Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Bucket List: Visit a Nature Center

Tory, Aden and I crossed off the first item on our Summer Bucket List this week by visiting the Westwood Hills Nature Center.

When my friend Sarah asked us to meet for a playdate the other day, I thought Westwood Hills would be the perfect location. Tory's preschool recommended it for a fun summer activity for kids but short of "nature center" and "free," I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Getting there was a bit confusing. The nature center is situated in the middle in a neighborhood, so I wondered if my phone GPS was leading me astray. The entrance to the nature center wasn't clearly marked either, but I finally found it after circling around a bit. Once we pulled into the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised to find beautifully wooded trees and paths, plus a playground structure and picnic tables. There wasn't anyone working at the building pavilion so I wished I'd have downloaded a map from the nature center's website beforehand. My friend Sarah and I weren't sure if the paths looped and connected together and there'd be nothing worse than being stuck in the woods with screaming kids and no clue how to get out! In the end, we figured out the main path made a loop around Westwood Lake with some picturesque views along the way.

As we walked, Sarah, the kids and I came upon a turtle pond where we spotted one lonely turtle in a sea of mossy green water. We also came across an apiary, known also as a bee yard. Sarah is a former elementary school teacher and luckily knew a (surprising!) amount of information about honey bees. Enough to answer Tory and her little friend Charlie's questions, at least. Informational signage about the bees would've been nice, but that's probably my marketing brain at work.

As we continued down the trail, we asked a lady walking by how long it took to loop around. She said about a 1/2 hour, and ha hahahha ... that may be the case without eight little legs tagging along. Total time around took us about 2 hours. The walk was absolutely beautiful though, with lots of shade along the wood chips, boardwalks and hard surface paths. It was very manageable pushing a stroller.

It was only the last stretch of trail that the kids began to fuss a bit, so Sarah and I piled them all in the strollers and pushed through as quickly as we could. We didn't see many animals along our walk, but it was still a nice change of pace from typical playdates to the playground. We'll definitely go back to Westwood Hills again, and next time I'll build in extra time for a picnic lunch and play time on the playground equipment too. 


  1. Looks fun! I love Tory's dress too!

  2. That looks like so much fun!! 1/2 hour 2 hours same thing. I think our not even mile trail we go to all the time takes us a solid hour with Aria's pace. I wish we had more trails with trees around. We have plenty of ones without shade...which no thanks in the summer.

  3. I know you just went to one but we went today to Tamarack Nature center and the have this area called discovery hallow and it was awesome. They have a stream the kids can play in, an area to build with sticks, a fun tunnel climbing area and a huge sand pit area with small fountains. It's free and it was really fun. They have a ton of picnic tables to eat at and a bunch of washing post for your feet and hands. It's a must see!!! It's in white bear lake so after make a stop at cup n cone!

    1. Amy - this place sounds fantastic! I'm definitely adding it to my list of fun things to do this summer.