Tag - wood lake nature center

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Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green
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2017 Twin Cities Earth Day Family Events
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Maple Syruping with Kids in the Twin Cities
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Free Family Weekend Events List for June 27 – 28, 2015
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Indoor & Outdoor Fun: Twin Cities Nature Centers SW Metro
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Fall Family Fun List: Weekend of October 4-5
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Family-Friendly Ideas for New Year’s Eve

Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green

Nature Playgrounds are a growing trend for good reason; scientists keep finding connections between nature to child development and well-being.

nature playgrounds
It used to be, according to my children, that in order for a park to be authentic, it needed at least a slide and a set of swings. I was less enthusiastic about taking them to places like state parks simply because I felt I’d have to go the extra mile to “prove” that playing and exploring in a natural environment could be just as fun as clambering around a commercially manufactured jungle gym. Don’t get me wrong – the local playgrounds can be a lot of fun, too. And some are really inventive! But I have to say that I get a deeper satisfaction from watching them play in a more natural setting: digging, figuring out how to climb that tree, following paths, building forts. They become immersed in tossing rocks into the water, scouting frogs, collecting wildflowers. They also gradually forget that “playing at the park” requires a plastic treehouse.

So here’s what I find really cool: incorporating natural elements into new playground designs seems to be the trend. More places are popping up where kids get the opportunity to interact with the landscape and, perhaps, develop a greater appreciation for it. Here are seven places I’ve discovered that have those goals in mind:

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2017 Twin Cities Earth Day Family Events

Earth Day Network’s first Earth Day was in 1970. It’s continuing mission — “to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle to build a healthy, sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations.”
Earth Day Family EventsFor us, it’s a chance to teach our children about good stewardship of our planet, while getting out and enjoying the long-awaited spring. I think the spring thing may be why the Twin Cities Metro does not skimp on Earth Day activities and events. We have a sampling of Earth Day family events to get out with your kids and celebrate our environment this month.


Thanks to this month’s sponsor Rockin’ Jump!  Check them out at FFTC’s Rockin’ Party on April 15.

Click here for more Rockin' Party InformationClick here for more information.


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Maple Syruping with Kids in the Twin Cities

March is maple syrup month in Minnesota, and with an abundance of nature centers around the Twin Cities, we have ample opportunities to learn about and participate in the maple syruping process. Maple syrup events usually contain one or more of the following activities: tapping the maple trees, collecting the sap, boiling it into syrup, and the best part — according to my kids, anyway — a sample of the finished product.

Click through for a list of upcoming maple syrup events across the Twin Cities Metro. Read More

Free Family Weekend Events List for June 27 – 28, 2015

No matter how long we’ve been residents of the Twin Cities it seems there’s always some hidden fun out there we haven’t discovered yet. Our family, for instance, hadn’t made the trip out to Carver Park Reserve in Victoria until last year when we decided to make an afternoon of it at the historic Grimm Farm Open House and the Lowry Nature Center. That’s just one of the ideas we’ve got on this weekend’s free family events list – as always, check our extensive Family Fun Calendar for more. Happy exploring!

SATURDAY, JUNE 27

tm grimm farm

historic grimm farm

Grimm Farmhouse Open House
@ Grimm Farm Historic Site, Carver Park Reserve
7025 Victoria Dr, Victoria, 55386

Time: 1-4pm
Details: Step back in time for a few hours at the historic home of Wendelin Grimm and his family. My kids have done this event and enjoyed the old-fashioned porch and lawn games, and the peek into daily life inside the farmhouse. Leave time to explore the Lowry Nature Center (also located within Carver Park Reserve) and its nature playground.

Saturday Puppet Shows for Kids w/ In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre
@ Calhoun Square
3001 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, 55408

Time: Shows at 10am & 11:30am
Details: Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre is bringing Saturday shows to Calhoun Square every Saturday in June & July. This Saturday’s show is based on There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly and the first 45 kids between shows will get to participate in a make-and-take activity.

Minneapolis Movies in the Parks: We Bought a Zoo
@ Kenwood Park
2101 Franklin Ave W, Minneapolis, 55405

Time: Starts at 8:30pm
Details: Not limited to Saturday nights (we chose this one because it’s rated PG), Minneapolis Movies in the Parks run every night except Sundays through August 29th. You can find the complete list of parks and the featured movies for 2015 here.

Friends-and-Family-day-thumbnail[1]Friends and Family Day at Gilda’s Club
@ Gilda’s Club Twin Cities
10560 Wayzata Blvd, Minnetonka, 55305

Time: 10am-2pm
Details: Celebrate what would have been Gilda Radner’s 69th birthday at her namesake club, an organization dedicated to supporting those impacted by cancer. Activities include family yoga, comedy theater, cupcake decorating, kids crafts, games and more.

