The weekend after Labor Day is Saint Croix Vineyards annual Grape Stomp. In the past, I was not aware this is free and open to the whole family. Not only do I think this could be fun to do as a family, it could be an opportunity to introduce my kids to Lucy. I have to admit though, the thought of my kids feet stomping grapes to be turned into wine kind of makes me ill. However, whether or not we actually stomp the grapes, the idea of a picnic and vineyard tour along with live music sounds like a really pleasant weekend afternoon. Read More
Music at Mounds View, now in its second season, is a concert series that brings nationally-recognized artists to the local community. All concerts are held at Mounds View High School. Tickets are $13-$20/pp. Season tickets are also available, but do not include the Okee Dokee Brothers. This year, the artists are, Peter Mayer, Lake Wobegon Brass Band, the Okee Dokee Brothers and The Singers and Loring String Quartet. Learn more and purchase tickets here.
Free information. Family Fun Twin Cities has not reviewed this concert series and has received no incentive to promote it.
Visit the New Baby Giraffe at Como Zoo
Baby’s are always a good excuse to get to Como Zoo and a new baby giraffe is being debuted today (assuming Clover, her mother, cooperates). Arlene, the baby gorilla that was born several months ago, is also on display in the Gorilla Forest. My three-year-old couldn’t get enough of her when he visited this week. While you are there, check out the Edible Garden or maybe time it with the music and movie below.
Friday Night – Date Night (With Kids)
We have several options for music and/or movies on Friday night — three bands I really love and three classic movies to match anyone’s taste. Plus a dance night!
Como Regional Park is hosting Fort Wilson Riot, followed by a Showing of Willow (PG). This is my pick, but I’m bringing the kids in their footies and hoping they’ll sleep during the movie and not be too disruptive during the grown-up music.
On the Minneapolis side, everyone’s favorite rock-n-roll drum quartet – 4ontheFloor is opening for Smokey and the Bandit (PG) at Lake Harriet. I’m not going to pretend I like Smokey and the Bandit or parking at Lake Harriet enough to even consider trying to make the 4ontheFloor show, but I’m a little sad about that.
If you want particularly family-friendly music, The Roe Family Singers are playing at the St. Croix Falls Overlook Amphitheater at 6:30 p.m. I would recommend leaving before rush hour for this. We spent way too much time stuck in Friday night traffic when we camped in the St. Croix valley earlier this summer. There is also a Monarch Butterfly Festival happening at the same time.
If what you really want is to dance, then RSVP to go to the Big Epic Family Dance Night.
Saturday is the annual Urban League Family Day to promote healthy lifestyle choices, local entrepreneurialism, and community empowerment.
The Kidzone will have pony rides, art projects and games. This is a good weekend for an end-of-summer outdoor festival.
Speaking of getting out of doors while we still can, on Sunday, Richardson Nature Center is having a Fort Building day for their weekly Free Family Fun Day!
Besides building forts, you can explore the park and nature center.
Still looking for just the right thing? Check our Family Fun Calendar for more ideas.
Family Fun Twin Cities promotes many activities akin to the State Fair (running August 25-September 5, 2016). They are busy events. They are crowded. There is a lot of stimulation. The potential for getting separated from your child is real (just ask Anne about the time she lost her then-7-year-old at the Fair for an everlasting 2 hours). This can seem overwhelming or just plain crazy to some parents. We’ve put together a few of safety preparation tips on your end and coaching for your children before you head out to the Get-Together:
- ID Bracelets! Pick them up at Information Booths just as you are entering or at dozens of locations around the Fairgrounds, open 8am-8pm.
- Write YOUR name and phone number on a piece of paper pinned to the inside of their shirt or in your child’s shoe. Somewhere that is easily located, but not announcing to the world who you are and where you live.
- Teach your children who to look for when they can’t find you. A police officer or a mom with children are great options. We don’t want them talking to any stranger, but if they can’t find us, they need some direction.
- Know how your children are dressed. What color is their shirt? Are they wearing shorts? What’s in their hair? I like to try to dress my kids in similar colors so that if I am in a panic, I can look at my other kids and remember what they are wearing. Matching is not necessary, but you should take a good look at them before you are in a crowded place.
- Take a picture of them with your phone before you head out for the day. That way everyone knows who they are looking for. Brave little wanderers in a large crowd can present quite the parenting challenge.
- The minute you can’t find your child, get help. The State Fair has a missing child protocol that they can implement faster than you can run back and forth calling your child’s name. They are more effective, too.
- Keep in mind the places you have already been or things your child had been asking to do before you were separated. That information will be helpful for the searcher.
- Teach your child to approach the lost child by asking, “Do you need help finding your mommy?”
- Stay with the child in the spot where you found him while you seek help–security guards, fair workers, police.
- Reassure all the children that everyone is doing all they can to help and it won’t be long.
- If you can, stay for the resolution even if you aren’t needed. Your children will want to know if the child will be okay. Plus, it teaches them that many times others’ needs are more important than their own.
According to a 2012 School Readiness Study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education, parental income is a major factor in how children will do in school. Interestingly, parental education, primary home language, and race/ethnicity were not found to be statistical indicators. Girls tended to perform better than boys.
