The Twin Cities is host to a wonderful park system called Three Rivers Parks. The parks are named after the Mighty Mississippi River, the Minnesota River, and the Crow River.
The Three Rivers Parks System is primarily based in the western metro, but it is traveling south and moving east. Case in point: Silverwood Park is located in St. Anthony, east of the Mississippi River. Since St. Anthony is less than, oh, 5 miles, we have our own park basically in our backyard.
There are many parks in this park system. Each park is unique and focuses on something different. Gale Woods Farm is an actual live working farm. The Landing’s main objective is to teach history. The Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park is centered on the dam built between Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids over the Mississippi.
Silverwood Park is a smaller park. If you walk the perimeter of the park’s path, it’s probably only 3/4 of a mile, but in its smallness, it has many different ecosystems. Its purpose is to explore the balance of nature and art. In my estimation, this park is absolutely perfect. It is located on Silver Lake with woods, grasslands, marshy wetlands, lakeside property and a beautiful lawn to play on. There are trails and a bridge out to an island. On the island is a small shore to be able to wade into the water.
Throughout the park, there are random pieces of art work. With your mobile device, you are able to dial in for information on each sculpture as you come to it. Without your mobile device, I can attest that you will think, “Oh. Look at this thing……What is it?” It won’t detract from the experience, but you won’t have any idea what you are looking at!
In the woods, we came upon this. We called it a playhouse because we had no idea what it was. I am still trying to figure it out.
Whatever it is, the kids sure love it. Unlike me, they don’t try to figure it out. They just took it for a fun little play house and did just that. Played!
The thing that I loved the most about this park was that it had no playground equipment. None! You get to just play in the woods. What can be more creative than just playing and exploring? Whereas playgrounds can be lots of fun, so can nature.
Silverwood Park makes nature so much fun!
They have a few buildings on their property; some classrooms and a visitor’s center. The visitor’s center has a coffee shop and a small gallery displaying different shows.
Another thing that Silverwood Park’s visitor’s center has is craft supplies for kids to help themselves to in the coffee shop/ gallery area. A small table the perfect height for a preschool is filled with paper, crayons, and other art supplies. Silverwood Park is serious in its mission of integrating art and nature.
They offer a calendar full of different activities for every age from preschooler to senior adult. Preschool classes (Doodlebugs) and family classes (i.e. Green Beans, Family Clay and Play, Paper+, etc), music classes, yoga classes, nature hikes (Walk with a Naturalist, Walk with an Artist). Silverwood Park is full of many different possibilities.
And the best bonus is no entrance fees or parking fees!
Silverwood Park Hours: 5:00 AM–10:00 PM Phone: 763.694.7707 Address: 2500 County Rd. E St. Anthony, MN 55421
Como Zoo is a well-loved icon of St. Paul. When the weather gets warm, the residents of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and all of the surrounding suburbs flock to Como Zoo. When I can attest personally. It was April 26, the sun was shining and warm for only the second day of 2013, and every Minnesotan was excited for spring.
Most of us are thinking, It’s about time! And to celebrate, we spent the day outside enjoying the weather and the animals.
It was the first day that the tortoises have come outside since packing them inside for the winter. They were loving it. Frolicking around the tortoise yard just as tortoises do! Slowly. They soaked in the rays and enjoyed the attention. The kids loved seeing the tortoises. They were mesmerized by Marco and Marco’s friend (I can’t remember its name).
The tortoises were the first animals to come outside for the spring. Other animals like the Dall Sheep, Arctic foxes, and American Bison who live outside all year long, were outside of course. But the animals that live in warm climates who aren’t built for the harsh Minnesota winters, don’t make it outside until the temperature is 50 degrees. For the animals who stay outside in the summer, the temperature must be above 50 degrees both during the day and the night.
Walking around Como before Memorial Day or just days after the cold has exited Minnesota may be shocking to you. The regular summer zoo features aren’t set up yet.
The Sparky show doesn’t start until Memorial Day Weekend, but you may get to check out his adjustment to swimming outside again.
The two important requests by my children this time was visiting the giraffes and visiting “The Jungle” (aka. Tropical Encounters). All I could think as we were walking into the exhibit was, “Welcome to the Jungle, we’ve got fun and games……” Guns and Roses, baby. (let me just say right now for the record that I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I heard that song at my exercise class each week) At 2:00 we walked past a group of children listening to the end of Story time. It had started at 1:30. I find this time extremely interesting. 1:30 is generally nap time for many children. They must be catering to the older preschool crowd who may or may not nap.
After we toured through “the Jungle,” the kids wanted to to the Frog Pond (I’ll get to that in a moment). We decided to cut through the conservatory. On our way through, we ran into the Leonard Wilkening Children’s Gallery. It reminded me of a mini children’s museum zoo-style. They had a section where you fed the animals the proper meals, a wall that demonstrated the water cycle, a log to crawl through, puzzles, matching games, and the Ribbit Zibit: a live look at many different species of frogs like the poison dart frog, Lemur Tree Frog, Red-eye Tree Frog, and Panamaian Gold Frogs. You can also watch the beginnings of frog life as a tadpole.
Como Park Spring Frogs
But being that it was spring, it was time to head outside again. Where we spent the remainder of our time at the Frog Pond.
I had never heard of the Frog Pond before and was wondering what it was. Since Kyla was on a field trip, she went back to school with her classmates, and Tori, Dash, and Jack got to explore a little bit more. We made our way out to the front of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, across the road, and down the sloping hill to discover this enchanted pond. The grass was turning green and the water was so tempting. Surrounded by a man-made rock barrier, the pond was the perfect place for nesting ducks to dip their feet in and go for a swim.
Meanwhile, who doesn’t want to put a stick into the water and stir it. My trio of kids found themselves perfect fishing poles and went fishing. They could have spent hours doing this.
Como Zoo is a perfect place to enjoy during the spring if you don’t have high expectations. To see the outside shows, ride the carousel, and play at Como Town, you need wait for May and in some cases Memorial Day. Instead go knowing that you get to be outside, you get to lay on the grass, you get to see animals, and you get to eat outside if you want to.
Como Park Spring Highlights:
There is more than just the zoo to enjoy at Como. You can check out the conservatory including the new Ordway Gardens or you can just wander around the park. Como Lake is another attraction as well as ball fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
It’s FREE! The recommended donation per person is $2-$3, but you are welcome whether you can pay it or not.
It’s small. Take your time, no need to rush. You will see it all in one morning without hurrying through. A three year old can enjoy it on his own two feet (at least for most of it!)
Como Park Spring Disadvantages:
If you don’t like a crowd, Como is the least busy during the winter. During the spring, there are masses of people.
Springtime in MN is fickle, so a lot of outdoor things are delayed until May because we know that a freak snowstorm can cause damage if we are too hasty.
We got the family out to The Red Balloon Bookshop this weekend to see David LaRochelle and Mark Fearing with their new book, How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans. This is a feat for us these days. Someone always decides the nap they didn’t want two hours ago is now necessary right when we need to leave; or we have a diaper blow out; or we are just subjected to a general break down. However, the stars aligned on Sunday and we got out and got to The Red Balloon only a little late for the start of the reading.