From Memorial Day to Labor Day in the Corridor, it is officially splash pad season! While my kiddos certainly have their favorites, we love to pack a picnic and set off to explore a new-to-us location to get our splash on.
Here, I'm highlighting some of our favorite splash pads to frequent, as well as offering an extensive list of places to splash as you make your way around Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities this summer. Enjoy! And, share your favorite in the comments!
Looking for a way to get your splash on without the crowds? Check out this list of awesome creek stomping locations in the Corridor!
Enjoying small water features at Hayes Park in Cedar Rapids.
With a fence surrounding it, the Tiffin City Park splash pad makes it easier to keep an eye on little ones as they play. The pad is very sunny, but a nearby picnic shelter can offer some shade.
Do you have a favorite place in the Corridor to cool down in the summer heat? Share with us in the comments below!
And, if you are looking for the scoop on outdoor adventures in the Corridor, check out Nested Mama's options for Local Family Fun!
While it can be tempting to hibernate all winter long, getting outside - even for 20 minutes a day - can be crucial for maintaining our circadian rhythm. So layer up, and get out!
A few tips for winter adventures:
When the weather is truly cold, I like to pick locations that offer dual outdoor/indoor fun. We start outdoors and last as long as we can, knowing the fun can continue inside. All four of the winter adventures listed below have that indoor/outdoor option!
If you have children who are reluctant to layer (ahem, my children, cough cough), ask them to pack a backpack to take on the adventure with necessary layers. This way they have what they need if they need it, and they can listen to their bodies and make changes.
Keep a wind chill chart bookmarked on your phone and consult the forecast before you go. (This can also give you a sense of whether or not layers are negotiable for outdoor play.)
Invest in winter gear. If you have the layers you need to stay warm, you will enjoy the time outside so much more.
If you or your child needs extra motivation, a thermos of hot coffee/tea/chocolate can go a long way in helping you meet your outside time goals.
If you haven't been before, ICNC boasts a trail network that traipses through prairie, woods, and wetland. Beautiful in warmer temps, the trails offer lots to explore in colder weather, too. The outdoor classroom is a favorite of mine when I want to get us playing in chillier temps. Inside the ICNC the lobby includes several stations to explore nature as well as a bird watching room, perfect for warming fingers and toes after outside play.
The fun at Wickiup Wandering Woods, just a short walk from the parking, continues even in snowy weather. With lots to climb, build, and explore, we like to burn off some steam before heading in to play in the kid-friendly exhibits.
If you park at the Conservation Education Center, you'll find a half-mile, crushed stone, stroller-friendly trail. The perfect length for little legs on a chilly day, this hike allows you to bundle them in stroller if the weather proves a little too fierce. Pop inside the CEC after the hike and enjoy the museum area, complete with hands on exploration.
Winter Night Hike in Your Neighborhood
While I often bemoan how early it gets dark in the winter, I find it presents a unique opportunity to get us all out and moving. With the proper layers, a headlamp or flash light, and some hot cocoa at the end, my crew enjoys a night hike around our neighborhood to see lights on display. This is the perfect way to fit in some outdoor time after work and dinner, too!
What are your favorite outdoor winter adventures in the Corridor? Share in the comments below!
Looking for a path to take baby and stroller on you inaugural outing? Here is a list of paved path locations you may enjoy in the Corridor. These are also perfect options for wearing baby without having to worry about the terrain underfoot or little walkers who do best on an even surface.
Playground stop and jog in Lower City Park
Photo credit Suzanne Halekas
Lower City Park, Iowa City
Enjoy the ducks and geese on this flat paved path near the Iowa River.
Waterworks Prairie, Iowa City
This quiet park features prairie and wetlands - perfect for spotting butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.
Fall at Terry Trueblood
Photo credit Heather Trana
Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, Iowa City
Enjoy a 2-mile stroll around Sand Lake. The recreation area also features water rentals and a playground constructed of a natural materials.
Strolling on the Northridge Trail
Northridge Park, Coralville
This figure-eight paved path features a pond with fountains. Take the trail under the interstate for access to the Coral Ridge Mall or follow it out of the park for a stroll on the Northridge Trail into North Liberty. This trail does feature some elevation changes as it winds through the Coralville neighborhood, so keep that in mind as you plan your outing.
Little walker on the Clear Creek Trail
Clear Creek Trail, Tiffin
For a quiet walk punctuated by the occasional train, take the Clear Creek Trail starting at the Half Moon entrance.
Train watching at Cedar Lake
Cedar Lake, Cedar Rapids
For an urban stroll, check out the 1.5 mile loop around Cedar Lake. While a portion winds through some trees, the majority edges along railroad tracks, which may delight any kiddos who are train fans. For more mileage take the Cedar River Trail north or south.
