Now that Old Man Winter has given us a white, winter wonderland, the time is perfect to unleash your inner child by sledding down "The Big Kid Hill" at Whitetail Woods Regional Park.
The 456-acre Dakota County park is located minutes away from Rosemount and Farmington in Empire Township. The park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the sledding hill is well lit.
"It is described as 'The Big Kids Hill' because it is larger and faster," said Katie Pata, visitor services coordinator with the parks system. "It takes time to walk to the top since the hill is a long ride down."
Pack up the sledding gear and head out to explore the park to seek winter adventure on an afternoon or mild winter evening.
"There is something old-fashioned and fun about sledding," Pata said.
The sledding hill is designed for children 6 years and older. For older children sledding with friends, Pata said park staff is onsite to routinely patrol the park. There is excellent cellphone reception to make a call if needed.
The long sledding hill offers spacious areas for guests to walk while staying out of the path of others headed down on saucers, sleds and toboggans.
"For me, what I like about it is that you can go faster, and you feel safer going down faster as an adult," Pata said.
"We can't quite count on winter with snow like we used to," Pata said, in regards to planning winter events at the park. But when park staff is aware of pending snow, they will take time to plan a last-minute popup sledding party for youth, families or teenagers.
"We can bring portable campfire pits and s'mores," said Pata. "My hope is we will be able to have a couple fun snow days this winter."
Park admission is free and vehicle parking is nearby. Families can change into snowsuits and gear in a modern family bathroom area. The park amenities include a heated picnic area at the Empire Lake Picnic Shelter with a large, open fire pit. Guests can bring bundles of firewood to warm up the party.
Whitetail Woods also boasts miles of winter trails for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
After sledding, children of all ages can explore the Fawn Crossing Nature Play area. Children can play and use imaginations on the snow-covered forest floor with pine cones. This area would be perfect to build snowball forts in the morning or afternoon.
"The kids are able to enjoy sledding and they can build forts and play in the woods with self-guided creative play time," said Autumn Hubbell, outdoor education coordinator with the Dakota County Parks system.
Three modern camper cabins offer rental accommodations to provide an unforgettable sleepover experience.
The camper views and vistas may remind you of the tranquility and stillness found in a fine Ansel Adams black-and-white photograph. The design of the open concept camper room frames pristine views of nature in its most natural state. There is access to electricity and Wi-Fi so you can connect to the world.
Outside the camper area, there are bathrooms within a few steps. Families can warm up outdoors under blankets by roasting marshmallows over a small fire pit located outside the front door.
A bank of windows illuminates the interior space. The cabins accommodate six guests for sleeping.
Whether you choose to sled down "The Big Kid Hill" or book an overnight sleepover in the camper cabins, the adventure awaits to create warm memories to last a lifetime.