In the 1960’s, the Shaker Parklands were threatened by the proposed Clark-Lee Freeway. The route would have gone through the Parklands, connecting Cleveland’s East Side to Downtown. Community activists banned together to save the beloved land, which so many had come to known as a place for rest and relaxation. One strategy they used to prevent the freeway, was with the establishment of the Nature Center. Thanks to those brave activists, the freeway fight was won and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes was born on September 15, 1966.

To celebrate our 52nd birthday, we’ve put together a list of 52 things to do or see at the Nature Center throughout the seasons:

  1. Visit the new Lavelle Family Amphitheater, located behind the Visitor’s Center, to relax and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature.
  2. Come see the vibrant colors of the Tupelo tree in fall near the marsh deck.
  3. Have a B’Earthday party in the pavilion before the weather gets chilly.
  4. Consider us as the location for your wedding. The boardwalk on the All People’s Trail will surround you with serene beauty on your special day.
  5. Visit the marsh in late July and early August to view the Swamp Rose Mallow in full color.
  6. Celebrate National Public Lands Day (September 29) with us as we help preserve and protect the Shaker Parklands.
  7. Join our Natural Resources Specialist to learn more about land management and how to care for our 20 acres by volunteering your time for Stewardship Saturday.
  8. Mink hunt (with your eyes only) in early spring. Be patient and allow for plenty of time to see one.
  9. Take a walk along the Stearns Trails in winter and follow the tracks! See if you can guess which animal left behind their tracks in the snow.
  10. Pack a healthy lunch and take a little field trip to enjoy your meal outdoors in our Friends Pavilion.
  11. Learn about migratory birds and why banding can provide valuable insights to their migratory patterns at at a bird banding demonstration.
  12. In spring, take a walk to around the Visitor’s Center and through the Wildflower Garden to see Trout lily, Trillium and Jack-in-the-pulpit.
  13. Bundle up and come build a snowman on the All People’s Trail this winter.
  14. Leaf walk in fall! See how many trees you can identify by their fallen leaves. Download the iNaturalist or Picture This app to help confirm your guesses.
  15. Exercise your passion for birds and volunteer for Project FeederWatch this autumn. Help us identify, count and record birds to send in to the Cornell Lab.
  16. Learn how native plants are beneficial to gardens, and find the best of the best in our region at our annual plant sale in May.
  17. See what it’s like to be a part of our team, while supporting our mission, by donating your time to volunteer with us at an upcoming event.
  18. Students can expand their learning outside of their school classroom by gaining hands-on experience in the field through our student projects and youth stewardship opportunities.
  19. Celebrate Earth Day by joining us for the annual Doan Brook Stream Sweep in April, where we come together as a community to clean up debris and trash from the winter.
  20. Take a hike through the Shaker Parklands by starting at the Nature Center, head to Lower Lake and then to the gorge, where there are trails that many aren’t aware exist.
  21. In July, our milkweed plants are in full bloom. You’ll have the chance to see Monarch butterflies laying eggs for a new generation.
  22. In the summer, practice yoga outdoors with lessons from Yoga Roots teachers in our Friends Pavilion.
  23. Go on a nature scavenger hunt! See how many plants and animals you can find on your visit. Check out an Explorers Backpack from the Welcome Desk, full of tools and gadgets to help you discover more.
  24. Stop into the Visitor’s Center on Giving Tuesday (November 28) to donate to our mission. Each donation makes a big difference!
  25. Practice your nature photography skills by utilizing our beautiful habitats for your photoshoots. Share your photos with us using #ShakerLakes.
  26. Hike at dusk to look and listen for nighttime pollinators — bats!
  27. Rent a pair of binoculars and go upstairs to the Wildlife Balcony with full view of the vernal pool, amphitheater and Stearns Trails. See what birds fly by!
  28. Are you a teacher? Bring your students to the Nature Center to learn about the environment and wildlife! 
  29. In late summer, you can listen to the music of nature. Singing insects perform in a chorus that can be heard from the marsh.
  30. Cool off in the summer with a walk in the creek! Remember to bring water shoes or boots for a splish-splashing good time.
  31. An inexpensive, but meaningful date night idea: After dinner at home or out on the town in Cleveland Heights or Shaker Heights, take a secluded walk through the trees and have a seat on a bench along the All People’s Trail to watch the sunset with your date.
  32. View the vivid dark purple tones of Ironweed in late August.
  33. Become a ‘Leave No Trace’ Steward. This comes from the saying, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” Clean up as you go and take nothing from the parks you visit but photos.
  34. Build a home for American Kestrels and Screech Owls at our workshop on November 10.
  35. During Pollinator Week in June, look for non-traditional pollinator plants and insects. Count how many you can find and learn how many kind of bees there that you can see here (there are many more than you can imagine!).
  36. In summer and early fall, watch the aerobatic abilities of the dragonflies and Swallowtail butterflies as they gracefully glide through the air.
  37. Get muddy! Don’t let the wet weather hold you back from experiencing Spring at the Nature Center. Wear old boots for a day of exploring.
  38. Go on a summer excursion up to the prairie to see the pollinators feeding.
  39. Search for Minnows along the Stearns Trail. The Green Heron and King Fishers feed on the minnows. Witness the circle of life, right here!
  40. Each spring, snapping turtles lay eggs around the property. In late August, the baby turtles emerge and are quite the sight to see. Look, but please don’t touch!
  41. Grab your favorite book and take a seat in our cozy reading area to the right of the driveway, before the Friends Pavilion. You have a quiet space, and a serene view, to relax!
  42. Take a day away from the gym. Get back to the basics and enjoy a brisk fall run on our trails. Those who spend time in nature, particularly among the trees, are generally happier and more stress-free.
  43. Reduce your carbon footprint by biking to the Nature on National Bike Day in May.
  44. Go on a salamander search! Turn over rocks to see what you can find living underneath. Be sure to gently place them back where you found them.
  45. Deer breeding season beings in autumn, and deer can be seen in and around the marsh. In spring, search for fawn in the same spots.
  46. At dawn and dusk, listen to the barred owls singing. Commonly mistaken for other animals, the sound — caterwauling — is a distinct sound worth hearing.
  47. Shop for the nature lover in your life at our Duck Pond Gift Shop! We have items for both children and adults. Become a member and receive a 10% discount each time you shop.
  48. During winter, come see the berry-producing female holly plants near the new Lavelle Family Amphitheater. The frosted landscape with pops of red make for an excellent photo opportunity.
  49. Don’t let winter keep you indoors. There’s so much to see during this season, like the mallard near the brook and the marsh.
  50. Warm up by the fire with s’mores at our annual Family Campfire Night in November.
  51. Have pancakes with the birds! Join us in late winter to enjoy warm pancakes and coffee with a bird-related show and a hike.
  52. Visit us to view our seasonally rotating art exhibition featuring local artists and their nature-inspired work. Learn about the concepts behind each piece of art and meet new people who share this interest.

Of course, this isn’t all you can do at the Nature Center. Each season, we have new programs for people of all ages. Be sure to check our programs page to see what’s going on this season! We hope to see you on the trails, connecting with nature.