Category - Free

10 Ideas for Free or Cheap Family Fun in August
10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer
Free Family Weekend Events List for July 25-26, 2015
Family Fun Twin Cities Guide to the Aquatennial 2015
Lake Nokomis Main Beach–Sandy Fun for Everyone
North America’s First Free Natural Swimming Pool to Open at Webber Park on Friday
Flash Giveaway Monday – ‘Rhoda’s Rock Hunt’ by Local Author Molly Beth Griffin
Free Family Weekend Events List for July 17-19, 2015
Family Fun Idea: Best Twin Cities Splash Pad & Thursday Rockin’ Lunch Hour at Nicollet Commons Park
10 Free & Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings

10 Ideas for Free or Cheap Family Fun in August

Don’t look at these 10 ideas as an end-of-summer bucket list — because personally, I’m not ready to look fall in the face — but take these suggestions as a reminder that there is plenty of the season left to enjoy! Here’s what August has in store for the Twin Cities:

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textile center

Dye Garden Family Art Day @ Textile Center, 3000 University Avenue SE #100, Minneapolis, 55414

When: Saturday, Aug. 1 • 10am-1pm
Cost: Free
Details: The whole family is welcome to come play in the Textile Center’s natural plant dye garden, create a macrame plant hanger and bring a miniature garden home. Refreshments will be provided.

NNO15_logo[1]National Night Out Twin Cities

When: Tuesday, Aug. 4 • times vary
Details: Community gatherings across the Twin Cities encourage you to get out, spend the evening with your neighbors and promote safe neighborhoods. Minneapolis has an extensive list of registered block parties (complete with proposed activities) here, organized by neighborhoods. St. Paul’s list can be found here. Even if you don’t plan to leave your own ‘hood for the evening, ideas for your own bash abound on these lists.

Beach Party @ Bryant Lake Regional Park, 6800 Rowland Rd, Eden Prairie, 55344

When: Wednesday, Aug. 5 • 12-3pm
Cost: $5/pp
Details: Ride a waterslide, try an obstacle course, make a craft, and play games. Meet pond critters, birds of prey, and reptiles. Build a sand castle and win a cool treat.

Groovin Web Promo[1]FINAL Groovin’ in the Garden @ Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, 1225 Estabrook Dr, St. Paul, 55103

When: Wednesday, Aug. 5 • 6-8pm
Cost: Free
Details: Catch the final Groovin’ in the Garden performance (local band “i like you.”) and, depending on the ages of your kids, they might let you sit and enjoy while being entertained by the free Park & Rec equipment: a jump castle, giant climbing wall, and lawn games. If not, at least you can hear the music while the kids exhaust themselves. Bring a blanket and picnic or purchase food onsite.

Pet Expo @ Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, 6666 East River Rd, Fridley, 55432

When: Saturday, Aug. 8 • 1-4pm
Cost: Free
Details: Bring along your pet and spend the afternoon on an animal scavenger hunt in the galleries, mugging in the photo booth, browsing vendors, and creating a pet rock to take home. Currently on exhibition in the historic Banfill-Locke house is Pets On View.


banfill-locke center for the arts


Dakota County Fair & Heritage Village @ Dakota County Fairgrounds, 4008 220th St W, Farmington, 55024

When: Aug. 10-16, 2015
Cost: $5/adults, $2/kids 6-12, $2/seniors, 5 & under free; $5/daily parking
Details: Heritage Village comes to life as it was a century ago during the run of the Dakota County Fair. Costumed characters interpret rural life as you visit the village buildings and take in demonstrations. Admission to Heritage Village is included in your ticket to the Fair, which also hosts many free activities, exhibits, and live entertainment.

