My family was so excited to finally have seasons when we moved from Arizona. Our March arrival meant we welcomed spring as Indiana welcomed us. Our family’s first impression of Indy was great. In retrospect it might have been a bit unrealistic. Being desert dwellers, we were all awestruck with the natural wonders of Indiana. Except, for that amphibian that almost snapped my blissfully ignorant wife’s fingers and toes off as she tried to “help the poor guy across the road” in her flip flops. Aside from the attempted torti-cide by our little friend, we were falling in love with the place. However, we were sad to have missed the winter wonderland that had just passed.
Two years later our excitement about winter is a bit more restrained. We realize now that a white winter means nature has shut down. There are no more wonderful hikes to the creek with the kids (unless you’re insane). No more blooming trees to see and flowers to pick. No more of my wife sitting at a picnic table, cutely stretching her neck out like a turtle gathering sun. And definitely no more murderous turtle attacks. Luckily, there is a place where nature DOES exist during the winter in Indy. The best part? It’s indoors and the turtles are locked safely away in cages like the criminals they are: The Holliday Park Nature Center.
Holliday Park isn’t a secret around here. It’s a beautiful park best known for its ruins. To parents like us it’s known for the amazing playground. The first time I went I didn’t even know there was more to it than that. Which is funny because it’s not trying to be kept secret. But it seems a lot of people have no idea the 13,000 square foot Holliday Park Nature Center exists.
Sitting close to the center of Indy at 64th street and Spring Mill, the park is nestled up next to the White River. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the primary focus of the nature center is the Marion County habitat. The center has many fun features: A little library that includes some natural-related books, and environmentally-themed classrooms that host classes and crafty activities. My personal favorites were the hands-on, discovery-based activities.
We loved the tiny replica White River where the munchkins played with tiny canoes and kayaks. There’s also a wildlife observation area which allow visitors to watch various stages of wildlife throughout the year through their thick panes of glass. It was completely mesmerizing for me and my kids.
I personally enjoyed the “scents of nature” activity. This activity allows the kids to discover what certain things in nature smell like. The wonderful scent of a local flower, the beautiful aroma of a local spice, the “booty”-ful bum of a skunk and stinky beaver den can all be sniffed by budding nature lovers. I love that I can introduce my kids to the smell of Pepe Le Pew without requiring to be bathed in tomato sauce! (And if you don’t remember who this fragrant fellow was, take a moment to brush up on your Looney Tunes characters.)
The Holliday Park Nature Center is free and open to the public. And funny enough, so is my advice: Find a little time to stay indoors and get back in touch with nature. The Holliday Park Nature Center is the perfect start.
MORE INFO: The Holliday Park Nature Center is located at 6363 Spring Mill Road, in Indianapolis. Open Mondays-Saturdays from 9am-5pm and Sundays from 1-5pm, admission is FREE. For more details, call (317) 327-7180 or visit their website.
In late June, 2007 Luis Ruvacalba removed his laundry from the dryer to find that he had rendered all of his undershirts pink and shrunk his favorite red University of Arizona sweater. At that point – as he says: “I realized: I need a wife. I married Katie in Sept of 2007. Aside from one lousy pen left in my pants pocket and numerous dried on Conner Prairie stickers, the laundry has gone pretty well since then.” Luis has four children: Maggie- 7, Micah- 5, Millie- 2, and Merritt- 1. Each of them helps him sharpen his parenting skills in new and unique ways. “Without Maggie I’d never have learned to put on tights. Without Micah I would have the weakest MMA fighting skills on the block. Millie challenges me to improve my search and rescue abilities. Merritt gives me weekly lessons in Matrix style urine dodging. Together we are the greatest family to ever ruin your family’s nice quiet afternoon at the park.” Follow along with Luis as he helps shows you the best places to let your family run wild.