Schlitz Audubon Nature Center amazes guests with its fall beauty


Photo by Alexandra Atsalis

Alexandra Atsalis

Fall festivals were traditionally for celebrating the harvest and appreciating the time before the impending winter. However, because our modern society is no longer at the mercy of the seasons like we once were, festivals lose the true meaning of the celebration and rely on irrelevant gimmicks. This is not the case at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center located on 1111 E. Brown Deer Road in Bayside ushered in the fall season by hosting a festival on Sunday.

Any visitor expecting the usual fall stereotypes of cheesy decorations and uninspired crafts would be delightfully disappointed by the authenticity of this event.

The Nature Center created a genuine ode to fall by highlighting traditional autumn activities, its breathtaking location and dedication to nature preservation. This is something that did not go unnoticed by visitors.

“It was different from other fall festivals because it didn’t focus on commercialism,” said Marie Hinz, a Fall Festival visitor. “It really focused on nature and being outside.”

The event appeared to have had an impressive turnout. Families with members of all ages wandered around the center, taking advantage of both the foot trails and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Children crowded around a cider press to watch demonstrations, awed at the rescued animals on display, and clutched corncob dolls that they made as a craft. One young girl excitedly yelled to her parents waiting next to her, “We’re in the woods, we’re in the woods!”

Her excitement was understandable. Despite Milwaukee’s plentiful green spaces for a city, to be surrounded by the Nature Center’s 185 acres of forests, wetlands, restored prairies, ravines and a shoreline is awe-inspiring. It transports visitors to an entirely different world.

It is not just the abundance of trails that are impressive, but also their quality. Hinz said she appreciated that many were paved, making it easy for people of any level of mobility to enjoy.

“The trails were fabulous, and they were good for all different kinds of people,” Hinz said.

The trails are impeccably clean, which is to be expected from a place that works hard to protect its nature. The well-defined trails also mean it is nearly impossible to get lost.

However, just because the trails are immaculate, does not mean they do not contain a few surprises for the hiker to discover.

Along with numerous wooden benches, offering a peaceful place to sit and soak in the beautiful surroundings, there are wooden lookout structures strategically placed along the trails. The best of which, called the Treetop Classroom, is an enormous wooden multi-story tower composed completely of stairs and balconies.

Climb it and you will find yourself hovering above the treetops, looking out over a stunning array of color-changed leaves. With golden light reflecting off the foliage, the Treetop Classroom is a beautiful spot to experience nature only found outside the city.

One young visitor, Nicole Anderson, agreed. “I especially liked to climb the big tower and be able to see all the colors from far away,” she said.

Under the Treetop Classroom’s sign, someone had scrawled “96 steps.” Graffiti isn’t the most reliable source of information, but even if it is 960 steps to the top, the climb is worth it.

Take a trail that leads downhill and you may even notice the sound of waves, the chirping of birds and gentle thumping of footsteps.

The Nature Center is located on Lake Michigan. Visitors find themselves walking on a serene secluded beach looking out over the lake.

“The lake was awesome, I never wanted to leave,” visitor Alex Galloway said. “It was very calming. I loved to hear the waves rushing and the leaves rushing.”

Visitors flock to the nature center because of the opportunity to get so close to nature and do not take this experience for granted.

“Things like that you think are private and you can’t get that close to, but it wasn’t. This is available to everyone,” Hinz said.

The Nature Center successfully promotes a unity and appreciation of nature. These values were used to create an event that understands the true meaning of a fall festival — to celebrate the beauty of nature.

Though the festival was the day’s event, the main attraction was the Nature Center as a whole.