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exploratots @ crosby farm regional park

ExploraTots @ Crosby Farm Regional Park2595 Crosby Farm Road, St. Paul, 55116

When: Wednesday, Aug. 12 • 10-11:30am
Cost: Free
Details: Connect to the natural world with your preschooler (designed for ages 2-5) through hikes, stories, and hands-on activities. Older children are welcome to attend; no pre-registration required. Enter the park at the Gannon Road entrance and meet at the picnic pavilion. The ExploraTots program meets on the second Wednesday of each month. For more free and low-cost environmental education programs in St. Paul, click here.

10 Ideas for Free Family Fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together

The Minnesota State Fair does not exactly scream “free” or “cheap”, you say? It’s true that costs can quickly add up between admission, treats and carnival rides, but for many families (mine included) a trip or few to the Fair is a summer must-do. We’ve included this list of 10 free attractions included in Fair admission to give you an idea of all the budget-friendly fun that is to be had. (Note: this is 2014’s list, but all attractions are scheduled to return for 2015.)

10 More Ideas for FREE Family Fun at the State Fair

The Fair has so much free fun to offer we felt it warranted a second mention on our August list!

10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer

Don’t mourn the end of summer just yet, there’s still time and sun enough to hit the local beaches. Following up on our original list of 10 Twin Cities Beaches & Playgrounds to Try This Summer we present 10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer.


10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer

splash-clipart-splash_light_blue[1]There are so many options for splash-happy fun in our urban lakes that we couldn’t stop after posting our original 10 Twin Cities Beaches & Playgrounds to try this summer. Culled from reader suggestions, our own summer jaunts to the beach, and other fun attractions we’ve been visiting over the past month, we’ve assembled a second round of 10 swimming spots we think are worth checking out. But hurry; as we know all too well here in Minnesota, beach season won’t stick around much longer.

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elm creek park reserve playground

Elm Creek Park Reserve Beach
12400 James Deane Pkwy, Maple Grove 55369

Open: Daily 9am-8pm, lifeguards on duty noon-8pm
Cost: 4/pp daily or $15/pp season pass, other listed activities are free.
Highlights: The man-made swimming pond features a lovely sand beach and filtered, chlorinated water. Work up the desire for a cool dip while tackling the colorful, kinetic playground (“The biggest park I’ve ever seen!” according to my 3-year-old), and exploring the exhibits at Eastman Nature Center. Also onsite is the historic Bottineau House, which offers Saturday open houses from 1-4pm and occasional family programming. Read More

Free Family Weekend Events List for July 25-26, 2015

This weekend is jammed full of ways to spend time with the family on a budget. We’ll get you started with six ideas below — all admission-free — and, if you’re in need of some more inspiration, check out our Family Fun Calendar here. Happy exploring!


Best Days of The Bakken
@ The Bakken Museum
3537 Zenith Ave S, Minneapolis, 55416

Time: 10am-5pm
Details: Admission is FREE to The Bakken Museum, a fun space full of exhibits about electricity, during the run of the Minneapolis Aquatennial! This is a great deal for a family. Read about our take on the Bakken here.

Free Ink Day
@ Highpoint Center for Printmaking
912 W Lake St, Minneapolis, 55408

Time: Noon-4pm
Details: Have your kids try their hand at creating an original monoprint. Printmaking can be a lot of fun and is suitable for young children (w/ a lot of adult cooperation), but I have a couple tips to share before you go. Free Ink Day is hosted three times annually so be sure to watch their calendar of events if you can’t make it this month.

Voyageur For a Day
@ Elm Creek Park Reserve
12400 James Deane Parkway, Maple Grove 55369

Time: 10am-4pm
Details: Explore a re-created voyageur encampment with costumed interpreters from the fur trade days. Activities are appropriate for all ages, but kids must be accompanied by an adult. The historic Pierre Bottineau House will also be open for visits from 1-4pm.

Webber Natural Swimming Pool Open
@ Webber Park
4300 Webber Pkwy, Minneapolis 55412

Time: 1-7pm
Details: The Webber Park Natural Swimming Pool, filtered naturally instead of with chemicals, is opening on Friday, July 24 and will be free and open 1-7 pm Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day weekend.


