Introducing “Billie” the barred owl. She’s here at Westwood Hills Nature Center doing some birdwatching. She’s joined by her friends the pileated woodpecker, a painted turtle, an American toad, a monarch butterfly and a honey bee!
Fun fact: Barred Owls are large, stocky owls with rounded heads, no ear tufts, and medium length, rounded tails. They are larger than a Great Horned Owl, but smaller than a Barn Owl – about 16.9 – 19.7 inches in length. Their hooting call sounds as if they are saying, “Who cooks for you?” You can view a male barred owl, as well as a red-tailed hawk and an American kestrel, here in the mews at the back of Westwood Hills Interpretive Center.
An Urban Oasis
Westwood Hills is an inviting oasis with 160 acres of marsh, woods, and restored prairie. More than 3 miles of trails and walkways provide hikers with can’t-miss opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. The preserve is beautiful throughout the seasons and provides homes for many animals, including deer, turtles, fox, mink and owls. The Nature Center trails are open every day from sunrise to sunset, year-round.
An Eco-Friendly Interpretive Center
You’ll definitely want to explore the new Interpretive Center. It’s full of interactive exhibits, such as a display on pollinators and the important role they play, as well as live animals, including a flying squirrel, a chipmunk, a red-tailed hawk, an American kestrel and a barred owl. Professionally trained naturalists lead a variety of fun, informative and hands-on environmental education and outdoor recreation programs throughout the year
In addition to delightful exhibits, the Interpretive Center itself features an award-winning eco-friendly design. Purposefully built to minimize the impact on existing habitats with net zero-energy goals, the building uses both active and passive solar heat and power, daylight harvesting, radiant in-floor heating, and utilizes geothermal wellfield. Rain gardens reduce stormwater runoff into the wetlands and bird-friendly glass prevents window collisions.
In the center of the Nature Center lies Westwood Lake, a 64-acre lake that’s stocked with bluegills. Grab your pole and head out to the fishing pier. Fishing poles can be checked out for free from the Interpretive Center, but you have to bring your own bait. Or rent one of Westwood’s canoes and go for a paddle! Rental canoes are available during July and August and into September, weather permitting. Kids will love running along the floating boardwalk that crosses over the lake.
Feeling hungry from all your explorations? Kip’s Irish Pub is a short, 6-min drive to the northwest. This authentic Irish pub has ample seating and large patio with a fire pit. You’ll love the authentic fish & chips, corned beef & cabbage, shepherd’s pie and Guinness braised beef short ribs. They also serve angus burgers (and a quinoa burger), salads and fun appetizers like wings and pub pretzels. Their kids menu includes grilled cheese, mini burgers and chicken tenders. (See special offer!)
Or head east along 394 towards the West End and stop in at JJ’s Clubhouse, a popular neighborhood sports bar serving classic American food, including an array of burgers, sandwiches, pizza, soups, salads and entrées such as beer battered walleye, chicken pot pie, lasagna and more. (See special offer!) For an all-you-can-eat option, Supper Moon Buffet has a Cantonese-style buffet with a massive array of Chinese dishes plus Mongolian grill options. Other nearby dining options include Benihana, Perkins, Taco Bell and Burger King.
There’s so much to see and do in St. Louis Park and Golden Valley, why not make it a weekend?! The Courtyard by Marriott Minneapolis West and the Marriott Minneapolis West are dual properties located just west of Westwood Hills Nature Center. They offer modern room designs and a wealth of amenities, including an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, an outdoor fire pit (perfect for relaxing after a long day!), Starbucks onsite, as well as a full-service restaurant and bar. Or head two miles east to the Ramada by Wyndham Minneapolis Golden Valley or the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Golden Valley. Both offer relaxing resting spaces, plus free breakfast and fitness centers. The Ramada also offers an onsite restaurant and bar, while the Holiday Inn has an indoor pool (and cinnamon rolls!).