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Heller Nature Center

2821 Ridge Rd.
Highland Park, IL 60035
847.433.6901
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Heller Nature Center building is CLOSED.  Trails are open from 7:30am to Dusk.

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We are committed to the health and safety of everyone who visits Heller Nature Center.   Please follow these safety guidelines:

 

 

Our nature center building and water fountains remain CLOSED until further notice, please plan your visit accordingly.  

We appreciate your compliance with these safety guidelines and procedures for the well-being of our community.

Trail Guidelines

  • Trails are open every day from 7:30 am – dusk
  • Restroom is located near our classroom in the woods building, near the picnic tables

Oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands are an oasis for native plants and animals at this 97-acre preserve.  Visitors can enjoy a picnic in our woodlands, visit our nature exhibit, participate in a program, play in Wander Woods, rent cross-country skis, and explore our three miles of trails.

Heller Trail Map

Discover New Ways to Play!

Heller Nature Center’s Wander Woods Nature Play Space is a free play natural area designed to nurture a child’s sense of wonder and discovery.

Open to the public dawn to dusk, Wander Woods provides an unstructured play area limited only by the imagination. Nestled in the trees and solitude, children can climb our tree house, create in our mud kitchen, experiment with ramps and much more. Let the creativity and messiness begin.

Constance’s Story Trail – Featured Trail Book: A Nest Is Noisy, by Dianna Hutts Aston

About Constance’s Story Trail

Constance’s Story Trail is made possible through a generous grant to the Parks Foundation by former Highland Park resident Marc Mar-Yohana in collaboration with Heller Nature Center and the Highland Park Public Library.   This was Mar-Yohana’s touching tribute to his late daughter and to celebrate her love of nature and reading. Constance and her father had shared many joyous hours wandering among books posted on Heller’s scenic trails before the display was severely damaged and removed last spring.

“It was something we always loved to do together,” said Mar-Yohana, explaining that Constance was on the autism spectrum and had difficulty with physical coordination and speaking. “The Nature Center really gave her a chance to exercise. She liked seeing the trees and shuffling her feet through the leaves in the fall and got excited watching squirrels running, birds flying by, and frogs jumping in the pond.”

Constance Mar-Yohana, a lover of nature and reading.

The posted stories made their visits to Heller even more rewarding since Constance’s ability to speak was at its best when reading aloud. “The books gave her an extra incentive to walk the full trail,” Mar-Yohana said. “Our goal in bringing it back is to make it last with the best available equipment. I really want other families to be able to enjoy it.”

Featured stories will include some of Constance’s favorites and books selected by theHighland Park Public Library staff. Organizers also hope to offer a chance for local youth to display their writing.

Constance’s Story Trail is based on the StoryWalk® Project. The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.

Contact Us

Jessica ReyesManager847.579.4182jreyes@pdhp.org
Amy BannerNaturalist847.579.4184abanner@pdhp.org
Meghan MeredithNaturalist847.579.4183mmeredith@pdhp.org

Introducing ParkSchool for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds. Your child’s bright future begins at ParkSchool.

Click here for more information »

View our Fall brochure for upcoming programs.

Heller Nature Center offers a variety of nature-based programs for all ages.  The programs are run by our experienced staff and are held at a variety of locations each season. For more information, click on the nature program categories below.


Family, Adult and Youth Seasonal Programs

 

Heller Nature Center offers a wide variety of programs for kids, families and adults! To view and register, click here.

Pre-registration is required for all programs.
Please note a program may be cancelled as early as two days prior the program date, due to low enrollment.

One-Day Family ProgramsYouth Programs
Stories in the WoodsBugs, Slugs and Crawlers
Family ArcheryEco-Sports
Explore S'More Parks!Nature Bots & Geocaching
Autumn Fest
PolliNation
Seek and Find Wildlife
Crate Stacking
Glow Out & Play

Refund and Transfer Policy:
A refund or transfer for Heller programs must be requested at least four days in advance. No refunds or transfers are issued after this time.

 

School Programs

 

IMG_0717School Programs at Heller Nature Center offer school groups the opportunity to learn about the natural world through experiences in an outdoor setting. Our hands-on philosophy encourages learners to heighten their awareness of the natural world, understand basic ecological concepts and increase concerns for the earth and all its life. Our programs meet Common Core and Next Generation Standards.

Programs are held at Heller Nature Center (H), Rosewood Beach Interpretive Center (R) or Danny Cunniff Park (D).  Some programs may be available to travel to your school (S).  Look for the icon next to the program to see where the program can take place. Virtual Programs available upon request.  For more information on time and pricing view our School Program Guide. For questions or to book a school program contact Meghan Meredith at mmeredith@pdhp.org, 847.579.4183.

