Families explore life-sized Candy Land Gone to the Birds on opening day at Penitentiary Glen Reservation

Nov. 19—Lake Metroparks' Candy Land Gone to the Birds officially opened for the season on Nov. 19, drawing families who came to explore the life-sized game, make crafts and participate in the other activities offered at Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland.

Holiday music sounded throughout the park's Nature Center as families passed through the game's various habitats. Outside of the game room, families made craft cardinals, browsed the facility's gift shop and had the opportunity to drink warm beverages.

Bri Rinella brought her two daughters, ages 4 and 2. She said that they were "at a perfect age" for the event.

"They both had a great time," she said, adding that the craft at the end helped with what would have been the otherwise-difficult task of getting her children to leave the game room.

Rinella added that she appreciated the fact her daughters drew cards and proceeded to the next square that matches the card's color, since she is currently teaching them colors. She also enjoyed the birds, landmarks and Christmas decorations on the board.

Chris Heinrich also said that his children were enjoying the event as they played on the slide at the end of the game.

"They do a phenomenal job here all the time," he said, adding that the game "flows pretty well."

Dustin Buckenmeyer brought his children for the first time, noting that he had come after hearing about the event through the Solon Early Childhood Parent Teachers Association.

Rinella, Heinrich and Buckenmeyer, along with their families, were among the more than 200 people who showed up in the event's first two hours, said schoolhouse interpretive manager Shayna Swerdlow.

As visitors walked in the game room, they passed a "birds in pop culture" display. Along the way, they passed displays showcasing birds, trees and other wildlife, noted exhibit naturalist and Candy Land co-coordinator Wendy Pittenger. The habitats are Research Station, The Tropics, Woodpecker Woods, Heron Swamp, Arctic Tundra, Nocturnal Tunnel, Glen Meadow, Feed the Birds and Bird Tower.

In addition to the activities inside the Nature Center, special outdoor programming will be available in the park's new picnic shelter. On Saturdays, a campfire and s'mores will be available from noon to 3 p.m., while there will be animal chats at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. On Sundays, the park will offer campfire chats at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., as well as wildlife keeper chats at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Campfire and animal chats will also be available on Nov. 25 and from Dec. 27-30, according to the event program.

Train rides will be offered from 1-3 p.m. on Dec. 3, weather permitting, as noted by the program. Visitors will be able to snowshoe any day that weather permits, as well as explore the indoor and outdoor other activities that the Nature Center offers.

Candy Land Gone to the Birds, presented by Dollar Bank, is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. until Jan. 1, though it will be closed on Nov. 24, Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Dec. 31, according to a Lake Metroparks news release.

The event takes place at Penitentiary Glen Reservation, located at 8668 Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland.