Bill’s Backyard


Discover the natural world as you spend time outside climbing, building, digging, and playing outdoors.

Come enjoy San Jose’s new outdoor learning environment. You’ll have fun scaling the Tree Climber, scurrying through the tunnel to the LookOut Tower, and scooping gravel, sand, and dirt in the Dig Pit.

Doubling the Museum’s exhibit space, Bill’s Backyard is a half-acre of welcoming and safe nature exploration. Before or after your visit, you can Dig Deeper to find out more about the natural environment here in San Jose. Dig Deeper

Come Outside And Play

At the Jr. Ranger Station, get oriented to the natural features and creatures you will encounter in Bill’s Backyard. In the Tree Climber, tall trees connected with sky bridges engage children in climbing, dreaming and seeing the world from a new perspective. In the Look Out Tower and Tunnel, kids have the chance to jump, roll and scurry like the animals whose habitats are being explored.

A giant Dig Pit filled with smooth stones provides busy youngsters with hours of time shoveling, digging, scooping, and relocating gravel, rocks, sand, and dirt. Reeds, grasses, willow branches and flowers encourage children to design, build, and create structures with natural materials. At the Dry Creek, large smooth rocks can be stacked, carried, and re-arranged. Underground collection basins will make this area a water play experience during the rainy season. In the Garden, help prepare soil, plant seeds, water and see plants grow and gain understanding about where food comes from.

Outdoor Learning Environment

Bill’s Backyard is a place where children explore and learn that their actions make a difference, where adults support children and learn something new in the process, and where the community preserves its natural assets.

  • Today’s nature explorer is tomorrow’s John Muir
  • Today’s insect lover is tomorrow’s environmental steward
  • Today’s dirt digger is tomorrow’s healthy soils leader
  • Today’s rock sculptor is tomorrow’s artist
  • Today’s tree climber is tomorrow’s risk taker

Why Nature Play Is Important

Our densely urban environment and fast paced lifestyles make it a challenge for children to get outdoors and play. Yet the costs of alienation from nature—known as nature deficit disorder—are far-reaching: “How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives,” notes children-and-nature authority Richard Louv. Living through drought, solving the challenges of climate change, sustainable energy use—these are issues that are with our communities now and in the future.

Bridge to Nature

Bill’s Backyard provides an innovative solution to the limited opportunities for urban and suburban families to explore nature. It is a bridge to nature that

  • gives children a chance to explore nature environments in a safe setting
  • demonstrates environmentally friendly backyard features
  • inspires families to venture out to explore parks, trails, and wilderness areas
  • makes it possible for us all to gain deeper understanding of the world around us


Watch a Time-lapse Video of the Exhibit’s Construction


Made possible through the generosity of

Project Team More Sponsors