’ll meet more animals – snakes, a newt, frogs – and learn about different animal nests, compare skulls and much more. Although Sulphur Creek Nature Center isn’t big, it’ll keep kids more busy as there’s a cute little reading nook with toys, as well as child-level viewing windows to see the animals. As more staff are hired, the hope is to have docents available to bring animals out for show and tell and petting.
Sulphur Creek is available for “Wild Things Birthday Parties”, too. The parties are two and a half hours with a one-hour expert-led activity for your group.
Plan your visit to Sulphur Creek Nature Center:
Address: 1801 D Street, Hayward, CA
Hours: Tuesday to Friday noon to 4 pm, Weekends 10:30 am – 2:30 pm; Closed Monday
Parking and Admission: FREE
Food: Bring snacks/lunch. Plenty of tables to enjoy a meal.
Bathrooms: Yes, and really very clean, with a changing table.
Shade: Yes, plenty, including by the lunch tables
Stroller Friendly: There are quite a few stairs down from the parking lot, but once you’re in the Center it’s flat and stroller friendly.
Dogs: Not allowed
Playground: No, but this playground is only about a 10-minute drive away
The Bottom Line
Sulphur Creek Nature Center is a sweet and small, accessible, and engaging place for little kids. You can wander around on a self-guided tour, or chat with a Naturalist to learn a bit more. You might only spend 20 minutes there since it’s small, or maybe your toddler with fall in love with the wily foxes and the reading nook and you’ll find several hours have passed. Either way, it’s free, so you’ll feel great no matter what. Add on a trip to a playground or a swim in the summer for a full day trip.