Wildlife Prairie State Park

by Jessica on October 17, 2011

I am a huge fan of the state park system, both because of their conservation efforts and their protection of great places to explore in the outdoors.   I also have another less lofty reason to enjoy state parks: they are just so darn reliable.  Campers cn expect to find accommodations that are reasonably clean and safe, while families can always count on state parks to provide relatively inexpensive outdoor entertainment. Happily, there are some state parks that offer all this reliability, and even go a step further to provide visitors with a unique experience that makes them want to return again and again.  Wildlife Prairie State Park in Peoria, Illinois is just such a place.


Visitors Center

This is where the fun begins and where you can purchase tickets for all the adventures you will want to enjoy while at the park.  From here you can see the animal nursery that houses the animals that are being rehabilitated in the park.  You can also look out over the bison plains and imagine what it was like when the bison roamed freely over the prairie.  Any food or souvenirs you want to purchase can be found near this area and you will want to be sure to check out the bronze statues of the local animals near the sandbox.   The Animal Trails start from this point as well, so fill up your canteens campers and let's see some wildlife.

Animal Trails

The park offers several walking trails that are sort of a hybrid zoo and hiking experience.  Animals are in cages, but surrounded by their natural habitat so that it feels as if you are encountering the animals in the wild.   Don't be discouraged by the signs that post the expected time for each trail.  The trails are relatively short and easy to maneuver and can be easily walked in half the posted time and still be enjoyed thoroughly.  You will want to check out the Pioneer Farmstead where you can pet and feed the barnyard animals.  If your kids are dragging their feet at this point, you can always entice them to continue with the promise of a playground at the end of this trail.


Train Ride

All aboard for a scenic ride that is off the beaten path and a perfect way to have a bit of a rest after a morning of hiking.  The train runs on alternating tracks, allowing passengers to see different parts of the park as they travel.  Tickets can be purchased $2 for both tracks or $1 for the loop of your choice.  If you have purchased tickets for both loops, you can stay on board for the grand tour, or disembark and use the second part of your ticket at another time.   If you are lucky enough to visit Wildlife Prairie in the fall, this is a great way to check out the changing leaves.  Don't miss the train museum right there in the station, especially if you have preschoolers who will love to play with the toy train tables.

Sliding Board

Wildlife Prairie State Park has great playgrounds all through the park that beckon kids to stop and play, but there is nothing that can truly compare to the sliding board.  In fact, I am advocating for a name change for this zippy wonder, as sliding board just doesn't have the zing it needs.  The sliding board is a 53 foot metal slide built into the side of a hill and tucked away in the seclusion of the woods.  Let me tell you: this thing can really move and created the kind of exhilaration from the kids that is usually reserved for Christmas morning.   The sliding board, hereby christened the Hillside Thunderbolt, is just a short walk from the train depot or can be reached by car from a nearby parking lot.  Although there are signs, the slide is somewhat hidden.  Look for the bug themed playground and walk just a little bit farther to find the fun.

Adventure Trek

We were not able to enjoy the Adventure Trek because our visit coincided with buffalo mating season, and that is apparently something where you don't want to be caught in the middle.  If it had been another season, we could have boarded the open air safari bus and taken a tour through the prairie for a close up view of the bison and elk.   From what we saw of these magnificent creatures, we'll definitely want to come back and meet them face to furry face.

~ Wildlife Prairie State Park generously provided park passes for our family.  I was under no obligation to write from any particular point of view and all opinions are my own.~


Jennie October 18, 2011 at 12:46 am

Wow!  You made that sound like so much fun, I want to plan a visit with my own family!  Hmm… the biggest problem, though, is that we live in the Pacific Northwest.  Well.  Maybe the next time we visit Notre Dame we can plan a side trip…
Thanks for sharing!

Anna-Marie October 18, 2011 at 3:00 am

I just love your site:)  Lots of great field trips.  My family go on lots of field trips too since we now live in the UK.  Did you know there is a new Field Trip Hop just for home schoolers.  Please consider linking up and share your great trips.  http://lifesadventures-amb-fieldtriphop.blogspot.com/
Now following you hope you will consider following back:)

Sarah October 18, 2011 at 6:22 am

Hi, I'm Sarah, I'm a new follower from the Welcome Weds blog hop and I wanted to invite you to stop by my blog and follow back. I'm following through GFC, Twitter and also liked your page on FB. Thanks:) http://skylarinc.blogspot.com/

Judy Haughton-James October 18, 2011 at 8:11 am

This looks like a wonderful place to visit. I am a big bird enthusiast and I note that there are birds there!:)  Take care and have a good Tuesday.

Lisa October 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

That does sound like fun – particularly the sliding board!  "Hillside Thunderbolt" sounds pretty good – maybe you should suggest it to them. :)

Robin K October 18, 2011 at 11:29 am

Hi there, I am your newest follower via GFC stopping by from Couponing From Florida to Michigan via the Magical Mouse Schoolhouse Tiggerific Tuesday Blog Hop.  

Tina @ Mamas Like Me October 18, 2011 at 11:35 am

It looks like you guys had a great time!  I'm your newest follower via GFC via the Tuesday Blog Trail :)  ~Tina @ http://www.mamaslike.me

MissMOE October 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm

This is great!  I'm often in STL and should hop on over to check out this park with my kids.   You may want to link up with Anna-Marie's Field Trip Hop at http://lifesadventures-amb-fieldtriphop.blogspot.com

walkingontravels October 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Once again you put me to shame woman. We lived in Chicago for almost 3 years and never saw half the stuff you saw on your trip. My only excuse is that we didn't have a kid and I was in grad school. Yes, I'm sticking with those excuses. BUT when we do go back to visit friends I have a feeling we will have to tack on a few more days to check out some of these sights. I can just see Dek and Mike begging me to take them to the Hillside Thunderbolt (if we keep saying it do you think it will change on its own?)

malia p October 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Great pictures! looks like fun!….i'm a new follower! if you get the chance..please stop by and enter my giveaway! thanks…

Melissa Cleaver October 18, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Thanks so much for dropping by the Be-Bop-A Blog Hop!  I'm a follower and I hope you'll stop by again soon!  Have a great day!  :)

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