Unseasonably Warm

If you’ve seen the weather forecast for next week, you likely reacted in one of two ways. If you are a lover of Winter weather, you probably groaned at the outlook. We’ve only had one “snow” (quotation marks to denote the measly nature of the snow event) this Winter and there is little hope of another snowfall this late in the season. If you are counting down the days until Summer, then you probably squealed with delight at the 70-degree weather next week.

Regardless, we can all use the opportunity to our advantage and get our kids outside!

Here are a few of our favorite options around Knoxville for unseasonably warm weather in February:

Zoo Knoxville

Marketplace in the Wee Play Adventure indoor play area

I often forget that even with some of the zoo’s animals being moved to indoor habitats, many of big favorites (elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, bears, penguins, and reptiles) are visible during the Winter months. The zoo is preparing to open the improved and expanded Malayan tiger habitat, Tiger Forest, and the structures are a visible interest for kids even without the tigers. My (almost) three year old loves watching the heavy machinery as much as he loves the animals.

We are BIG fans of the zoo and typically go once a week in the Summer so I plan to cover it more extensively in a later post; however, I did want to mention that the zoo does have an indoor play area, food and beverage shops, and Kids Cove – a barnyard themed area with petting zoo, giant sandbox, aviary, and clubhouse.

This month also happens to be the last month of the Kroger BOGO days (a regular adult ticket is $19.95 but only $9.95 through the end of February) and children under 4 are always free. The zoo is open 10:00am – 4:00pm in the Winter.

Location: 3500 Knoxville Zoo Drive (East Knox)

Lakeshore Park

Knoxville has several great parks/playgrounds for kids. Lakeshore Park just happens to be our favorite because of the Hank Rappe Playground. This park is special because it is designed to be inclusive with ramp access, braille, and seats and swings designed for those with varying mobility. My son loves the room to run, the roller slide, and the musical features. I love the lower-risk surface and reduced hazards and the multi-gender, multi-needs, multi-generational approach they have taken with this playground. The park is open dawn to dusk. 

Location: 6410 S. Northshore Drive (West Knox)

UT Gardens

Ok, so you may be thinking that Winter is the worst time of year to traipse through a garden but it’s actually a really interesting time for plants. Winter is a dormant season for many plants but there are certain varieties that come alive in cold weather and of course, evergreens are, well, evergreen! If you are homeschooling or unschooling your kids, the gardens are a great way to demonstrate what happens both in nature and with assistance from gardeners. The gardens are open year-round but parking is only available from 8:00am-5:00pm.

Location: 2518 Jacob Drive (UT Campus)

Ijams Nature Center

My first visit to Ijams was in elementary school and I was visiting with my home-school co-op. We took our son a few months ago and his awe at simply being surrounded by nature was palpable. Whether you just want to get your kids up and moving or make it educational, Ijams is the way to go. They have great programs, miles of trails to hike or bike, and a visitor center with small exhibits.

Location: 2915 Island Home Avenue (South Knox)

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