Category - Free

Read Aloud Wednesday: Go on a Family Adventure Without Leaving Your House
2015 Minnesota State Fair: 10 Ideas for Free Family Fun + New Foods!
Free & Budget Family Weekend Events List for August 22-23, 2015
Family Fun with Dad: Favorite Local Fishing Holes
Free Family Weekend Events List for August 15-16, 2015
Flash Giveaway Monday — Set of 4 Keychains from Totally Kids Furniture and Toys in Bloomington
Free Family Weekend Events List for August 7 – 10, 2015
Family Fun Idea: Wabun Park Picnic Area & Wading Pool in Minneapolis
10 Ideas for Free or Cheap Family Fun in August
10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer

Read Aloud Wednesday: Go on a Family Adventure Without Leaving Your House

Family Fun at Home

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.

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2015 Minnesota State Fair: 10 Ideas for Free Family Fun + New Foods!

blog together

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

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

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

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).

WCCO fair forecasters!

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

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):

PicMonkey Collage 2015 fair foods - Copy

  • 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.

Free & Budget Family Weekend Events List for August 22-23, 2015

Ideas for free & budget this weekend could take you to a foodie festival in Minneapolis, a Japanese lantern lighting ceremony in St. Paul, or on a quick road trip to discover historic sites in Scandia. Or, for more ideas on how to spend the weekend and beyond, there’s always our Family Fun Calendar. Happy exploring!


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Family Fun with Dad: Favorite Local Fishing Holes

Wednesday Dad

Fishing for bass

Her first bass with Dad

Our new Wednesday series continues with Family Fun with Dad.  Anne, Joy, and I recognize that sometimes it’s good to get a man’s perspective, so we are partnering with local dads to give you a better all-around perspective. Of course, moms are more than welcome to participate in these activities, too!

Today, we are featuring my husband.

Dad: Chris Kordatzky from New Brighton

Kids: Four children ages 5, 7, 8 & 10 Read More

Free Family Weekend Events List for August 15-16, 2015

Feel like taking a little drive this weekend? About 45 minutes from the Twin Cities, the town of Scandia has a wonderful Swedish heritage museum and this Saturday is their 25th Annual Fiddle Festival with free activities, music and dancing for all ages. A similar distance from the Metro, in the Taylors Falls area, is the quirky Franconia Sculpture Park with climb-on art and free guided tours every Sunday at 2pm. Or, if you feel like sticking closer to home, we have ideas galore on our Family Fun Calendar. Happy exploring!


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gammelgarden museum, scandia

Spelmanstamma – Gammelgarden Museum’s 25th Annual Fiddle Festival
@ Gammelgarden Museum
20880 Olinda Trail North, Scandia, MN 55073

Time: 10am-4pm
Details: About a 45-minute drive from the middle of the Metro is the charming Gammelgarden Museum, a collection of historic buildings that tells the story of Swedish immigrants to the Scandia area. Take a drive up for their annual Fiddle Festival where you can enjoy touring the exhibits for free, immigrant-inspired children’s activities and a whole lot of fiddling and folk dancing. Plus, one of our f

richfield farmers market

richfield farmers market, live entertainment

Richfield Farmers Market: Family Activities
@ Veterans Memorial Park
6335 Portland Ave S, Richfield, 55423

Time: Market open 7am-noon
Details: Read-a-Story live performances for families will take place in the community arts building next to the market from 10-11am this Saturday, and the Richfield Historical Society will demonstrate how to make homemade butter from 9am-noon, an easy recipe to make with kids.

40th Annual Vadnais Heights Heritage Days
Most events @ Community Park (641 County Road F) and
Vadnais Heights Commons (655 County Rd F), Vadnais Heights, 55127

Time: Saturday, Aug. 15 • all day & Sunday, Aug. 16 • events until 5pm
Details: Of special interest to kids and their families are the children’s games, held 10:30am-2pm on the Community Park soccer field. Enjoy carnival games, a cake walk, watermelon-eating contest, races and more. Get the full schedule here. All activities are free.



arthur’s world at minnesota children’s museum

Target Free Third Sunday
@ Minnesota Children’s Museum
10 7th St W, St Paul, 55102

Time: 9am – 5pm
Ages: All ages attend free!
Details: Explore the museum, including the new exhibit Arthur’s World thanks to the generosity of Target.

