FFD — Penitentiary Glen Reservation

If you looked outside now, you would not believe that Christmas is only nine days away.  By our office, it is in the mid 40’s with a light breeze.  Still, in true Ohio fashion, I feel like we are destined for more snow fairly soon.  During the winter, I think we truly rely on our animal instincts.  I don’t know about you, but when it gets cold outside, nothing sounds more pleasant than a cozy blanket, a warm fire, and a hot chocolate.

But while our minds turn to thoughts of hibernation, Mother Nature is painting a beautiful landscape of snowy white.  The ecosystems and animals are still awake and alert during the winter and here is a wonderful way to explore it.  Our next Family Fun Day post is very exciting because it features fun, physical activities for your kids to do during the winter.  Don’t worry…there’s a nice, warm ending!

(Please note that part of this Family Fun Day is weather permitting.)


Penitentiary Glen Reservation

Penitentiary Glen Reservation offers inexpensive snowshoe rentals for the family.  The whole reservation has over 8.5 miles of hiking trails and there is one designed especially for beginners and families – Peppermint Trail!  The trail is a short quarter-mile loop and you even receive a free peppermint stick.  If you have older kids and are up for a challenge, ask the rangers for a recommendation.  There are several trails to explore with varying levels of difficulty.

Once you are done with the snowshoe experience, make sure to head inside and check out the indoor displays.  In the Nature Center, you can experience the interactive Nature Calls exhibit, featuring the award-winning “Window on Wildlife.”  At the Wildlife Center, you can get up close and personal with a variety of animals, including reptiles, birds, and mammals.

For an extra special holiday treat, finish off your visit with the Wild Days of Winter game.  This life-size game board was inspired by the classic song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and it is fun for the whole family.  Afterward, take your kids to explore the nearby exhibit of classic board games dating all the way back to the 1950’s.  In addition, if you visit on a Saturday from 1 – 3 p.m., you can take advantage of a special complimentary activity.

So take a trip outside this weekend and experience the wonder of the great outdoors!






  • The Penitentiary Glen Reservation is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Snowshoe rentals are only available until 4 p.m..  The Wild Days of Winter game is open daily from 12 – 5 p.m.  The reservation is closed on Christmas Day and has limited hours of operation on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.


  • Snowshoes can be rented for either an hour or for the whole day. Youth (12 yrs. and younger) snowshoes may be rented for either $1.50 an hour or $6 for the day.  Adult (13 yrs. and older) snowshoes may be rented for either $3 an hour or $12 for the day.  All of the other activities (Nature Center, Wildlife Center, The Wild Days of Winter game) are free of charge.


  • The Penitentiary Glen Reservation is located at 8668 Kirtland-Chardon Road, Willoughby, OH 44094.


  • The main phone for the reservation is the Nature Center, which can be reached by dialing 440-256-1404.


  • Snowshoeing is only possible when there is snow on the ground. (Imagine that!)  Accumulation and conditions do affect the availability of snowshoes, so make sure to call the Nature Center the morning of your visit.
  • Snowshoes cannot be reserved and are available on a first-come basis. Be flexible with your plans and prepare to start your day inside, if necessary.
  • After spending some time outside, make sure to stop by the Snowshoe Lodge to warm up with a hot drink. (There was no indication of price on the website, so bring a few dollars, just in case.)
  • Here are the themed Saturdays for the Wild Days of Winter: December 21st is Wildlife Day and December 28th is “Win”ter Prize Day.

Discussion Points

  • Talk about hibernation and have your kids name some animals that hibernate during the colder months of the year. Do they know why they hibernate?
  • What animals do not hibernate during the winter? What makes the winter so special for them?
  • Ask your child if they would prefer to hibernate during the winter or stay awake and active. Have them defend their choice with examples.
  • Play “I Spy” on your snowshoe expedition. Look for wildlife, animal tracks, or interesting plant life.
  • As you snowshoe, keep an eye out for animal tracks. Can your kids identify the animals that made the tracks?

       What other outdoor activities do you and your family enjoy during the winter?  Let us know!

Photo Copyright: [Snowshoeing]. Retrieved on November 26, 2014 from www.lakemetroparks.com.
Photo Copyright: [Wild Days of Winter]. Retrieved on November 26, 2014 from www.lakemetroparks.com.

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About the Author

Dave Hoffman