Take some time to add a little nature play into your busy schedules! Amenities at Maplewood Nature Center include a nature play yard, as well as trails, gardens, and picnic areas on a 40-acre preserve operated by the City of Maplewood. While the building has is currently closed, most of the outdoor amenities below are still available to explore on your own.
Maplewood Nature Center's Visitor Center
A Sad Story with a Happy Ending!
During the summer of 2020, the City of Maplewood made the decision to not re-open the Maplewood Nature Center due to budget concerns, but maintain the trails and the pond and keep the nature playground open. They originally laid off staff and began exploring ways other ways to utilize the building. Happily, during the summer of 2021, Maplewood decided they would re-open the Nature Center with limited programming beginning in the fall of 2021! Watch for more information soon.
What to expect when the Nature Center Reopens:
We look forward to the reopening. The visitor's center offers families a quiet reading corner with children's books and wildlife puppets. The younger kids will enjoy the crawl-thru log and touching skulls, antlers, furs and taxidermy subjects. While older children will enjoy exploring the live animals and informational signs and boards. Check out a pedal-power energy bike that powers a fan and lights.
The Nature Center is the home base for Maplewood's 14 beautiful open space sites scattered throughout the city. These nature preserves are sanctuaries for birds and wildlife, and provide a place for residents to hike, relax, and enjoy nature close to home. These preserves include Gladstone Savanna and Fish Creek Natural Area, both of which host nature events during the year.
Exploring the Trails
Trails wind through oak woods and marsh and are open every day from dawn to dusk. MNC recommends starting with the visitor center to learn a little about the surrounding environment before heading out on your hike or nature exploration. A helpful Phenology Calendar tells you which seasonal wildlife and plants you'll most likely observe. While you are there, check out a nature backpack or bingo game. In the winter you can also rent snowshoes.
Maplewood has recently renovated its trails to be sustainable. They ask that visitors respect this by carrying out whatever they carry in, not disturbing wildlife, and not introducing new plants or animals (this includes your dog). You can grab a map and self-guided trail brochure in the Visitor Center or download a PDF copy here.
Make your hike an adventure by requesting one of these four self-guided activities from the Nature Center.
- Self-Guided Nature Trail: Match pictures with the posts as you walk the trails.
- Nature Bingo Hike: Try to match four pictures in a row as you hike.
- Waterworks Scavenger Hunt: Hunt for artsy items on stormwater structures while learning about waterworks.
- Tree Quest: Follow the clues to find and identify ten trees on the trail.
More Like This: Twin Cities Quests, Scavenger & Treasure Hunts for Families
The Nature Center Play Yard
The Nature Center Play Yard, which adjoins the visitor center, is designed to connect children with nature by using natural features such as materials for building forts, a small Discovery Trail that connects to the main trail system, climbing rocks and smaller rocks, stumps and logs, touchable native plants, a shrub tunnel and sand and chalk. You can borrow sand toys from the Visitor Center. There is also space for picnics.
10 Fun Things to Do in Maplewood's Nature Play Yard
- Build a fort with the branches
- Explore the Discovery Trail that begins at the small arch bridge
- Conquer the kids' climbing rock,
- Scramble over natural stumps, rocks, and logs
- Create chalk drawings on the sidewalk (you'll find the chalk in the mailbox)
- Employ the senses to explore the native plants and flowers. Feel free to touch and smell as well as look and listen.
- Bring a picnic and enjoy an outdoor meal at the picnic tables
- Dig, build, shape and sift in the sand pit.
- Burrow through the shrub tunnel
- Watch butterflies in the nearby butterfly garden
Geocaching at Maplewood Nature Center
Birthday Parties are no longer available
Maplewood offers naturalist-led birthday parties for as low as $80.00 (up to 12 children). There is also a $100.00 option (13-15 children). The organized party includes various themes, including an outdoor hike, snake, salamander, or toad party. Parties are geared to ages 4+. Parties include a decorated room and party favors. Parents provide the food.
Articles Related to Maplewood Nature Center:
- Indoor & Outdoor Fun: Twin Cities Nature Centers (NE Metro)
- Staying Busy on a Budget: Five Summer Outings Done on the Cheap
- Twin Cities Spring Nature Play & Programs Guide
- Maple Syruping with Kids in the Twin Cities