We are open and are currently booking summer and fall group experiences!

A one-of-a-kind experience for your group!

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Our Teams Course offers a unique and fun opportunity for every member of your group to grow as individuals and as a team!

Located within the beautiful woods of Heller Nature Center, our Teams Course feels like a different world. Programs on the course can be customized to meet your specific team goals such as exploring different communications styles within the group; understanding the roles of leaders and supporters within a group; developing your group’s specific teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making skills; and discovering the great impact a shared experience can have on group dynamics, all in a safe and private environment.

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The course is made up of a series of thought-provoking ground-level puzzles, challenges and obstacles, each one having a specific set of tasks and an end goal that can only be accomplished by all members working as a cohesive group.   Throughout the program our experienced facilitators will lead group discussions on the insights and skills learned to help the team progress further along the course and integrate new ideas into their daily lives.

The Heller Teams Course is perfect for groups of 8-15 individuals, including family reunions and organizations such as church and community groups; company work teams; scout troops; and school groups, clubs and teams.

Book your team activity now! Programs can be tailored to meet your group’s specific needs. The Teams Course is available year round.
For more information contact Heller at heller@pdhp.org, 847.433.6901.

Teams Course Programs

Cooperative Games (Grade 4-Adult)
Groups will love these high-energy games and activities that focus on cooperation, not competition.

Group Size:Time:Cost:
8-152 hours$150/group


Teams Course (Grade 5-Adult)
Challenge your group with a progressive series of initiatives and elements that will engage and test your group both mentally and physically.

Group Size:Time:Cost:
8-15 up to 4 hours$250/non-profit group
$325/profit group


Traveling Teams (Grade 4-Adult)
Let us bring the Team Building to you!

Group Size:Time: Cost:
8-152 hours$240
4 hours$370

 

Crate Stacking (Grades 5-Adult)

A fun alternative to rock wall climbing; participants are harnessed in and are belayed by their team and a skilled staff member.  The objective is to stack as many plastic milk crates as possible, climb and stand on the top without losing balance or knocking over the whole tower.

Group Size:Time:Cost:
6-92 hours$175
10-153 hours$250

Reserve a date for your next group meeting, family gathering or birthday party at Heller Nature Center. The unique, natural and comfortable surroundings of Heller make it a great choice for celebrations!

For more information or to schedule a visit, contact Debbie Pierce at 847-579-4047.

Heller Nature Center and the Park District of Highland Park support green initiatives and encourage our renters to consider ways in which to make their events more sustainable! If you are looking for ideas, please see our Sustainable Events Suggestions.

Prairie Room

Our spacious Prairie Room can accommodate up to 100 people and includes audiovisual equipment, tables, chairs and kitchen use.

Resident            $125 per hour
Nonresident        $145 per hour
After hours fee    Additional $55/hour

 

Heller_Firepit_1Fire Ring

Perfect for campfires up to 25 people. Heller Nature Center will provide wood, lighter and a water tank. No cooking over the fire is allowed with the exception of marshmallows.

Rental fee is $65/hour.

 

Birthday Parties

Give your child a birthday party to remember!  Hunt for insects, roast marshmallows around a campfire and more.  Each season brings new and exciting discoveries.  Choose from one of several age-appropriate themes.  Parties are an hour and a half.  One hour is led by a naturalist and 30 minutes are for the host to lead party activities on their own.  Parties have a 12-30 child maximum, depending on the theme. Party fee for 1-20 participants: $295; 21-30 participants: $340. A refundable cleaning deposit of $100 required. After-hours parties are an additional $35/hour. Themes and prices are subject to change and staff availability.  

Party Themes

  • Nature Scavenger Hunt (Ages 4-7, available all year)
    Wander along the trails to discover the hidden treasures of Heller. Games and activities will reveal the secrets of the natural world.
  • Fairies, Gnomes, and Trolls (Ages 4-10, available all year)
    Hike the trails with your friends and you may see a troll or fairy along the way. Children will make their own fairy, gnome or troll to take home.
  • Insects (Ages 4-10, available May-October)
    Learn what makes insects special by playing games and looking for insects under logs or in the prairie.
  • Mystery Animal (Ages 4-10, available all year)
    Be an animal detective as you use clues to search for the mystery animal. The clues may lead you down a path you’ve never seen before. Bring your super sleuth skills.
  • Games and Relays (Ages 6-12, available all year)
    For the active and competitive group, run and hide as fast as you can and play relay games with your friends. This party works well for any size group.
  • Adventure Skills (Ages 8-12, available April-November)
    You and your friends will try to shoot a bow and arrow, use one match to build a fire or use a GPS to find treasures in the forest.

