Next up in our series of both indoor and outdoor entertainment at Twin Cities-area nature centers is the unique Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul-Mendota Heights. The natural space is ideal for an unstructured ramble outside, and also offers educational programming in their beautiful farm buildings. There is a charge for the programs, but a family walk through the Dodge property costs nothing and the trails are open to the public during daylight hours seven days a week. Here's what you might find on your walk:
- A working farm - Dodge Nature Center keeps farm animals to educate and during the warmer months, it's possible to observe them in their yards. You can't access any of the barns or go beyond the fenceline without participating in a program (which we have done - and it's great!), but you can still get close to the animals.
- Wildlife - we trailed turkeys, spotted turtles from the boardwalk, and checked out the raptor exhibit.
- Ingredients for nature play - in our wandering we found hills to scale, natural bridges, and plenty of building materials. There was even a nature playground that is used daily by the onsite Dodge Nature Center Preschool, but I was assured the public is welcome to play when school's not in session (sorry, I couldn't get a picture of it, but my own preschooler would have loved it).
Moving indoors, Dodge Nature Center offers all kinds of classes, tours and events aimed at a wide span of ages. We have, for instance, taken part in their homeschool science classes, taken farm tours through St. Paul ECFE, and observed other parent-child programs.
Family Programs and Events at Dodge Nature Center
Dodge offers several seasonally family programs and events each year. These can be found on our Family Fun Calendar.
Nature Playdate at Dodge Nature Center
Nature Playdate is a monthly program for pre-k families to discover and interact with nature as the seasons change from spring to summer. Naturalists provide a new experience each month, including introductions to live animals and creative play. While this family is geared toward preschool, children ages 2 and under are also welcome to come play. Under 12 months are free. Please come dressed for the weather. $7/per child (ages 2+); Adults and children under age 2 play FREE. The programs are held on select Fridays from 10:00 – 11:15 a.m., and registration is required.
- Friday, Feb. 17- Frozen Pond Romp
- Friday, March 17 - Sap, Syrup & Sugar
- Friday, April 14 - Farm Babies
- Friday, May 12 - Hide & Seek
- Friday, June 16 - Bees, Flowers & Fritters
- Friday, July 21 - Mud, Puddles & Ponds
- Friday, August 4 - Campfires, Cooking & Stories
Nature After Dinner at Dodge Nature Center
Nature After Dinner is an evening program for families with children ages 3 to 8, to explore nature around the sunset hour. Each month offer a new topic. $7/per child. The program is held monthly on select Thursdays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Registration is recommended.
- Thursday, March 9 - Maple Syrup Time
- Thursday, April 6 - Cold Blooded Creatures
- Thursday, May 11 - Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere
- Thursday, June 8 - Raptors: Hunters of the Sky
- Thursday, July 6 - Wild About Berries
- Thursday, August 10 - Flight of the Butterfly