Ever wonder what kinds of ducks are in the lake, or what kinds of creatures live in the salt marsh?  Each month, Airlie Gardens’ education staff will set up displays and interactive activities on topics that vary seasonally.  Come see us at Airlie Gardens on the third Thursday of the month from 2pm to 4pm!

Free for members and included with regular garden admission.  Ask the ticket agent for the location, as it will vary from month to month.

The Educator in the Garden series is made possible by the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Ribbon of Hope Grant for science education.

2017 Schedule- 2pm-4pm Third Thursday each month

  • January 20th
  • February 16th
  • March 16th
  • April 20th
  • May 18th
  • June 22nd
  • July 20th
  • August 17th
  • September 21st
  • October 19th
  • November 16th
  • December 21st

Environmental EducationAirlie’s Environmental Education Program provides year-round cultural and environmental learning opportunities for both youth and adults. The EE Program uses inquiry-based learning and experiential, hands-on activities to teach concepts in horticulture, wildlife, soil stewardship, water quality, sustainable development, citizen science, history and more. Education offerings are diverse and include:

Bird Hikes

Birders and their feathered friends flock to Airlie Gardens throughout the year, attracted to its bird-friendly habitat. Airlie hosts a bird hike on the second Wednesday of every month, and they are FREE to members or with admission to the Gardens! Airlie is a part of the North Carolina Birding Trail and over 170 species of birds have been observed in the Gardens. The species vary seasonally, but it is common to see more than 30 species in a single visit.Bird Hike

Click here for more information

School Field Trips
Experiencing the wonders of nature firsthand is what makes a field trip both fascinating and educational for students.  Airlie Gardens offers curriculum-based programs for Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th grades.  Airlie also offers the option of a custom program for any grade level.  Water quality, butterfly life cycles, the living soil and habitats are just some of the many topics that can be covered on a field trip.

Click here for more information


GeocacheWhat is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game that uses handheld GPS-enabled devices to find geocaches (containers) hidden in different locations.  There are currently over 50 geocaches hidden in New Hanover County’s parks locations.

How is the game played?
1.  Visit and register for a free Basic Membership
2.  Watch the video entitled “Geocaching 101” for information on how to hide and/or seek a geocache

Geocaching in New Hanover County Parks & Gardens
NHC Parks & Gardens is pleased to support geocaching.  We also recognize the need to maintain safe and aesthetically pleasing parks while protecting our county’s natural resources.  If you plan to hide and/or seek geocaches in our parks, please be sure to read and follow our Geocaching Policies carefully.  In order to hide a cache, you must submit a Geocache Registration Form for approval.



Parks & Gardens Geo-Challenge
Parks & Gardens has hidden 12 geocaches in 11 different parks for a new Geo-Challenge.  To participate:Parks-Star-jr-gps

  1. Print the Geo-Challenge Passport
  2. Register for a FREE account on  Here you will find GPS coordinates and more information regarding geocaching.  You may also download the FREE geocaching app for smartphones there.
  3. Locate all 12 geocaches:
    Airlie Gardens
    Arrowhead Park
    Blue Clay Bike Park
    Cape Fear Museum Park
    Hugh MacRae Park
    Monterey Heights Park
    Parkwood Park
    Riverside Park
    Smith Creek Park Preserve #1
    Smith Creek Park Preserve #2
    Snows Cut Park
    Summer Rest Trail
  4. Stamp your passport with the stamper inside the container (leave the stampers in the cache for the next person)
  5. Register each find on  (If you do not register each find, you are not guaranteed a prize)
  6. Once you have found all 12 geocaches, take your completed passport to the Parks office to receive your prize (Monday-Friday 8am-5pm).  The prize is for children.
  7. If you complete the Geo-Challenge at Airlie Gardens, you may turn your completed passport in to the Ticket Agent and receive your prize while you are there (Monday-Sunday 9am-5pm).  You must enter Airlie Gardens BEFORE 4:30pm.

*Groups are welcome to participate in the Geo-Challenge, however, the group leader must contact the Parks office at (910) 798-7629 prior to beginning the challenge so that we can be prepared for your group.  A “group” is considered any group of people larger than an individual family, including schools, daycares, summer camps, etc.

