Luckily, there are several places in the Twin Cities to momentarily escape our current weather conditions: Como Park’s Conservatory, Edinborough Park, Cowles Conservatory at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, even Nickelodeon Universe. But my favorite winter retreat is entirely worth the 20-mile trip on I-94 to Woodbury.
Central Park is a 20,000-square-foot tree- and plant-filled slice of nature. It’s the centerpiece connecting a public library, YMCA and senior housing development.
Towering Norfolk Pines are among the more than 60 full-size, living trees that thrive in the sunlit space. A multi-level waterfall cascades throughout the space and ends in a meandering stream. Rocky cliffs, fieldstone paths and a scattering of rocks and boulders recreate the St. Croix River Valley.
More than 1,400 smaller plants create a variety of textures and depict every single shade of green. I’m not sure if they just finished watering the plants when I was there last, but the place smelled of wet dirt. Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve smelled dirt?! I’m not even sure if there really is dirt anymore under all these piles of white.
Throughout the atrium are plenty of teak tables and chairs and cozy reading nooks. People of all ages gather here to read and relax. I saw families looking through picture books, children tossing pennies off the bridge into the stream below, a gathering of friends enjoying coffee and a couple students working on homework on the upholstered “lawn chairs” nestled around a fireplace.
The Washington County library is reciprocal with Hennepin County’s — just bring your library card and ID and you can check out books too. Free WiFi is also available. A 200-seat amphitheater hosts concerts and live performances and in another corner is Lookout Ridge, an indoor playground for kids with climbing walls, a treehouse, cave and slides (admission fee charged).
So are you tired of all this winter too? Then grab your beach bag and load it up with a favorite novel or the Sunday paper and a pair of sandals. Head to Central Park and plan on relaxing under the olive and ficus trees for a few hours. It will rejuvenate your hope for an early Minnesota spring.
8595 Central Park Place, Woodbury, behind the YMCA
Central Park’s resident coffee shop, Cups ‘n’ Scoops, serves teas, coffees, sandwiches, and premium ice cream from Wisconsin.