Holiday fun returns to Lake Metroparks in Kirtland

Pat Morse was as happy as anyone last December when the temperatures stayed in the 60s with lots of sunshine.

That could happen again this year, but whatever the weather decides to do, Morse and the team at Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland will be ready to give visitors a great holiday experience at the Wild Days of Winter exhibit that continues through New Year’s Day.

Wild Days of Winter is actually a life-sized board game inspired by Candy Land, the iconic board game you used to play as a kid. Kids get to draw cards and move from space to space as they explore nature through the year.

When they’re done with that, they can make a craft, complete activity pages and go on scavenger hunts both indoors and out. If there’s snow on the ground, snowshoes will be available. If not, there’s plenty of other things to explore in nature at the parked managed by Lake Metroparks.

“We’re open when kids are off school and families are coming into visit, and we get a lot of visitation from people who grew up in the area and those who didn’t, but are in town visiting their families,” says Morse, interpretive manager for Lake Metroparks. “Last year, we had 28,000 people visit in six weeks.”

If the weather cooperates, visitors to Wild Days of Winter will also get a chance to ride a train through the woods at Penitentiary Glen. The Lake Shore Live Steamers is a group of train enthusiasts who bring their small gauge steam engines and locomotives out to the park throughout the year to provide rides to visitors. If the weather is OK, the trains will ride on Saturday, Dec. 10.

As you’ll read in this month’s Uniquely feature, the Penitentiary Glen event began as a way to pay homage to the Halle family, who owned the park property in the early 1900s and brought Clevelanders the great holiday window displays in their downtown department store. As the years have gone on, the park staff has tried other themes, but has always kept the focus on family.

“Kids want to be entertained,” Morse says. “They don’t want to just have their hands in their pockets and walk down the sidewalk and look at something pretty. They want to do something, they want to be active.”
They’ll get their chance at Wild Days of Winter.

Mark Scott is Senior Associate Editor for Smart Business Cleveland