Thursday, April 7, 2022

Last Day Exploring Wildlife Prairie Park

My friend Joan and I had been enjoying Wildlife Prairie Park, just outside of Peoria, Illinois. It was a perfect post-pandemic trip with lots of space in the open air.

Brad Windsor, Volunteer Coordinator, and Sam Himegarner, Director of Hospitality, picked us up in the morning for another tour. The property is so big we still hadn’t seen it all between the first day tour and our previous day exploration.

Our first stop was to see Mike the bison. The 19-yer-old was once a movie star and now shares his home with Elsa the elk.

We took a look at the banquet hall. It can hold up to 200 people and the ability to both have a moonrise and sunrise over an open patio makes it an ideal wedding location.

I was impressed with Hazel’s Overlook. Beyond the spectacular views is Native American folklore plaques dedicated to Hazel Rutherford. She and her husband Bill were major benefactors of the park.

I was also happy to see the park is set up for accessibility in many areas. I was able to take my scooter on some of the trails and walkways.

Wildlife Prairie Park also has a Sculpture Garden. It is dedicated to blind children, who can “feel” sculptures to size of the actual animal.  The park also has a Touch Cabin that St. Jude Children’s Hospital set up for children with heart issues.

We also saw the Pioneer section, which has an original cabin and the actual one room schoolhouse used until 1959. Nearby there is a butterfly habitat which is worth a stop.

The park is a great place for locals to spend the day whenever they want, with a family membership of only $85 a year. Visitors from out of town should consider the accommodations for a few days, or even a week. You won’t get bored. They even have special events, including a Halloween Scary Park, throughout the year.

Joan and I bid farewell and headed into our Legacy Cabin to pack up. We were going to miss the new, spacious accommodation with a sunrise facing the bison pasture from the patio. It was fully furnished, including a modern kitchen.

Before heading home we stopped at  Trefzger’s Bakery, which has been making baked goods in Peoria for over 150 years. It didn’t not disappoint. It was really hard to choose what to get, but finally decided on a quiche, a raspberry cheese danish, their famous Thumbprint cookies, and a cinnamon bread that was perhaps the best I’ve ever had.