Arts and Entertainment

Best for families: Rattlesnake Lake Park voted winner for 'Family Outing’

Rattlesnake Lake
Rattlesnake Lake's scenery—and eye-catching stumps—draw visitors young and old.
— image credit: File photo

Nearly every place in the Valley features stunning views, hiking, biking, or boating opportunities, and a nature escape, just minutes from a city. Hardly any of them, though, have the additional appeal of small numbered balls.

"If you haven't come up to our exhibit and discovered our water-drop balls, they are a hit," says Chris Holland, the facilities director at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center, part of the Valley's Best Family Outing for 2012, Rattlesnake Lake Park. "We have toddlers who come running in here, going 'Ball? Ball! Ball!'"

What the toddlers are looking for are the balls that they can use to explore the adventures of a ball, or water molecule, traveling through the environment, evaporating into a cloud, and falling back to earth as rain or snow. This display is one of many family-oriented activities in the education center's free exhibit hall.

"It has interactive activities that will entertain any age," Holland said.

She was thrilled to learn that the park was chosen for the top spot, and thinks there are practical reasons for the win, along with "the tremendous beauty of the area… It has very accessible trails that are good for strollers, people of all abilities, and there's easy access to the lake shore."

The park and education center draw about 25,000 to 30,000 visitors annually, but Holland hopes to see that number grow a little in the future. As the center continues adding programs, such as the family waterfall tours that started two years ago, and a "Knee-high Naturalist" program for parents and their preschoolers, attendance will probably grow.

"I think there's  a lot of programs we offer here that people don't realize," Holland said.

For instance, on Mother's Day, the park has a "Tea and Talks" event with naturalists and several children's activities. In June, the one-hour family waterfall tours start, along with "Evenings Around the Campfire," which combines the requisite marshmallow-roasting with stories about local wildlife.

For more information about the family programs available at the park, visit, then click the "Education" link.

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