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Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center Directory Logo
Little Free Library
3554 Kelvin Ave N, Lake Elmo, MN 55042
(651) 747-3900
Admission: $0.00
Hours of Operation:
Mon. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Tue. 09:00 AM – 04:00 PM
Wed. 09:00 AM – 04:00 PM
Thu. 09:00 AM – 04:00 PM
Fri. 09:00 AM – 04:00 PM
Sat. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Sun. 10:00 AM – 04:00 PM
Showing Nature Center Hours. Sunfish Lake Park is open dawn to dusk, gate closes at 9 PM

Sunfish Lake Park in Lake Elmo is a 284-acre natural area with historical and ecological significance to the area. Families will enjoy exploring, hiking, birding and visiting the Sally Manzara Nature Center and play area.

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8 Ideas for Family Fun at Sunfish Lake Park

  1. Explore the local environment and look for  woodland, wetland, and prairie plant communities found within the park. The park includes 17 acres of recently restored prairie wildflowers and grasses.  You may want to bring your favorite wildflower identification book or app.
  2. Walk, Bike or Ski the nine miles of trails. Lake Elmo has a map of trails here.  Bring your phone to scan QR codes on trail markers to learn more about the natural features of the park.
  3. Go Birding or look for wildlife. Many birds spotted in this park are rare or declining in population in the State.  Birding Checklist: What to Pack Bird Watching.
    Robin feeding its young - Go Birding at Sunfish Lake Park
  4. Get Messy at the Nature Center’s “Messy Play Area”
  5. Play A Round of Buckthorn Croquet.
  6. Go on a Story Walk. Stories change out monthly. Find the pages mounted on the trail that circles the nature center.
  7. Print Activities like nature journal pages, games and scavenger hunts before visiting.
  8. In the Winter, snowshoe (with free loaners), cross country ski, fat-tire bike, play in the snow, and/or sled. Then stop by the nature center for a free hot coffee or hot chocolate.

Girl digging in sandboat at the nature playground at Sally Manzara Interpretive Center in Lake Elmo, Minnesota
Nature play at Sally Manzara Interpretive Center

Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center

The nature center at Sunfish Lake Park is operated separately from the park by a non-profit organization.  Features of the nature center include indoor and outdoor exhibits, including:

  • A Messy Play Area nature playground
  • A Croquet Court with mallets, balls & wickets made with buckthorn removed from the park.
  • A Giant Birdhouse – whose artist-created occupants changes with the seasons.
  • A Big Eagle & Nest with “giant eggs” kids can sit on.
  • 29 Prairie Plant Demonstration Planter’s created by a local Boy Scout.
  • A “Three Sisters Garden” that combines corn, bean and squash plants in a traditional Ojibwe design.
  • A rain garden.
  • An upside-down garden display.
  • A Trail of Birdhouses created by local Girl Scouts
  • An Indoor observation beehive. Watch the queen and her workers doing their jobs inside the hive.
  • Loaner items can be borrowed at the desk and include kid’s binoculars, magnifying glasses and bug-catchers. You can also pick up a scavenger hunt sheet and a trail map.

We would love to hear about your visit to Sunfish Lake Park or the nature center.  Leave us a comment and tell us how your visit went. What was your family’s favorite part? What would you like to see changed?

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