Monday, February 3, 2014

Washington Park Urban Ecology Center= Winter Heaven!

Washington Park- Urban Ecology Center
It was snowing lightly on Saturday when we ventured over the the Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park.  I had never been inside, but was quite interested in seeing the very cool igloo I'd heard they made during the previous weekend.  They collected hundreds of milk cartons and froze them with colored water.  You can see it in the photo above.  While we were there, we noticed a large group of volunteers shoveling snow off the ice rink, and decided it might be fun to try skating for awhile.
I've been a member for several months, but we never borrowed equipment.  One of the membership benefits is that you can borrow all sorts of equipment from all three of the centers, which are located at Riverside Park, Menomonee Valley, and Washington Park.  You also get their newsletter, chock full of fun ideas, events, and up to date information about what's happening in the centers.  A membership costs $25 for an individual, $35 for families, and just $12 if you're a college student.
Zahra in the equipment room with snowshoes, boots, skis, and sleds
As soon as we stepped inside, there were several people offering help.  Such a friendly staff!  I had to give a photo ID and credit card, along with $5 deposit.  Then I filled out some paperwork before we got a pair of skates for my son, Omar.  I have my own skates, but if I didn't have them with me, I could have borrowed a pair there for up to 4 days at a time.  They have all sizes, so for a family looking for a good time, or anxious to try a new sport, this is a great way to go.  There were other families checking out cross country skis, and for many of the younger kids, it was the first time on skis.  I met another couple who were getting snowshoes- friends from two different cities who often meet in Milwaukee for fun.  He has a membership and gets them both equipment for free with his membership which allows for a guest.  He loves it because he lives in an apartment and doesn't have room to store anything.  They can be spontaneous depending on the weather and have had a lot of fun using equipment from here.  Cheap date?  You bet!
The ice rink is on the lagoon which is frozen now.  If you're a beginning skater, you can take a chair from indoors and use it for balance out on the ice.  It turned out to be a big help for Omar.  Later he got confidence and parked the chair.  You can also play hockey- they have sticks and pucks too.
Chair skating
Washington Park is a large lovely park, one of the original parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same man who designed Central Park in New York.  You can read more about how it used to be a zoo and see early photos at this website.  There are plenty of trails with large mature trees for hiking.  You can snowshoe anywhere in the park.  Cross country skiing is great here because most of the park is fairly flat.  Sledding is available east of the bandshell, and across the lagoon.  This is virtually one stop shopping for any winter sport.  If I had just one day to spend in Milwaukee during winter and had to please a group of people, this is where I'd go. After all the winter fun, you can also find hot chocolate and coffee inside the center, and pay a visit to the wildlife room.  For us it was truly winter heaven!
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