28th Sep, 2010

North Olmsted’s slice of natural fun

My kids love the Rocky River Nature Center in the metroparks. And from someone who’s been going to the center for more than 20 years, it has certainly come a long way. It’s always been a nice facility, but it is certainly first class nowadays.

There are a handful of live animals to see—turtles and the like—along with a bevy of stuffed and mounted animals in a diorama-like woodland scene. And strategically placed rocking chairs (both large and small for adults and children) allow visitors to cool their heels and watch the many birds than come to the center’s feeders. I could sit watching through the big picture windows for hours, but the boys never seem to want to let me sit still. But on one of our last visits, I saw a Baltimore oriole (my first, outside of the baseball team), which was quite amazing. A nice chart even shows what birds you’re likely to see which months of the year.

The center held a great daylong event, “Salute to Snakes,” in August, which my kids got a kick out of. They got to look at snakes, hold snakes, even hear a lecture about all the snakes that are native to Ohio. (Surprised that they sat through the almost-hourlong presentation, but they did well.)

Other favorite activities at the Rocky River Nature Center—for my boys, at least—are climbing in and around the plastic hollowed-out tree (complete with stuffed animals in various cubbyholes), pushing all the buttons on the 3-D relief map of the Rocky River watershed and looking in the gift shop.

Heck, even the walk to the nature center from the parking lot of a treat. A large swampy area with several overlooks is a great place to see turtles and frogs. Rare is the summer day that we DON’T see one or the other.

Check out the center when you’re on the west side; it’s just a few minutes from the bustle of Great Northern Mall, but it really does feel like a world away.

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