A sweet stop at Dan and Debbie's
Hoover Trail, Ely
For another launching point on the American Discovery Trail, hop on the Hoover Trail section at Ely Pond. To make your walk a bit sweeter, stop in at Dan and Debbie's Creamery and grab some delicious ice cream.
South Troy Park Trail
South Troy Park Trail, Robbins
The short and sweet South Troy Park Trail connects to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail - another stretch of the American Discovery Trail! Enjoy the a short stroll in the park or connect to the trail heading north or south for more distance.
Bridge and creek on Donnelly Park section of Boyson Trail
Lindale Trail, Marion
To access the paved Lindale Trail via a short stretch of crushed stone trail, park at Thomas Park and head north or park at the quieter Donnelly Park and head south.
For a longer adventure on crushed stone, take the Boyson Trail in either direction.
Do you have another favorite paved path in the Corridor? Share it in the comments below! Looking for more family adventures in the Corridor? See all posts on that topic here.
Fall is my favorite. I'm pretty jazzed to share this guest post over on the Doulas of Iowa City blog. In it your find the perfect pint-sized fall bucket list to keep you in rhythm with the season for baby's first fall.
What's your favorite local fall event? Share it in the comments below!
We have so much beauty here in Iowa and that really shows during the fall months. If you haven't already tried hitting the trail with your family, this is a great time to do it! Mild temps keep everyone happy and the crunchy leaves make for awesome nature sensory play. Here area some of our favorite fall hikes in the Corridor that we enjoy as a family.
Note: The hikes mentioned vary in difficulty and child safety concerns. As always, use your best judgment in choosing hikes that work for your family.
Sandbar along the Cedar River
A popular site for family pictures, Palisades-Kepler combines the beauty of fall foliage with the drama of the cliffs along the Cedar River. Pending river level, the extensive sandbar makes for an excellent space to play in the sand. (****Please note that river currents are dangerous and no one should enter the water.****) The Cool Hollow Trail runs through the park and provides a moderate hiking experience. For more of a challenge, the Cedar Cliff Trail goes along the river and provides amazing views -- sturdy kid hikers will still likely need an adult assist at points on this one and young walkers will need to be up in a carrier.
Entrance to Cedar Cliff Trail
Just down the river from Palisades is the quiet Ennis Preserve. This Linn County Park includes a 1-mile loop trail that takes you through prairie and woods, down to the river's edge and back. The trail has a steep stretch as it approaches the river, where little ones may need to be up in the carrier or hold a hand. Pack a picnic and enjoy a peaceful meal in the grass by the park's entrance.
This Asian Maple is a favorite spot to play on fall hikes
Looking for a little walker and stroller friendly fall hike? The Morgan Creek Arboretum features a crushed stone path that takes you on a loop through trees and prairie with lots of open grass space to romp and play. Side explorations into the creek are available at points, so make sure to wear water proof footwear and messy play clothes.
Sun through the trees on a fall morning at Woodpecker
Woodpecker Trail is a favorite of my kiddos from the time they can toddle down the trail. You can make it a kid-friendly 1 mile hike or loop it together with the connecting Squire Point Trail for more mileage. Woodpecker does come to one beautiful stone outlook point with a bit of a drop, so keep kiddos close as you approach the water.
A great adventure with kid hikers
Across the pond from the outdoor classroom
The Outdoor Classroom at ICNC is the perfect option if you have a little hiker who wants to explore every leaf or stick on the path. Situated around a pond, the outdoor classroom offers the chance to climb, swing, build, and explore. For more distance, you can check out ICNC's great trail network or the nearby Sac & Fox Trail, too.
Exploring with natural materials
Still hiking despite the rain
This stroller-friendly paved path provides the opportunity to combine your fall hike with coffee by heading north along the trail to Capanna Coffee (which will take you through wetlands) or east to a fork and then up across 6 to Hurts Donut Co. Either option can motivate even the most reluctant of riders or walkers. And, the fall colors along the creek are a treat all on their own!
Easy hiking for an early walker
Looking for a quieter yet still stroller-friendly stretch of trail? The Clear Creek Trail, entered from Half Moon has a wide path and a peaceful vibe that feels more akin to a dirt trail.
It’s no secret - I love summer adventuring with my kids. I live for packing a picnic, spending the day outside, napping the baby in a sling or on a blanket, and watching my kids tumble into bed heavy limbed and super sleepy from a summer day well-spent.
Today, I’m sharing a few of our favorite spots to creek stomp. These locations offer shallow waters easily accessible within a short hike from parking.
*Please note* summer rains can make creek beds swell and add currents that are unsafe for little walkers. Always offer careful, hands-on supervision of children around water.
Morgan Creek County Park, Palo
This park gets its name from the creek that winds throughout. The creek is most easily accessible by parking in the lower day use area parking and walking the trail north towards the campground. Once summer hits, make sure to pack bug spray, as the creek is popular with mosquitoes.