SUNDAY, JUNE 28

Fun with the Science of Bubbles
@ Wood Lake Nature Center
6710 Lakeshore Dr, Richfield, 55423

Time: 1-4pm
Ages: Ideal for kids ages 4-10 but all ages are welcome
Details: Join kiddywampus for an afternoon of exploring the science of bubbles. Discover how animals use bubbles and explore Wood Lake Nature Center in search of them.


Indoor & Outdoor Fun: Twin Cities Nature Centers SW Metro

It’s another March (or April) day in Minnesota where we just can’t quite get spring weather to commit — and I’m back with my second round in a series of the indoor and outdoor entertainment to be had at Twin Cities nature centers. In my previous post, I highlighted the activities at three NE Metro locations.

Today, I moved in a south-westerly direction (for no reason other than the fact I could find three in a roughly 10-mile radius that worked with my schedule) and hit up another trio of nature centers I believe you and your young ones would enjoy. I found Westwood Hills Nature Center, Richardson Nature Center and Wood Lake Nature Center to be exceptionally family-friendly and great for a day destined to be spent either indoors or out. Read on for more details.

Westwood Hills Nature Center | St Louis Park

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Friday • 8:30am-4:30pm

Twin Cities Nature CentersIndoor fun: The indoor portion of the nature center is on the small side, very appealing to kids. One colorful corner is stocked with books, puzzles, games and stuffed animals; other areas have drawers to pull out containing natural objects to touch (beware the compost drawer if you’re squeamish about vermiculture!). An on-hand naturalist engaged my kids in a game of I-Spy with wildlife around the room and gave me the scoop on preschool and family programs available throughout the year at Westwood Hills. Get a sampling of those, including the Nature For the Very Young drop-in preschool programs open to the public here.

Outdoor fun: Weather permitting, bring a picnic and spend some time in the outdoor play area. There are both a traditional playground climbing structure and a small nature play yard containing stumps, logs, shelters and one really cool work of art (see collage above). Within a stone’s throw of a suburban neighborhood is a lake, winding trails, a beautiful observation deck, and a landscaped habitat for Westwood Hill’s resident Barred owl.

Richardson Nature Center | Bloomington

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Saturday • 9am-5pm

Twin Cities Nature Centers

Indoor fun: Colorful, eye-popping relief murals decorate many of the walls of Richardson Nature Center. Grab a scavenger hunt card and see if you can pick out the wildlife in the detailed scenes. My oldest child did this while his preschool-aged sister explored the book nook, stacks of puzzles, a crawl-through coyote den, and other hands-on exhibits. Then, the two collaborated on a predator-prey puppet show for my viewing pleasure.

Outdoor fun: Sheltered within the Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Richardson Nature Center is the starting point for many trails and a Nature Exploration Area where kids can putter around with natural building materials. Check out a bird, bug or frog kit from the front desk to explore the prairie and wetlands. Close to the indoor exhibits is an outdoor raptor viewing area.

Wood Lake Nature Center | Richfield

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Saturday • 8:30am-5pm

Twin Cities Nature Centers

Indoor fun: Again, I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of how many interactive exhibits there were for kids at my third stop of the day – Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, a little preserve of land sandwiched between city and first-ring suburbia. The preschooler is always content with a set of miniature animals no matter where she goes; my 9-year-old prefers activities that involve a touch screen. Wood Lake has both — simple toys and books for younger visitors and some creative exhibits that older kids will enjoy operating. We especially enjoyed matching sounds in nature with the creatures who make them.

Outdoor fun: When the weather warms up, it will be great fun to spend time in the Wood Lake Nature Play Area, watching the kids interact not with screens, but with logs, boulders, sticks and other natural materials. The play yard is fenced in and completely conducive to creative play.


Yes, we visited all three of these Twin Cities Nature Centers in one day. Though we had a great time, I don’t advise trying to fit so many in. Pick one, slow down, explore and enjoy. Stay tuned this spring for the next installment of FFTC’s Guide to Twin Cities-area Nature Centers!


Fall Family Fun List: Weekend of October 4-5

Bundle up and head outside for these classic fall family events, heavy on the apples and autumn colors. All of these activities come with a fee attached, but we tried to pick ones that we thought were reasonable for families. For our list of FREE weekend events, check over here and for our complete Family Fun Calendar for this weekend and beyond, head over here. Thanks for stopping by!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4

Fall on the Farm
Where: Eidem Homestead, 4345 101st Ave N., Brooklyn Park, MN , 55444
When: 12 – 3pm
Cost: $6/adults, $4/kids 4-12
Ages: Appropriate for all ages
Details: It’s harvest time on the historic Eidem Homestead! Join in for harvesting activities, cider pressing and pumpkin carving.