Free Sundays at the Bell Museum
@ Bell Museum of Natural History
10 Church Street SE, Minneapolis

Time: Noon-5pm
Details: Admission is free every Sunday at The Bell – take the kids into the Touch & See Discovery Room to get hands-on with natural artifacts or take a scavenger hunt through the dioramas. Read about our take on the Bell Museum here.

Free Guided Tour at Franconia
@ Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 Saint Croix Trail, Shafer, MN 55074

Time: 2pm ongoing Sundays through October 25, 2015
Details: An hour-long guided tour throughout the 43-acre sculpture park gives you the inside story on the 100+ sculpture collection – and if the kids aren’t up to an organized tour, much of the art is climbable and interactive so you can let them have at it!

climb-on fun at franconia sculpture park

Flash Giveaway Monday — Set of 4 Keychains from Totally Kids Furniture and Toys in Bloomington

flash giveaway MondayI grew up in Minnesota– all over.  I was born in Moorhead, moved to Fergus Falls area, lived on the North Shore, and lived in western Minnesota.  Now, as you know, I am a part of the masses that make up the Twin Cities.

I love Minnesota.  I have a Minnesota pride that is hard to beat, and I am passing that along to my kids.  Although with a dad from and two sets of grandparents currently live in Wisconsin, they have a strong affinity for the neighbor to our East.

And honestly, I am okay with that.

Despite that fact, some of my best memories come from my growing up years in Morris, Minnesota.   Read More

Free Family Weekend Events List for August 7 – 10, 2015

It’s all about art this weekend in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul are hosting four of their big annual festivals, plus join Minneapolis Institute of Arts as they celebrate their 100th birthday with a block party bash. For more ideas on how to get out and about this weekend and beyond, check our Family Fun Calendar. Happy exploring!


Hours: Fri • 3-11pm, Sat • 10am-11pm, Sun • 9am-7pm
Family-friendly details: Of special interest to kids are the art and activity tents. Take an Irish dance lesson, play cultural games, make a craft, make a tin whistle and listen to child musicians. You can find a complete listing of events, plus entertainment, speakers and exhibitors here.
Getting there: Metro Transit is sponsoring free rides to Union Depot (download your pass here) where a connecting shuttle will take you out to Harriet Island. You can get more information about parking near the Fair here. Read More

Family Fun Idea: Wabun Park Picnic Area & Wading Pool in Minneapolis

PicMonkey Collage wabun poolOne of my personal favorite park pools — Wabun Park Picnic Area Wading Pool in Minneapolis — was added to our master list of splash pads this summer when I decided to include wading pools in the mix. My reasoning for this was that there are so many good options around town for these hybrids that feature the zero-depth entry and spray features that parents of younger children love along with a little deeper water to practice those swim skills.

Not only does Wabun Park have a pool that fits the above description (and a cool spraying rock structure), it has terrific playground equipment that was just installed last year to replace the old, worn-out stuff. My youngest loves the updated tot lot with a shaded sandy play area and the swaying vintage camper trailer, a nod to the park’s roots as an auto tourist camp.

PicMonkey Collage wabun park

There is also ample covered picnic space at Wabun, perfect for that power lunch before, middle or after a rousing day at the pool and playground.

Bonus idea: If you think your kids might be up to the walk (it’s also possible to drive and park closer to the visitor center at 5000 W River Pkwy, Minneapolis), there’s a path that will take you from the Wabun Park Picnic Area down to Lock and Dam No. 1 on the Mississippi riverfront. The Visitor Promenade is open daily during park hours and little ones might enjoy spotting watercraft moving through the locks from a birds-eye view.

tm lock dam 1(3)

Wabun Park Picnic Area (part of Minnehaha Regional Park)
4655 46th Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55417

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:

tm dye garden

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.

tm exploratots (2)

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

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