We have worked hard all winter long to get the kids through their sit down work. A big reason we do this is because we know it’s hard to compete with spring. As soon as the weather is warmer than 35 degrees the kids want to be outside exploring, riding their bikes, and playing in the streams that run along the curb by our house. Honestly, I want them to explore as much as they want to. I am a firm believer that hands-on learning will always be the best way to learn.
Rochester is located in the South Eastern part of Minnesota in the heart of bluff country. For us it is a short one hour drive, a perfect day trip! I have always loved the Rochester area, the bluffs, rivers, and beauty of the area have always been one of my favorite places to visit. As a girl who loves the rocky mountains, the bluffs give me a similar feeling as being in the mountains.
There are a few places a short distance from Rochester and I want to share these great gems!
Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo
Is the home to many Minnesota native animals. From skunks, prairie dogs, owls, and goats, to beats, buffalo, and bald eagles. Inside the nature center are aquariums of native snakes, turtles, and other small animals. New this year to the park is their hands-on learning play ground! The sand box is an archeological dig, wind instruments to try your hand at natural music, and walk around the solar system to give you a feel for how large or small the planets in our solar system are.
We often bring along a picnic lunch and enjoy the sites and sounds of Oxbow park while we are eating. After a quick lunch, the kids are right back to playing and exploring. You can read more about our visit to Oxbow Park here.
A definite fun family adventure we highly recommend. Did I mention admission is free! An even greater reason to visit Oxbow Park often!
Quarry Hill Nature Center
My sister use to teach in the Rochester school district and visited Quarry Hill with her kindergarten class. She had been telling me for a few years we needed to sign up our kids for one of their nature programs. This spring we finally got around to signing up and we were amazed by how much our kids learned. Maddie enjoyed a class for 8-12 year olds. She was excited for this class because she was allowed to go on her own, without me. She learned about Minnesota biomes and habitats, she came back from her class excited and bubbling with information she had to tell me right then and there. Naomi and Titus attended a class for 4-7 year olds. This class required an adult to attend along with students, which was fun for me, because I learned a few things I didn’t know as well. Naomi and Titus’ class studied the life cycle of trees. We went on a nature walk identifying seeds, seedlings, and all the other cycles of the trees. We learned that a trees roots are as long as the tree is tall. I had no idea and through that was an amazing fact considering how tall trees are! What an amazing underground system their must be!
The instructors for each of the classes where amazing. They are knowledgeable, friendly, teach to the kids level, and made it extremely fun!
The nature center has large aquariums filled with fish, snakes, spiders, frogs, and even an indoor bee hive. There is a nature window where you can use binoculars to watch the birds and nature life around the forest. A separate room has a library I would love to have in my own home. A large fish tang sits in the middle of the room, filled with comfy chairs, and great nature books!
The nature classes were only $4 per child and the nature center/walking trails do not require a fee to walk and enjoy. Their hours are Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday & Holidays 12pm-5pm.
Forestville State Park
Hiking, camping, horse back riding, swimming, and more sums up Forestville State park well. My family camped here often both as family and with a group of friends. They have great campsites to accomdate both. The hose back riding does require you to bring in your own horse, but I have heard the riding trails are great. Forestville is also home to pioneer town and the famous Mystery Caves. “Discovered in 1937, Mystery Cave is the longest cave in Minnesota – spanning over 13 miles underground. It is a network of passages that was dissolved by moving water.” You can find more information about the Mystery Caves here.
A park day pass is $5.00 or you can by a annual pass for $25. I highly recommend on buying the annual pass, it allows you entrance to any state park in the state of Minnesota. It’s a gift that keeps on giving back to you. The Mystery Cave tours do have a fee. click on the link above for more information. Forestville is a place worth checking out!
Silver Lake Park
After a long day of shopping in Rochester or a day of learning at one of the state parks or nature centers our kids love having the freedom to run, slide, and play at Silver Lake Park. Again, my sister had brought her classes to this park to celebrate the end of the school year. We were not sure where the park was located. I quickly hopped on twitter and tweeted the Rochester CVB, they quickly tweeted me back with directions and well wishes to have a great time. We quickly found the park and boy were the kids excited! This park is HUGE! It was the perfect ending to our already great day in Rochester!
The Rochester, Minnesota area is a great place to eat, shop, and explore the many outdoor adventures it offers. Have you visited any of these places? Which one is your favorite?