When my daughter was visiting my husband and I for two weeks in August, we wanted to be sure to get Alethea out of the house at least once a day. A couple of days, that didn't happen, as we were too pooped from running around, but most days we found something fun to do...and FREE! We tried to keep everything within an hours drive from our home as Alethea is not great in the car. My own children would fall asleep the second I would put them in the car seat...not Alethea! Strap her in a car seat, and she's not happy. She's a child on the go; she loves to move and explore and a car seat is just too confining for her. I look forward to the day when she understands that cars take her to fun, new places to explore. Then perhaps, she won't mind the car ride so much.
We took Alethea many places during her two week stay with us: zoos, parks, beaches, small towns, etc. I hope to cover all our adventures in many travel and lifestyle posts to come. Today I want to share a new park near Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It's actually located in a smaller city right next to Eau Claire, called "Altoona". This new park is called "River Prairie Park" and is actually part of a new development in Altoona.
The development is called "River Prairie" and is located just a few miles from downtown Eau Claire. My first experience with River Prairie was last year, when my husband and I went to a restaurant called "Cowboy Jacks". I was blown away by this restaurant because it was so posh and different from anything else Eau Claire had to offer. It reminded me of something I'd see in a big city not in our small town. It had a great atmosphere with fun outdoor seating and river views. We noticed at the time that there was a lot of construction going on nearby and wondered what else was moving in. Flash forward one year, and wow, what a difference a year makes! More restaurants moved in, housing, shops, and an amazing new park called "River Prairie Park".
River Prairie Park has picnic areas, a splash pad, a small stage (live music every Wednesday during the summer) a large lawn, gardens, play area, but most impressive: this beautiful man made river for the children to play in.
The play ground equipment was so different than anything I've ever seen before. Beams for the kids to walk on and learn to balance, and little "houses" to play hide and seek. I loved all the natural wood and how it blended so beautifully with the landscape and gardens.
The river is huge! It wraps around at one point almost like a maze. It runs all through the park, appears to go under a road, then comes back out again by Cowboy Jacks. We wondered how the water was clean enough for children to play in, but after examining the flow of the river we think old water goes right into the Eau Claire River so it is never stagnant. We assumed the original source was city water.
It was so much fun to kick off our shoes and wade in the cool water. There are little waterfalls scattered through out the river that kids love to play in. The river is my favorite feature in the park because it is so pretty, fun to play in, and looks so natural.
The small splash pad is very popular. Alethea ran through it briefly, but I think she preferred the river.
She was very interested in picking up rocks and small pebbles in the river bed.
Alongside the river pretty perennials, grasses, and wildflowers are planted. There are even little, narrow garden paths to walk on to explore. There are different types of bridges (one is even just a beam) to cross from one side of the river to the other. There is one large bridge in the background of the picture below. I loved the natural-looking arches spanning across the bridge.
Oh the fun children can have in this place. My daughter was so envious that we had such an amazing place in Eau Claire for children to play in that was "free"! She said there is a similar park in her city in Illinois, but they charge $15.00 to visit.
Here is the end of the river that I thought looked like a maze. I saw many small children walking the length of the river while I was there. They had fun in this maze portion.
Another bridge where the water is a little deeper.
Did I mention how much I enjoyed taking off my sandals and put my feet in the cool water?
Alethea loved to run across the great expanse of lawn. I was glad we had her daddy there to chase after her. He's in much better shape than I am to keep up with her! haha!
After a picnic lunch, we headed down to the "real" river. That is Cowboy Jacks in the distance. It has outdoor seating on two levels.
This portion of the river is right next to Cowboy Jacks. We think this is the water from the park that goes under the road, back into this area above ground, and then right into the Eau Claire River.
And here is the Eau Claire River. There is a river walk/trail that goes for miles, and miles. It is very pretty, but very long, so most people use this trail to bike on. You can also see this gorgeous, scenic river view from the balcony of Cowboy Jacks.
This is such a beautiful new development. Ever since we moved to the area 25 years ago, I was always homesick for the things big cities had to offer. It may be a little late, but I feel like my town is finally stepping up it's game and making a lot of great improvements. Downtown Eau Claire also has been steep in renovations the past few years. When I took my daughter there to see all the new developments, she was shocked at how different it all looked...but that's for another post!
Have a Great Day! Amy
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