Apples Galore
Where: Dodge Nature Center, Farm Entrance at 1701 Charlton Street, West St. Paul, MN
When: 1 – 2:30pm
Cost: $7/pp or $20/family (non-member), $5/pp or $15/family (member)
Ages: Designed for all ages
Details: Hike to the apple orchard for tastings and press them for fresh juice. Educational for all ages. Pre-registration is required.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4 – 5

Apfelfest!
Where: The Landing – Minnesota River Heritage Park, 2187 Highway 101 East
Shakopee, MN 55379
When: October 4 – 5 • 10am – 5pm
Cost: $5/adults, $3/ages 2 – 17, 65+
Ages: Appropriate for all ages
Details: Learn how German immigrants harvested and processed apples, play games and ride a horse-drawn trolley.

Weekend Family Fun: Fantastic Foliage
Where: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum‘s Learning Center
When: October 4 – 5 • 12 – 4pm
Cost: $13/ages 13+
Ages: Appropriate for all ages
Details: Learn about leaves and why they turn those gorgeous colors in fall, participate in leafy crafts and complete a scavenger hunt. Take time to explore the Arboretum grounds and, kids, spend some time in the Green Play Yard.

Fall Color Tram Tour
Where: Eastman Nature Center at Elm Creek Park Reserve, 12400 James Deane Pkwy, Maple Grove, MN 55369
When: October 4 – 5 • Tours run on the hour from 1 – 5pm.
Cost: $5/pp, 20% discount for groups of 4+
Ages: Best for kids who can tolerate a decent ride.
Details: Registration required (763.559.6700 only). Enjoy the fall foliage from the comfort of a tram. Take in an apple cidering demonstration Sunday only from 1 – 4pm.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5

Wood Lake Sunday Special: Apple Cidering
Where: Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lakeshore Dr, Richfield, MN
When: 1 – 4pm
Cost: $3/pp
Ages: Appropriate for all ages
Details: Mill and press apples into cider.


Family-Friendly Ideas for New Year’s Eve

Seeking out a few places to celebrate New Year’s Eve before the little ones crash? Here are a few ideas of where to party before bedtime:

Re’ZOO’lution: Como Zoo’s Noon Year’s Celebration
Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
December 31, 2013 & January 1, 2014
10am – 1pm; FREE!

Ring in the New Year with two kid-friendly celebration at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Visitor Center. Radio Disney will provide live entertainment on 12/31; KidsDance performs 1/1. There will also be crafts, dancing, giveaways, animal talk and a special ball drop at noon!

Toddler Tuesdays: New Year’s Eve Toddler Bash
Mall of America
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
10am – noon; FREE!

The longtime Toddler Tuesdays program gears up for the New Year this week at their regular timeslot with treats, party favors and a toddler countdown at noon. For older partygoers, Nickelodeon Universe is hosting a Moonlight Circus from 6pm – midnight. It appears the ball drop, games and live entertainment are free; add an unlimited ride wristband for (significantly) more ($30.99).

Wells Fargo WinterSkate
Landmark Plaza, 75 5th St, St. Paul
Open New Year’s Eve until 1am
Free skating, skate rental $2 or free with
Wells Fargo bank card

Skate into the New Year in beautiful Rice Park, Downtown St. Paul.

New Year’s Eve ‘Ohana Lū’au
Minnesota Children’s Museum
Tuesday, December 31 • 5 – 9 p.m.
$10/member, $14/non-member

Celebrate this New Year’s Eve at the Minnesota Children’s Museum, Hawaiian style. Dance to live music from Will Hale and the Tadpole Parade, create your own lei, construct a one-of-a-kind sand castle, and countdown to our 8 p.m. beach ball drop. Dress up in Hawaiian attire if desired. Registration is recommended; space is limited. A party meal (sandwich, drink, carrots, fruit & cookie) is available for $4 plus tax  per person from 5 – 8.45pm.

Candlelight and Ice
Wood Lake Nature Center, 6710 Lake Shore Dr., Richfield
Tuesday, December 31, 6 – 9pm
$4/person

Celebrate the New Year at Wood Lake! Follow hundreds of candle-lit luminaries on a walking trail through cattails and trees while on the lookout for deer, fox, and owls. Enjoy roast marshmallows and hot cocoa. Make a craft, play a game, or just sit back and relax.


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