Cool Creek Park and Nature Center | 10 Ways to Play and Explore in Nature

Cool Creek Park and Nature Center | 10 Ways to Play and Explore in Nature

Cool Creek Park and Nature Center is a must-visit for families with small children! From a newly renovated playground to a comprehensive indoor nature center, with a creek to stomp in and miles of nature trails to explore, Cool Creek Park and Nature Center has it all! 

You could easily spend hours at the 90-acre park in the summer or winter. Or, make a quick stop at the park as it’s conveniently located just off Highway U.S. 31 at 151st Street in Carmel. Our family loves ending a long hike through the woods with creek stomping in the summer. In the winter, we make a quick stop at the playground before warming up in the indoor nature center. Enjoy an evening concert at the Music Pavilion or throw a frisbee in the greenspace on a Sunday afternoon. Check out our list of 10 Ways to Play and Explore in Nature at Cool Creek Park!

Playgrounds at Cool Creek Park

The big kid section and the toddler section of the playground at Cool Creek Park are separated with a nice picnic shelter in the middle of the two playgrounds, providing a 360-degree view of all play spaces. Parents will love the layout of this park. With four kids between 2 and 12, I find myself trying to watch everyone running around and it can be challenging. With this layout, you can see every section of the park from the picnic shelter! I was able to sit on the benches, watch the kids, and wasn’t constantly moving between the big kid and toddler sections.

The other reason this layout is great for caregivers is that it allows the little kids to play separately from the bigger kids and avoid getting trampled, or getting onto equipment that is too big for them! They even have the baby swings and the big kid swings separate for easy access on either side of the park!

Toddler Playground at Cool Creek Park

The toddler section is really nice! You can tell Hamilton County Parks really took their time in the design, and put thought into maximizing the equipment and space. The monkey bars are small and easy for little kids and the climbing features and tunnels are smaller, shorter, and have wide foot holes for those little feet to balance. In addition, they have several slides and multiple levels of play space for the little ones! My kids loved the tunnel that you can enter from the ground, perfect for those small toddlers who are still getting the hang of walking and climbing. 

Big Kid Playground at Cool Creek Park

The big kid section is amazing, and has something for children with many interests and abilities! There are so many slides to choose from; exciting tunnel slides, three-way racing slides, and more! You’ll find a rock wall, balance obstacles, disc swings, and over a dozen different climbing features!

Musical Playground at Cool Creek Park

The integration of music throughout the park is so cool! There are flower-shaped bells and colored drums for the toddlers, as well as musical pipes with mallets for the big kids. Kids can also find small musical features integrated underneath some of the park equipment! My kids really enjoyed playing with the flower bells I practically had to drag my two-year-old away from them! 

Fitness Equipment

The outdoor fitness equipment was something! There is fully functioning gym equipment, with instructions, and even demonstration videos on how to do the exercises accessed by a QR reader. Some of the equipment was cooperative and could hold four people at a time! There is a visual on each piece that tells you which muscle group it targets, how to use it, and the suggested age range, so it is very user-friendly.

While we were there, I saw several adults using the fitness equipment! What a great opportunity to get active and play alongside your children! You can easily see this section from the centrally located picnic shelter, so your kids are always in sight if you need to take a break and get five minutes to yourself. 

Nature Playground

Did you know that Cool Creek Park has a Nature Play Area that features natural elements in a wooded and shady space? This “nature playground” was designed to encourage unstructured play in a natural setting. You’ll find this playground tucked in the woods further back along the road, past the Nature Center. You will usually have the playground all to yourself if you need some space away from the chaos of the regular playground.

When they remodeled the Cool Creek Park playground, they also added very nice shades on top of both the big kid and toddler sections, which provide a decent amount of shaded play areas! In addition to six traditional swings, there are also two swinging saucers. They are very large and sturdy and fit multiple children easily and safely. I was initially concerned that the plastic might be hot on the saucers since it was such a hot day, but all of the equipment was cool to the touch and very safe for the kids. Cool Creek Park is now at the top of the list of favorite Westfield Parks and Playgrounds!