Free Family Fun Day: Fishing
@ Kroening Interpretive Center, North Mississippi Regional Park
4900 Mississippi Court, Minneapolis

Time: 1-3pm

Free Family Fun Day: Digital Scavenger Hunt
@ Richardson Nature Center, Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Time: 3-4pm

About Free Family Fun Days at Three Rivers Parks: Drop in and explore a different topic each week through hands-on activities that all ages can enjoy at their own pace.

Family Fun Twin Cities Guide to the Aquatennial 2015

Summer Fun

courtesy Aquatennial website

Starting on July 22, Minneapolis will be hosting its annual summer party. While this year the Aquatennial has been shortened to four days, you won’t miss the most popular and fun and FREE events including the Torchlight Parade and Target Fireworks.

These four days are packed with several free options to enjoy (minus parking fees when and where they apply).

Read More

Lake Nokomis Main Beach–Sandy Fun for Everyone

Beach Day with Family Fun TWin cities

Finally at the beach!

For the past five summers, I have made it a priority to get to the beach each week with my kids–to really take advantage of the Minnesota weather and Minnesota lakes.

This year, much to my kids’ chagrin, is the first year in the past five that hasn’t been successful in this endeavor.  It wasn’t until July 11 that we made it to the beach.

So we made an excursion of it, heading down to South Minneapolis to explore Lake Nokomis’ Main Beach.

Read More

North America’s First Free Natural Swimming Pool to Open at Webber Park on Friday

The first ever free natural swimming pool in North America right here in North Minneapolis.Friday is the quiet opening of the Webber Park Natural Swimming Pool and it will be free and open Fridays through Sunday afternoons through Labor Day. Next year, the official grand opening will be held and then the pool will be open daily. This pool is really exciting. It’s the first naturally filtrated free pool in North America! Read More

Flash Giveaway Monday – ‘Rhoda’s Rock Hunt’ by Local Author Molly Beth Griffin

flash giveaway mondayIf you’ve been reading FFTC for any length of time (even just a couple of weeks), you probably have figured out that we love good children’s literature.  And I’m not talking about Little Golden Books (although they have their place–in our house we have a place for approximately 200 Little Golden Books, but that story is for another time).  We love classics.  We new releases.  We love bookshops.  We love libraries.

We love authors. Read More

Free Family Weekend Events List for July 17-19, 2015

Soak up some local festivals this weekend! For more ideas, visit our Family Fun Calendar here. Happy exploring!


tm highland water towerSt. Paul: Highland Fest
Free art activities with ArtStart, a petting zoo, and open houses at the Highland Park Water Tower and at Lock and Dam 1 near Minnehaha Park (5000 West River Parkway, Minneapolis) from 11am-3pm. Staff will be present to discuss how the lock works, and a hands-on lock model will be available for kids to play with during the open house. Visitors will also be invited to visit areas that are normally off limits to include the lock house. Read More

Family Fun Idea: Best Twin Cities Splash Pad & Thursday Rockin’ Lunch Hour at Nicollet Commons Park

Quite possibly the best “splash pad” in the Twin Cities award goes to Nicollet Commons Park in Burnsville, a water feature so pretty I’m reluctant to give it the splash pad label. It was, however, built with the hope that the community would do just that — jump right in and splash away the hot summer months.

