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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
Find a Registration Link at the bottom of this page
Hours of Operation:
Mon. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Tue. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Wed. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Thu. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Fri. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Sat. 09:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Sun. 10:00 AM – 03:00 PM
Showing Winter 2023/24 Nature Center Hours. Sunfish Lake Park is open sunrise to Sunset.

Sunfish Lake Park is a 284-acre natural area managed by the City of Lake Elmo with historical and ecological significance to the area. Kids, families and people of all ages will enjoy exploring, hiking, birding and visiting the Sally Manzara Nature Center and play area.

Related Articles:

9 Ideas for Family Fun at Lake Elmo’s 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. Visitors may want to bring your favorite wildflower identification book or app.
  2. Walk, Bike, Snowshoe or Ski the nine miles of trails. Note that some do not allow pedestrians. Bring your phone to scan QR codes on trail markers to learn more about the natural features of the park. There is also a compass on each trail marker.
  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. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a link.
  8. Watch Bees and Learn About Beekeeping. Safely watch bees in a hive from the indoor observation hive. We’re told that the nature center beekeepers do weekly hive checks on most Thursdays at 10am. Visitors can watch or possibly lend a hand.
  9. 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 in Lake Elmo, MN

Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center

The relatively new nature center at Sunfish Lake Park sits south of the parking lot and is operated separately from the park by the Friends of Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park, a non-profit organization, with a mission to:

“Stand as a symbol of the Stewardship of our community for its natural surroundings and heritage, Serve as a focus of community activities related to outdoor life, Provide a place where people of all ages can learn about the unique natural history and ongoing ecology of Sunfish Lake Park, Teach general environmental awareness via specific local examples, Honor the agricultural heritage of Lake Elmo.”

The nature center is free to visit, but some activities require a small fee<. Family-friendly features of the nature center that make a great day out with the kids 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 Ojibway 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.

Summer Camp at Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center

The interpretive center hosts 4-day summer camps for kids ages 6 to 10 and 1-day family camps for preschool age kids. Camps cover various nature themes.

Find annual prices and dates: Twin Cities Summer Camps: Nature & Outdoor Adventure Camps

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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