Place/Event: Wickiup Hill Learning Center
Location: 10260 Morris Hills Rd, Toddville, IA 52341 (Some GPS may not give accurate directions)
Cost: Free or small fee for groups.
Grade/age range: All ages.
Group size: small or large. *Groups of 10 or more need to make a reservation.
Stroller friendly: Yes
I am completely in love with the Wickiup Hill Learning Center. This nature focused gem is comparable to a well deigned children’s museum. Plan to spend at least one hour inside and then additional time outside at the playscape, hiking, and picnicking. Note that the facility does not have trash cans at the picnic locations and you are required to “carry out” your own trash.
The website warns of busy summer hours which is completely understandable. Lots of information is available inside and volunteers are on-hand to answer questions
Inside Learning Center
The main attraction inside the learning center is a museum-quality interactive children’s play area. The play area is organized into three sections or “chapters” that follow the story book characters, Oliver and Ava, as they explore a local nature park.
There is so much for children to do in each of the “chapters”. In chapter 1, visit a historical Native American home site, harvest crops to cook over the campfire, learn about housing, and more. In Chapter 2, visit the pond and swamp with nature tools and toys. Go upstairs for a special nest reading nook, games, and more. In chapter 3, put on a rain jacket and enjoy the huge water table while learning about living in a watershed. Most of the spaces can accommodate a large group of children.
Animals and More
During our visit, a volunteer was showing the children one of the resident animals that live at the center. My daughter loved this snake. Several wildlife viewing areas, including a bird blind, are available at the center. Along the hallway and around the building are additional displays that tailor to older children and adults.
Just outside of the nature center is a large natural playscape that includes cabinets full of colorful clothes and other inspirational toys for play. A highlight is the zip line near the start of the hiking trails. We hope to go back when everything is a bit greener and the weather a little warmer.
This is an amazing nature center, well worth the drive. If you live in the area, consider financially supporting this local county conservation or volunteering.
Looking for more fun? Head north to Waterloo to visit the Phelps Youth Pavilion with the most amazing art-focused children’s museum. While there, check out other opportunities including collecting maple syrup at the Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls.
Want to take an Eastern Iowa Road Trip? You won’t be disappointed at Effigy Mounds or Pikes Peak State Park.