TAMARACK NATURE CENTER
WHITE BEAR TOWNSHIP, MN
Oh, Tamarack…why must you be so far from St. Louis Park? How I love you so. Sometimes, when living in the big city, you just gotta say, “Yup, it’s worth the gas money,” and venture to the other side of the metropolis. This Nature Center, I assure you, is worth the gas money. When the conditions are right (sunny, but not sweltering hot), Tamarack could very well make the list of “summer favorites” this year. Your kids will be more than entertained by the simplicities of nature for once. So, put that iPad away and face the day like it’s 1987 again. Yay for rocks, sticks and water! You can thank Mother Nature (and Ramsey County) for this one.
What is it?
Tamarack Nature Center is a massive 320-acre nature preserve in Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park with paved (and non-paved) trails for hiking, running or skiing, ponds and creeks, and – our favorite – the Discovery Hollow Play Area. Discovery Hollow offers a variety of activities for your kiddos, including a rock climbing area, a hobbit house, a beautiful garden and an up-to-your-ankles stream that is perfect for getting wet and muddy.
Fit for what ages?
A fabulous, open space to run free and get muddy, Discovery Hollow has something for everyone at the Tamarack Nature Center. While the ground is rocky in most areas, strollers are welcome and actually make for great storage for food and other necessities. But, non-walkers might want to stick to the stroller. Walking children will have a blast here though. The water is fun to splash in for every age and the rock climbing is probably more advisable for preschool-age and older. The Wood area, where you build forts made of long sticks, is a little scary for parents to watch since kids of all ages are walking around toting 7-foot wooden trees completely unaware of their peers surrounding them. I’d say for that area, the older the better. The indoor building with turtles and snakes is pretty cool for everyone though.
How much are we talkin?
Tamarack Nature Center is 100% free (thus making it 100% awesome). Donations, however, are very welcomed. They do offer day camps and other classes and activities on the premises which look super fun, and those have a fee.
Want some tips?
We leave early in the morning to get there right at 10:00, before the sun is burning and the crowds get too big. The parking lot is big and if you get there early, you can grab a parking spot in the shade. If you bring a stroller, great. There is plenty of space to park it in Discovery Hollow, and it’s multi-purpose because it’ll serve as the “holder of all things” (shoes, wet clothes, lunch, purse). If you aren’t bringing a stroller, bring some other “holder of all things.” You’ll be happy all your stuff is in one spot rather than strewn about the play area. When we went, I was the only one who lost my shoes, so do as I say…not as I do.
Pack a little lunch or snacks because your kids will play their little buns off and get hungry. There are a few benches to eat at, or you can just dine on the rocks. That’s more fun anyway! Pack sunscreen. It can get hot here, and while the creek keeps you cool, your skin will thank you for a good lathering. The creek keeps you cool, but it also soaks your children. Bring extra clothes! That’s a biggie. Some kids even wear their swimsuits. Bring waterproof shoes/sandals so they can wear them through the “pokey” parts without the complaints of soggy feet. There are some mini water spouts and sand areas where sand toys are a huge hit. We never bring toys, but we do borrow them. If you bring toys, *expect to share them with many kids and probably not get all of them back, but moms like me sure do appreciate your effort 🙂
There are restrooms inside the nature building, and I’m pretty sure the family room has a changing table. Spend a little time in the building to cool off and look around. There are turtles and snakes and honeybees to check out inside. There are also hooks and cubbies (meant for camps) but if there is no camp that day, feel free to hang your stuff here if you need more storage.
Hours and Location
5287 Otter Lake Road | White Bear Township, MN 55110
Tamarack Nature Center Building
|Monday-Friday||8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.|
|Saturday||9 a.m. – 5 p.m|
|Sunday||Noon – 5 p.m.|
The building is closed on some holidays. Please call ahead.
Discovery Hollow Nature Play Area & Garden
Open daily: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Open select evenings, please call for details.
I found that my GPS didn’t locate the exact spot of the Discovery Hollow Play Area, so just be sure to turn south onto Otter Lake Road from County Road H2 and you will see the sign.
Follow Tamarack Nature Center on Facebook to stay updated on their programs, camps and activities. If you live close to here, I strongly advise hitting up some of their adventures!
Jane tyson09/20/2014 at 8:38 am
I discovered Tamarack early in August. It is everything you have said and more. My granddaughter absolutely loved it and didn’t want to leave. I was just amazed at how being in a natural space calmed the children. All the ages played together very well. I only saw one child get bumped and I think that was a sibling issue. She was almost 6 at the time and played well with those big sticks you mentioned. Kuddos to Tamarck and Ramsey Count for creating this great place!
Get Outside and Play: 8 Can't-Miss Parks in the Twin Cities - NellieBellie05/21/2015 at 1:29 pm
[…] See full review here […]
Kelly sullivan noah07/07/2015 at 11:39 am
Discovery Hollow is our new favorite place – we went twice last month!
Great news: they’ve expanded their hours since Nicki’s original post.
Summer 2015 hours are
Sunday-Wednesday: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday: 9 a.m. – Dusk (1/2 hour after sunset)