“The odds of reaching the 75 percent standard for a student whose household income was at or above 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) are two times as great as compared to a student whose household income was less than 250 percent FPG when holding all other variables constant. The odds of reaching the 75 percent standard for a student whose household income was 250-400 percent FPG are more than one and half times as great as compared to a student whose household income is up to 250 percent FPG. These results are statistically significant.”
— 2012 School Readiness Study – 12/11/13 Developmental Assessment at Kindergarten Entrance – Fall 2012
If you are not sure where your household falls statistically, I’ve included a chart at the end of this article.
As a friend of mine so aptly said, “BS. It depends on the kid.” This is true. Statistics aren’t rules, but odds are odds and my income leaves my children with a statistical vulnerability I wasn’t expecting.
The good news is that there are various ways within my control to increase my child’s chances of success. None of my findings will likely surprise you, but doing this research renewed my commitments to focus on these areas of our family life. Here are 10 things I’ve found and where to find budget-minded opportunities in the Twin Cities: Read More
It’s another installment of our new monthly series–Family Fun at Home–and we are calling Read Aloud Wednesday. I jumped at the idea of featuring reading out loud. Here is a way your family can have an experience together without going anywhere.
Our goal for Read Aloud Wednesday is to help you enjoy books together. Reading is one of the most important things you can do as a family, and there are so many great books to choose from.
Our first installment of the Family Fun Twin Cities Apple Orchard Guide looks to the East. There are some heavy hitters out there: Aamodt’s Apple Farm in Stillwater is now into its 67th season. Pine Tree Apple Orchard of White Bear Lake is well-known for its bakery menu. And Afton Apple Orchard of Hastings sprawls over 190 acres into the pastoral country. Read on to find out how they stack up – and why visiting an apple orchard is one of my family’s favorite ways to spend a fall day.
Choosing to head to Aamodt’s on a gorgeous fall weekend is also agreeing to spend that day shouldered up against half the Metro. Plus a bus tour or three. At least, this was our experience a few years ago. Part of the popularity of the orchard is due to the winery on property. Personally, I would have loved to explore St. Croix Vineyards, but the children in the party had other ideas. They made a break for the toddler-sized John Deere trikes and giant hay bales. But wait! Don’t forget to bring cash for the activities: Aamodt’s charges small fees for the trikes, hay maze, a tractor-pulled kiddie train, and hayrides into the orchard. (The fees don’t seem quite so small when you’ve got a larger-than-average family, however.) Admission to the orchard itself is free as is the small goat petting farm. Read More
As our State Fair Second-in-Command, I wanted to make sure to feature FFTC’s fair favorites. I like to plan out my day to the fair and if you are like me, you will find the fair more enjoyable if you have a rough sketch of the day. So pick one or two of these wonderful attractions and linger there. You will be glad you did.
Families, I’ll be the first to empathize with you. I find the Minnesota State Fair uncomfortably hot, crowded and expensive much of the time, too. But after years of dragging my brood to the Fair for days on end I’ve honed my plans for making the most of it — and it’s hands-on down my favorite time of the year! I can’t do much to control the crowds or the weather; however I’d love to share ten of our favorite free fair activities that help keep the cost down. (For reference, my kids’ ages are 10, 8, 6, and going on 4 years.) Also, if you stick with me after the lineup, I’ve had the great fortune to have been able to taste a dozen of the brand-new-for-2015 State Fair foods! I’ll dish the ones you won’t want to miss.
But first, the free, so there’ll be cash left over for the new treats:
Eco Experience Nature Adventure Play Yard – My kids could have spent hours here, digging in the sand, damming the stream, skipping stumps, and searching for the fairy house. You might not want to budget that kind of time at the Fair, but it’s worth a stop in to get some ideas on how to make your own backyard more friendly to free play. Located outside the Eco Experience building on Randall Ave. 9am – 9pm.
EquiMania! – This interactive exhibit in the Horse Barn teaches the Fairgoer about equine health, anatomy, careers and more. You don’t have to be a horse lover to enjoy the hands-on activities as evidenced by my own little Fairgoers. Located in the Horse Barn on Judson Ave. at Ligget St. 9am – 9pm.
Math-on-a-Stick — I am super excited about this brand new attraction, and that’s saying a lot since math and I have never gotten along well. Aimed at kids to get them exploring early math concepts, they can go on a number scavenger hunt, play with geometric tiles, visit with mathematicians and more. Located in Baldwin Park, daily 9am-8pm.
Little Farm Hands – This sweet little mock-up farm is one of the Fair’s most popular free attractions for kids. Plan to go first thing in the morning to avoid lines and the worst of the day’s heat. Kids walk through various farm chores, “harvest” their crops, and then spend their earnings at market for great edible snacks. Housed within Little Farm Hands is the Seed Survivor exhibit. My son loves the video games designed to teach about the elements necessary for a seed to grow. My daughters are happy planting sunflowers to take home. I’m thrilled they’re learning a thing or two. 8am – 7 pm (map).
