One of my favorite things about raising kids in the same area that I grew up in is seeing them experience some of my favorite childhood activities. As a kid I was not enrolled in a ton of activities through the Park Ridge Park District, but as a teenager I was a camp counselor and camp director for the PRPD, so I have many fond memories of the facilities there. One of my favorite places to have my campers, and now my own sons, explore is the Wildwood Nature Center. So on this gloomy day, we headed to the nature center with some of our friends to explore and learn about nature in the Midwest.
The Wildwood Nature Center is nestled right off of one of the main buildings for the PRPD, but once you walk through the doors you feel like you are in a very special place designed to honor the beauty of nature. There are two main rooms for visitors to check out for free, and the other rooms in the center are used for school and camp programs.
We absolutely love any and all animals, so we spend hours upon hours in the animal room. There are at least four types of turtles on display, as well as reptiles, guinea pigs, ferrets, iguanas, bearded dragons, fish (and they are ENORMOUS), prairie dogs, bunnies, and my least favorite–snakes. The turtles typically take up the majority of our time because they have such interesting habitats and it is fun to watch them move in and out of the water.
There are also some “stuffed” animals…and I’m not talking about teddy bears. My oldest and his friend really liked petting them, but I was too weirded out by them to get very close. Speaking of petting, one of the animal care givers also took out the guinea pig for us to pet…it was super soft, just like our beloved Rylie girl.
The other room that we like to spend time in is called the “Nature Nook” and it is perfectly named. It is a cozy little space dedicated to the study of nature in a creative way. There are tons of puzzles and books about animals, as well as stuffed animals and puppets that our kiddos loved playing with. The administrators at the Wildwood Nature Center also put out different arts and crafts for kids to complete at their leisure. The bug stamps, butterfly craft, and caterpillar puzzles were a huge hit with both the 3 year olds and the 1 1/2 year olds.
After the rain let up, we decided to go on a walk to see the pond behind the nature center. Although the kiddos were drenched in water and mud after splashing in EVERY.SINGLE.PUDDLE they could find, we had a great time looking at the wildlife in the pond and quacking to the ducks as they swam by us.
All in all, we had a FANTASTIC time at the Wildwood Nature Center. I can’t wait to explore more of the PRPD’s offerings with my kiddos as they get older.
Looking for other nature-based activities throughout Chicagoland to enjoy? Simply search “nature centers” or “outdoor fun” in the search box.