*There is a charge for admission to Airlie Gardens.  Geocachers may gain complimentary access to Airlie in order to complete the Geo-Challenge IF & WHEN they have found all 11 of the other Geo-Challenge caches (you must show your completed Geo-Challenge passport to the Ticket Agent to gain free entry).  Also, admission is free for New Hanover County residents on the first Sunday of every month.

TRACK TrailThe Kids in Parks TRACK Trail is a self-guided tour that leads kids and families on the 1.3 mile paved multipurpose trail around the lake at Smith Creek Park.  It is designed to turn an ordinary walk in the park into an educational adventure by offering four brochure-led tours: Nature’s Hide & Seek, Nature’s Relationships, Animal Athletes and Hikin’ to Find Lichen.  The trail is part of a nationwide network of over 130 TRACK Trails in seven states and Washington, DC which inspires kids and families to be more active outdoors.  Kids can register their participation on the Kids in Parks website,, to earn prizes for each trail completed.

The Smith Creek Park TRACK Trail was made possible through a grant from Kids in Parks and the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association (NCRPA).  TRACK Trail Tour

Little Free LibraryParks & Gardens has partnered with the New Hanover County Library to bring you Park Pages, also known as, Little Free Libraries.  Park Pages are located at Arrowhead, Hugh MacRae, Kings Grant, Northern Regional, Ogden and Smith Creek Parks where visitors are encouraged to “take a book” and “leave a book.”  Park Pages is part of the Little Free Library movement whose mission is “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.”  There are currently over 32,000 Little Free Libraries around the world.

WECT News Story on Park Pages

cropped and resizedVolunteer with New Hanover County Parks and become a Parks Star! Parks & Gardens has a talented and hardworking group of volunteers who assist in many different areas.  Being a volunteer is a great opportunity to better yourself and your community, while meeting new people and learning new things.  Parks & Gardens volunteers enjoy the beauty of nature while playing a very important role in the protection and preservation of New Hanover County’s parks & gardens. Volunteers must be 16 years of age or older.

Current Volunteer Opportunity – Wednesdays 10am-12pm
Meet us at Hugh MacRae Park every Wednesday from 10am-12pm for landscaping and park beautification.  Tools will be provided, but bring your own work gloves. Volunteers meet at the maintenance shop at 10am (the maintenance shop is the building located just inside the park entrance at Pine Grove Drive, near the tennis courts).

Click here to become a Parks Star or to request additional information

First Twinkle Star LoganBecome a Parks Star by completing a fun-filled activity book while learning about New Hanover County Parks!  Upon completion of the age-appropriate workbook, you will receive a certificate and prize. Parks Stars will receive email newsletters, additional activities and invitations to upcoming Parks & Gardens events and programs.

There are two levels of Youth Parks Stars (click the link below to print the workbook):

Age 0-5 Twinkle Stars Workbook

Age 6-12 Junior Stars Workbook

Printed Parks Stars workbooks may also be picked up at the Parks & Gardens office at the Government Center.

Pokemon_GoPokemon Go is a new app where players visit various locations to collect Pokemon characters, battle at virtual gyms and collect in-game items.  New Hanover County Parks & Gardens is pleased that our locations are home to several pokemon, pokestops and gyms!  Our favorite part of the game is that it encourages players to explore new places while getting outdoors and exercising!  If you are new to Pokemon Go, you can learn more by clicking on the following links:
Explore Pokemon Go
Catching Pokemon 

While playing Pokemon Go, it is important to use proper “Poketiquette:”

1. Be aware of your surroundings
2. Always look where you are going
3. Never hunt pokemon while driving a car or riding a bike or skateboard
4. Observe all parks ordinances
5. Don’t trespass in the parks after hours
6. Be respectful of others
7. Stay out of flower beds
8. Have Fun!

StoryWalk 2Storywalk 2StoryWalk® encourages both family literacy and physical activity by posting pages from a children’s book along a path or walking trail. Families walk along the trail, reading a page at a time together and interacting with the story and with each other.

StoryWalks are currently located at:

Hugh MacRae ParkBug Safari by Bob Barner
Smith Creek ParkRainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell

StoryWalk® is a collaboration between New Hanover County Parks & Gardens, NHC Library, NHC Health Department and NHC Library Foundation.

230 Government Center Drive, Suite 120 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-7620 • Fax 910-798-7621