Holland’s Outdoor Discovery Center: Trails, Wildlife, and Free Fun for the Whole Family
Holland is know for its beautiful beaches and water recreation opportunities on Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan, its Dutch heritage and the annual Tulip Time Festival, and a vibrant downtown full of shops, restaurants, and breweries. We recently discovered an amazing park in Holland that doesn’t get enough attention and today we’ll tell you about everything it has to offer and share some pictures from our visit. The Outdoor Discovery Center is a 160-acre nature preserve that is free and open to the public. Visitors will find several miles of trails, wildlife exhibits, a playground, art, and the amazing DeWitt Birds of Prey Center.
Start your visit off at the visitor center, where you can see an amazing collection of taxidermied animals, get all your questions answered, see some frogs, turtles, and snakes, and maybe even do some hands on learning! The visitor center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The park trails remain open to the public even when the visitor center is closed.
Out behind the visitor center you will find one of several fishing ponds on the property. Fishing here is strictly catch and release only. Bluegill, catfish, and bass are possible catches here.
The Eldean Wildlife exhibit is home to several animals that you might find out in the wild in Michigan. A red fox, snowy owl, opossum, porcupine, and skunk all have homes here. We visited on a very hot day so most of these critters were sleeping or indoors.
One of the most popular attractions at the park is the Eldean Family Nature Play Park. This “was created to provide a play area that will inspire creative play using natural structures.” Check out the big “spiderweb, play in the sandbox, try out the zip line, or balance on logs here in the “fun for all ages” playground.
The Doug & Kori Rentz Art Trail is one of the park’s shorter segments, but it is packed full of sculptures and scenery. Make sure you stop by Abrazo, “Hug”, Bronze, by Emil Alzamora (2004)!
More than three miles of trails wind through the park, and signs posted near major intersections are helpful with navigation. The trails are wide and flat, with some boardwalk sections through wetlands.
The DeWitt Birds of Prey Center is a home for injured owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, and vultures. Special programs may allow visitors to see these majestic birds outside, you can find out more on the ODC Birds of Prey page. This was our favorite part of the park and as you can see from the pictures in the gallery below, these birds are beautiful. A sign in front of each explains everything about their habitat, nesting, prey, and for a few even how they came to spend their time here at the ODC. We even got to hear this bald eagle talk to us!
The ODC also maintains the Fillmore Discovery Park at the southwest corner of the preserve. This park is more hands on and encourages kids to get dirty and play in the woods. You can reach this portion from the park trails or there is a separate parking lot. Check out the fishing pond, trails, and play structures here to add even more outdoor enrichment to your visit.
The photo gallery below gives more of a glimpse into what this amazing park has to offer. I’m glad we found it while at the same time disappointed I didn’t know about it sooner. We will be telling everyone about the Outdoor Discovery Center and we hope you visit soon!