Family Fun Idea: Best Twin Cities Splash Pad & Thursday Rockin' Lunch Hour at Nicollet Commons Park

Splash Pad at Nicollet Commons

Read More

10 Free & Air-Conditioned Indoor Family Outings

My kid broke the fan yesterday.Two summers ago, Joy — sweating it out in an un-airconditioned house — wrote our original article about seeking relief from the heat in a series of much cooler public buildings, most of which offered free family activities to boot. Following a brutally muggy Sunday, I thought it might be time to revive the suggestions for others out there needing to cool off the kids on a budget. Here you have it, freshly updated for 2015:

Local Libraries with Play & Learn Spaces – Joy suggested seeking out a new library on a scorching day and reading stories to chill out – both literally and figuratively with this list of winter-themed books from Scholastic. I recommend checking out a library with a “Play and Learn” space, often designed by Minnesota Children’s Museum, that provides interactive fun and helps promote reading readiness. Samara of the blog Simplicity in the Suburbs provided this list of such spaces for the Star Tribune last year.

PicMonkey Collage woodbury library - Copy

Indoor Mall Play Areas – Nicki of the blog MinneMama Adventures did a nice write-up of her top 6 favorite spots last year and included play areas at Maplewood Mall, Eden Prairie Center, Burnsville Center, Southdale, Ridgedale & Rosedale Malls. You can get all the details from her perspective here.

tm free toddler flicks moa

free family flicks mall of america

Free Indoor Movies for Kids – Our friend Andy at KTIS posted a great list of places around the Twin Cities Metro where you can catch a flick for free in the AC. (One note: Free Toddler Flicks at MOA has been discontinued as of June 30, 2015. Free Family Flicks on Saturday mornings remains.) The lineup also includes spots that charge a nominal ticket fee and, when the weather isn’t so beastly, you can catch a free movie outside.

tm ikea free tuesdays

IKEA – kids eat free on tuesdays!

IKEA Tuesdays for KidsIKEA Twin Cities could be a savior on a steamy Tuesday. Toilet-trained kids 37″-54″ tall can play fully supervised in Smaland for up to an hour (any day of the week, space provided), and participate in a free craft at 1:30pm. Read more about Tuesdays at IKEA here. Thanks to reader Shara for sharing that the Kids Eat Free on Tuesdays promotion has ended as of June 2015.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts – Joy reminds us that the MIA (2400 3rd Ave S, Minneapolis) is free every day, has Wi-Fi, and an expanded Family Center with books and toys for kids. Older children might be entertained by printing out this scavenger hunt and exploring the galleries.

tm schubert club museum

schubert club museum

Landmark Center exhibits – Not only is Landmark Center (75 W. 5th Street, St. Paul) a beautiful building to explore, there are a couple hidden museums tucked away inside that families often are unfamiliar with. The Schubert Club Museum has a number of hands-on musical displays and and instruments for kids to experiment with. You can read about my experience taking my own children here. Also, the American Association of Woodturners has a Gallery of Wood Art within Landmark with woodturning demos and a family-friendly exhibit called “Touch This!”

Minneapolis/St. Paul Public Parks & Recreation Buildings – Joy included a list of public park buildings in Minneapolis with AC; you can find the updated roster here. St. Paul offers drop-in Tot Times in many of their recreation center gyms with wheeled toys, mats, balls and other tools to help kids 5 & under burn off energy indoors during potentially dangerous temps.

tm choo choo bobs

choo choo bob’s train store

Preschool Storytimes at Local Bookshops – I wrote this list of two weeks’ worth of preschool storytimes in the Twin Cities during the dead of this past winter, but it could come in just as handy during a spell of scorching days. Some of the story spots included on the list are Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store (along with its lovely free train table play area), Wild Rumpus Books, Red Balloon Bookshop, and many of the local Barnes and Nobles host storytimes.

University of Minnesota’s free museums – Joy reminded us that the Bell Museum of Natural History (Minneapolis campus) waives admission every Sunday from noon-5pm, and there is never a charge to visit the Weisman Art Museum (also Minneapolis).

Grocery Shopping! – Joy included this on her original list because she might be in the small minority of parents that relish grocery shopping with their small children. There’s no arguing that grocery stores are generally cool and comfortable in a heat wave, and Joy offers you this cute printable toddler grocery list to take along to the store.

Know of any more secret spots to cool off when the temps get high? Please let us know!

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