Acres of Woods to Explore

Hiking Trails

If you need a break from the heat, you can follow the interactive walking trail from the entrance to the park to the Cool Creek Nature Center! There are several fun little games built into the construction of the trail, including educational options, as well as classics like hopscotch!

Near the Nature Center, by the outdoor restrooms, you’ll find stairs that lead down to a bridge over Cool Creek and miles of walking trails. You can also enter the woods by driving past the nature center and parking all the way at the end of the road. This will lead you into the woods at the back end of the park. Unlike the entrance behind the Nature Center, the entrance to the woods from this location does not have a tall set of stairs to go up and down so this might be a better option if you’re not looking to climb a bunch of steps.

Hiking at Cool Creek Park is always magical. There are several different paths that run alongside and over Cool Creek. You’ll see so much wildlife from butterflies to squirrels to grasshoppers and crawdads. In the summertime, the shaded paths offer a respite from the hot sun. In the fall, you’ll cherish walking among the golden and auburn leaves. The park is well-kept in the winter months as well for year-round hiking.

Creek Stomping

Cool Creek Park is one of the best places to go creek stomping in the summer! The creek is always moving with fish, tadpoles, crawdads, frogs, and other sea creatures to discover. We love bringing our fishing nets to see what we can find. The kids also love skipping stones and there are plenty of rocks found in the creek bed. Just make sure you come prepared with water shoes, a change of clothes, bug spray, and fishing nets or buckets for water play. The creek is long and winding so you can stay in one spot for the entire time or move from one place to another and have the whole area to yourself.

There is a small creek under the bridge on the path between the playground and the Nature Center (so keep this to yourself if you don’t want your kids discovering it and getting all wet if you’re just wanting to visit the playground). It is a nice little creek, with logs to climb over and rocks to find, and is very close to the parking lot and playground if your kids want to go back and forth or if you’ve got bigger kids that want to explore while your little ones stay at the playground. This creek can run dry but is usually full after periods of rain.

Cool Creek Nature Center

The Cool Creek Nature Center is a great place to learn as well as play. There are several species of turtles, tortoises, and snakes to view, educational games and toys, and even a viewing area for bird watching! There is a library, a fun coloring station, and a large oak tree where the kids can go inside and play. Step outside the center to meet Chumley the Tortoise, housed in a building a few feet away from the Nature Center’s main building. 

Bird Watching

My four-year-old loved the bird-watching area of the Nature Center. The large wall of windows looks out over a feeding area for birds and squirrels. I’ve never been when there weren’t little creatures all over, hopping from one tree to another, and birds at the bird feeders. There were little binoculars to use to see the birds up close, as well as pictures and labels of which animals could be found, and he found lots! We even saw chipmunks! There is a lot of seating in this area so you could spend quite a bit of time just sitting back and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.

Library and Exhibits

There is a library room in the Nature Center where the naturalists on staff can help you with reference books. There are also several puzzles, a pretend play theater, animal puppet toys, and dress-up clothing so your child can be a butterfly or a bee! The poison ivy identification section was really helpful, and my kids loved the nest section, where you could learn about different species of birds, and how they build their nests. The interactive learning stations were fun, and even I walked away learning new things!

Park Events

There is always something going on at Cool Creek Park. The Cool Creek Concert Series in the music pavilion is popular among residents and families who drive from nearby communities in Central Indiana. Free, weekly family Cool Creek Campfires are held during the summer, complete with entertainment and s’mores. The playground, soccer and lacrosse fields, softball diamonds, and basketball court are usually buzzing with activity and the Nature Center is a hot spot for birthday parties for kids. Don’t miss the sign-up for summer camps at Cool Creek Park. They are extremely affordable and offer the quintessential camp experience. It’s a kid favorite, but be fast as they fill up very quickly!

Cool Creek Park hours are from dusk to dawn, but the Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. -5 p.m. on Sundays. With the varied playgrounds, picnic shelters, hiking trails, creek, and nature center, you could easily plan a full day of fun here that the whole family can enjoy!

For even more ideas for fun stuff to do in the summer, check out our Ultimate Summer Bucket List

2000 E 151st St.

Visit Cool Creek Park and Nature Center | 10 Ways to Play and Explore in Nature

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