Book Your Rental or Party

Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. A resident may not be the applicant and/or payee for a room rental for a non-resident.

Proof of insurance is needed to serve alcohol. Alcohol must be kept in the designated area at all times and is not permitted for fire ring rentals.

Park District sponsored activities to have priority over other facility use. Public areas including the lobby and restrooms remain open for public use during business hours.

The time written on the application form is the approved rental time. Heller staff will set up tables and chairs for room rentals. Renters may arrive 30 minutes prior to the rental time to deliver food, decorate, etc. Please note, tape and adhesives cannot be used on any wall surface and paints may not be used for any function. No live animals are allowed.

An additional 30 minutes after the rental time is reserved for clean up. Groups staying beyond the 30 minutes will be charged for the full hour. Clean up is the responsibility of the renter.

Payment in full is required at the time of booking.

Rentals are 90% refundable if canceled ten or more working days prior to the rental date. Full refunds will be issued for fire ring rentals canceled due to poor weather.

 

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Cross-country ski rentals are currently CLOSED

Hit the snow on three miles of ungroomed trails at Heller Nature Center. Reserve a time online – here!

Skis are available for rental whenever snow conditions permit (4″ base or greater). Call 847.433.6901 to check snow conditions.

$10/person: Reservations must be made online, no walk-ins.

  • One hour rental time slots
  • 8 patrons per time slot
  • Ski equipment must stay on Heller property
  • Ski equipment and shoe sizes are limited.

If you have your own skis, please feel free to use our trails at your leisure from 7:30am to dusk.

Hourly Rental Times (When there are at least 4 inches of snow):
9-10am, 10:30-11:30am, 12-1pm, 1:30-2:30pm and 3-4pm

If you have your own skis, please feel free to use our trails at your leisure from dawn to dusk!

jar

2021 Heller Honey On Sale Now!

Heller Honey…harvested and bottled at Heller Nature Center

$11/jar
$0.25/honey stick or five for $1

 

Available for purchase at:

Heller Nature Center (Mon and Wed, 8:30am-5pm)
Recreation Center of Highland Park (Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat and Sun 7am-1pm)

Heller Honey is 100% natural and produced in hives at the center. Heller bees gather nectar from local plants, including bee balm, linden, acacia, honeysuckle and other fragrant blossoms to make this flavorful honey. In addition to producing hundreds of pounds of tasty honey, the bees play an essential role, pollinating many flowering plants.

Heller staff and beekeeping volunteers extract the honey in late August. The honey can be purchased at Heller Nature Center while supplies last. Heller honey makes a great party favor, teacher gift, wedding favor or birthday gift.

We offer public education programs at Heller’s apiary or we can come to you with our new portable observation hive. If you would like to discover more about bees and beekeeping, call us at 847.433.6901.

Thank you to all of the Volunteer Beekeepers who work so hard in helping us to make the program a success throughout the year.

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LOOKING FOR MORE?

Have you always wanted to learn about nature and never knew where to begin? A Heller Naturalist can create a program that is based around your interest and needs including leading your group on a nature walk, teaching a workshop, helping you earn a scout badge or visiting your group for an informational discussion. We also have a variety of established programs; pricing information is below for resident/nonresident.

  • Archery $8.75/$9.00 per person
  • Beekeeping (here at Heller or we can bring a portable observation beehive to you) $8.75/$9.00 per person
  • Campfire and hike $10.75/$11.00 per person
  • Canoeing at $195 for up to 6 participants
  • Cross country skiing $10.75/$11.00 per person
  • Fire Building $8.75/$9.00 per person
  • Geocaching $8.75/$9.00 per person
  • Naturalist Badge $8.75/$9.00 per person
  • Pond Discovery $8.75/$9.00 per person
  • Shelter Building $8.75/$9.00 per person

For more details or to book your program, contact Meghan Meredith at mmeredith@pdhp.org847.579.4183.

Self-Guided
Take yourself through nature. Heller is open dawn to dusk for you and your group to walk the trails and explore the natural wonders of our 97-acre preserve. Visit our Log Cabin’s Design in Nature exhibit filled with hands-on activities. Stop inside the Interpretive Center during business hours (Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm; Saturday 9am-3pm) and visit our Nature Exhibit featuring a bird watching station, a 450-gallon aquarium and interactive displays about the three main biological communities found at Heller or check out one of our seasonal scavenger hunts available at the front desk.

If you enjoy roasting marshmallows or love sitting by a fire, campfire rings are available for rental upon reservation. Make your reservation at least two weeks in advance by calling 847.433.6901.