Pinicon Ridge County Park, Central City
To find this awesome creek stomping spot, take the park entrance south of the Wapsipinicon River. (The north entrance is for the campground.) Park at the trailhead for Woodpecker Hill trail (right before you reach the observation tower). Head down the trail about .5 miles until you reach “Horseshoe Falls” and a large wooden bridge. This limestone outcropping makes a fantastic spot for splashing. Pack water shoes or rain boots to avoid any sharp rocks.
Wapsipinicon State Park, Anamosa
Dutch Creek cuts through the park and may be accessed at several points. For an easy walk, park near the playground and walk the short distance to the creek. This makes a great opportunity to alternate between the hot surfaces of the playground and the cool water of the creek. This state park has several caves which can make for a fun family day of exploration.
Photo credit Kelli Eggert
Bever Park, Cedar Rapids
Between the barn at Old MacDonald’s Farm and the duck enclosure, you’ll cross a bridge over a shallow creek just right for mucking about. Pack a picnic and enjoy the nearby shelter or take a hike on the dirt trail just north of the ducks.
Photo credit Suzanne Halekas
Looking for new adventures with your kids this summer? Here is a list of our favorite parks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and surrounding communities. So pack a picnic, slather up that sunscreen, and enjoy the season!
F.W. Kent Park, Oxford
Lots of shade and a large structure make this a great spot for a summer picnic. The lake is currently undergoing restoration during summer 2018, but when that is complete, keep this location in mind for a trip to the beach or a hike around the lake, too.
Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids
This playground opened the Fall of 2017, and it offers features designed for ADA compliance. In addition to play, watch geese on the pond or walk across the bridge and enjoy the beautiful flowers of Noelridge Gardens.
Kiwanis Park, Iowa City
Surrounded by paved trails perfect for biking, triking, or a stroller, Kiwanis Park offers tons of sand, tunnels and a unique layout sure to inspire imaginative play. Don't forget to pack your sand toys!
Photo Credit Becca Dirks
Tiffin City Park, Tiffin
A large tree-theme structure and nearby splash pad make this park a popular one for summer adventures. Bring a stroller or trike and enjoy the trail that continues behind the baseball fields.
Mercer Park, Iowa City
This park offers a large structure with unique features, sure to entertain kids of a variety of ages. For those nostalgic for a merry-go-round from your childhood, Mercer Park includes that, too!
Photo Credit Becca Dirks
Beaver Kreek Park, North Liberty
Recently renovated, the park includes an updated structure, zip-line, sand, and shallow creek, all surrounded by large trees. Because it is ringed by homes and buildings, this park feels like an oasis. Pack a picnic and have fun!
As I’m writing this blog, I know that the calendar reads April, but outside my window I see a whole lot of snow. Get it together Iowa weather!
Despite the snow, I want to share with you four fabulous spring outings for young families in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities. These are locations my family enjoys so much that the kids ask to go back again and again. We’ve done these hikes with baby in a carrier to get some fresh air and also with toddler and big kid siblings along.
Devonian Fossil Gorge - Flood waters tore through this area by the Coralville dam back in 1993 and again in 2008, exposing fossils from the Devonian period. The spring sees the formation of shallow (and delightful) mucky pools that teem with tadpoles. Several fossils are marked with numbered plaques, and even more fossils can be spotted throughout the whole gorge. If you have young walkers, pack an extra change of clothes. This is an adventure where little explorers are sure to investigate the water and muck. The gorge itself isn’t stroller-friendly, though the Tailwater Riverwalk just south of the gorge is paved and wide if you are looking for a short stroll.
Squaw Creek Park - We like to park in the day-use area by the Meadowlark shelter and take the trail that leads into the woods. This dirt path is not suitable for strollers, so you will want carriers for any babies or little walkers who may tire. Adults and little kids up for a short hike can make an out and back at any point. If you’re up for some exercise, continue on to make a loop through prairie, wetlands, and back up some hills on grass trail. After your hike you can enjoy the day-use playground or drive over to the campground to enjoy one of the nicest playgrounds in the county.
Indian Creek Nature Center - This nature center’s trail system showcases prairie, woodlands, and wetlands. The Wood Duck Way Trail (across the street from the Nature Center building) is a particular favorite of little walkers, giving them the chance to peer into shallow water and touch cattails. ICNC also includes a fabulous outdoor classroom - perfect for making mud pies, stick shelters, and self-guided play.
Looking for more options to get outside with little ones? The corridor area is home to two branches of the national organization Hike it Baby. Connect with Hike it Baby IC and Hike it Baby CR on Facebook.
Pregnant or newly postpartum and looking for more support as you get into a groove with your new little one? Nested Mama offer prenatal support services as well as day and overnight postpartum support to families in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities. Connect with Nested Mama on Facebook.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.