Alphabet Forest in Baldwin Park – There are all kinds of alphabet activities to enjoy here at the Family Fair in Baldwin Park. Last year we finally won blue ribbons for completing our Fabulous Fair alphabet game cards! We also met a couple of Homegrown Authors, curled up in the book corner, made alphabet craft projects and more. This year, Family Fun Twin Cities will be volunteering for a shift at the Alphabet Forest on Saturday, August 23, from noon-3pm — swing by and say hello! 9am – 8pm, Cosgrove St.
Miracle of Birth Center – Ever hoped to watch a live cow give birth? With a little luck you just might happen upon one of the nearly 200 animal births that occur at this exhibit each year at the Fair. If you miss out, there are still darling babies on display, a tractor simulator, and other exhibits to enjoy. The attached FFA Chapter House & Leadership Center offers age-appropriate kids activity packets and the chance to earn a blue “Ag Explorer” ribbon. Entertainment, magic shows, and trivia are hosted throughout the Fair on the Christensen Farms Stage outside the barn. 9am – 9pm, Judson Ave. next to the Warner Coliseum (map).
Hand-milk a cow – Dairy farmers coach the kids as they coax milk out of a cow! I love watching my little city-slickers do this. Each is awarded a ribbon and their own carton of milk for the effort. Bonus: visit the nearby Moo Sample Station for samples of cheese or ice cream sandwiches! Check your State Fair daily schedule for exact times. Land O’ Lakes stage, outside NW corner of Cattle Barn (map).
Minnesota Twins Experience – My son could spend hours here rotating through ongoing games of backyard baseball for kids. He also loves practicing with the speed pitch machine while the girls have at the TC Bear bouncy house. East side of Cooper Ave. (map).
Be a WCCO Weather Fair Forecaster! – It’s a blast to watch the kids forecast the weather at this interactive exhibit. They can play around with green screens or insert themselves into a lineup of WCCO personalities. A teleprompter and touch screen helps kids deliver the forecast with style!
Giant Sing-Along – No need to be shy when you’re singing along to karaoke favorites with a field of other Fairgoers! Kids can snag their own mics and belt out the tunes with help from lyrics projected onto a monster screen. Located on Murphy Ave. across from the Pet Center. 9am – 8pm.
And onto the eating (not free, of course, but you know it’s one of the top reasons you hit up the Fair):
- Salted Caramel Puff malts & shakes – they don’t skimp on the quality of the rich, gooey caramel and the texture of the puffs is seriously addicting! Find it at the Dairy Goodness Bar, Dairy Building
- Mac-and-Cheese Cupcake – lunch for the kids taken care of. I liked the breadcrumb crust. Find it at LuLu’s Public House, West End Market
- Grandma Deb’s Snicker Bar Salad – I’m not wild about the pudding consistency, but the diced apples give it a nice crunch and taste great with crushed Snickers. Find it at the Blue Barn
- Grilled Venetian-style pizza – I loved the crispy crust. And the fact that the flavors aren’t your run-of-the-mill ‘za. Find it at Mancini’s al Fresco
- Maple Bacon Funnel Cake – I suppose you could call it breakfast, but there are better places to find that. Find it at Funnel Cakes in the Food Building
- Tipsy Pies – loved these! I was able to sample the State Fair Rhubarb Blue Hunny Do, the Bapple, and the Salted Caramel Apple and can’t wait to go back for more. Find them at Sara’s Tipsy Pies in the Food Building
- Tikka-on-a-Stikka – a generous serving of white chicken meat in a surprisingly smoky yogurt and tikka sauce. Super good. Find it at Hot Indian, Taste of Midtown Global Market booth in the International Bazaar, Aug. 27-Sept. 1 only.
- Kimchi & Curry Poutine – my favorite sampled new Minnesota State Fair food! The fries topped with kimchi and curry gravy are fantastic. Find it at Rabbit Hole, Taste of Midtown Global Market in the International Bazaar, Sept. 2-7 only.
- Totchos – I’ve had better quality tater tots, but the generous toppings, including sour cream and green onions were a nice touch. Find them at Boulevard Grill, Coliseum
- Chocolate-jalapeno Ice Cream – didn’t care for the jalapeno chunks, but the spice was nice when paired with a rich chocolate base. Find it at Rainbow Ice Cream carts
- Stuffed Italian Meatloaf-on-a-Stick – If I enjoyed Italian seasoning, I’d give this a full-sized try. Find it at Green Mill in Baldwin Park
- Cannoli – Try it in full or mini sizes. Find it at Mancini’s al Fresco
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’d like to reward you with links to a few other of my fellow bloggers’ posts about the Great Minnesota Get-Together:
Dining With Alice is hosting a State Fair Family Pack Giveaway
MinneMama Adventures has some good tips for taking little ones to the Fair
Whimsy Factory has a couple lesser-known activities you might not have heard about
and Carpe Diem with Jasmine covers some great ideas as well.
The Minnesota State Fair runs August 27- September 7, 2015.
Going back to school is a messy business.
- School supplies
- Before School Dates
- School Clothes
What I did this year for my kids’ clothes saved us time, money, and space! Want to know more? Read More