With something for all ages, families thrive in Bloomington-Normal

By Mary Ann Ford

Sam and Nikki Nowack and their two children, Abe and Lou, recently took advantage of a beautiful fall-like day and went to Bloomington’s Miller Park Zoo.

The kids love the zoo,” said Sam.

Abe, who was celebrating his 4th birthday, said the flamingos are his favorite.

Other animals at the 125-year-old zoo include wallabies (they were sleeping during the Nowack’s visit), sun bears, reindeer, harbor seals, river otters, snow leopards and red pandas. There’s also a carousel.

It’s the perfect size for their age,” Nikki said about the zoo.

After visiting the animals, the family had a picnic lunch and then headed to the park’s playground.

We’re never lacking in things to do,” said Nikki of the Twin Cities. Besides the zoo, the family takes advantage of yearly events such as the annual Sweet Corn Blues Festival and the Worldwide Day of Play, spends a lot of time at the Normal Library and frequents the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal.

Lindsay Aupperle of Normal said she took her daughters, Jovi, 3, and Cora, 1½, to the Children’s Discovery Museum so often, the family became museum members.

It’s educational, fun and interactive,” said Lindsay. “The first thing they always go to is the water feature. They love it. I almost have to pry them away from it.

Lindsay’s husband, Jake, is a farmer so the girls also love the combine in the farm exhibit on the second floor. “Their next favorite thing is the painting wall on the third floor,” said Lindsay.

A leg of the 45-plus-mile Constitution Trail runs next to the museum and is a favorite of Christine Schulz and Kevin Suess and their daughters, Gwen, 10, and Collin, 7.

The trail offers a wonderful opportunity to build family fitness and transportation habits together,” said Christina. “There are all sorts of really cool and safe destinations you can get to by bikes.

The kids learn bicycle skills and the signs along the trail help teach geography skills, she said. “It increases time with nature,” she said. “It’s family time.

Family time has a different meaning for Danielle Krizman and her furry family member, Buckley, a pub/lab mix. But the Twin Cities has a place for them as well: two public dog parks.

I bring him here probably two times a week,” Krizman said while at the Maxwell Park Dog Park recently. “It’s very important. I don’t have a backyard where he can run.

He has a lot of energy and he loves the other animals.

The dog parks have separate areas for big and small dogs, doggy fountains and waste bags for doggy do-do cleanup. “It’s really nice,” said Danielle. Buckley wagged his tail in agreement.