Category - Playgrounds

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Twin Cities Indoor Playgrounds and Play Areas Guide
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10 Things for Kids: Pinwheel Play in Chanhassen
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10 Things for Kids: Richardson Nature Center & Hyland Lake Park
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Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green
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10 MORE Twin Cities Beaches, Playgrounds & Attractions to Try This Summer
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Lake Nokomis Main Beach–Sandy Fun for Everyone
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Archived: 10 Ideas for Free or Cheap Family Fun in July
8
Make Your Summer Great! You Asked, We Listened.
9
Round Up of Minneapolis Wading Pools — Opening Saturday!
10
Indoor & Outdoor Fun: Twin Cities Nature Centers SW Metro

Twin Cities Indoor Playgrounds and Play Areas Guide

We all know the realities of raising kids in the Minnesota extremities: there’s got to be a place to go were we can escape the elements while still allowing those kids a place to burn off that extra energy. Enter our Twin Cities Indoor Playgrounds and Play Areas list. We hope you can use it to find a new space to wear those littles out — and perhaps catch yourself a break.


indoor playground

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For more options on keeping the little ones moving throughout the chilly months, check out our Open Play, Gym & Swim Spots for Tots in the Twin Cities!

 

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10 Things for Kids: Pinwheel Play in Chanhassen

Pinwheel PlayThere’s a new play space in town! Located off of Highway 5 in Chanhassen, Pinwheel Play is an incredibly fun modern destination.

Pinwheel Play let us check out their space for free.  All opinions are mine.

Lisa Perkins Smith, with her husband Bryon, opened Pinwheel Play because they couldn’t find a play space that fit their needs.  They wanted a place that was clean, welcoming and catered to many types of open-ended play for the younger set.

It was hard to whittle this list down to 10 things; I was very impressed with this well-planned space.

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10 Things for Kids: Richardson Nature Center & Hyland Lake Park

tm richardson nc 5

My preschooler’s request for a simple picnic in April turned into a full afternoon of nature play, wildlife spotting and cargo-net clambering. And, thanks to the 80-degree temps, we were able to be outdoors for hours. Bonus: if you can make it out this month, you’ll beat both the crowds and the mosquitoes! Here are 10 things we’re confident kids of all ages can enjoy at the Richardson Nature Center and Hyland Lake Park Reserve: Read More

Nature Playgrounds in the Twin Cities – Get Back to Green

Nature Playgrounds are a growing trend for good reason; scientists keep finding connections between nature to child development and well-being.

nature playgrounds
nature playgroundsIt used to be, according to my children, that in order for a park to be authentic, it needed at least a slide and a set of swings. I was less enthusiastic about taking them to places like state parks simply because I felt I’d have to go the extra mile to “prove” that playing and exploring in a natural environment could be just as fun as clambering around a commercially manufactured jungle gym. Don’t get me wrong – the local playgrounds can be a lot of fun, too. And some are really inventive! But I have to say that I get a deeper satisfaction from watching them play in a more natural setting: digging, figuring out how to climb that tree, following paths, building forts. They become immersed in tossing rocks into the water, scouting frogs, collecting wildflowers. They also gradually forget that “playing at the park” requires a plastic treehouse.

So here’s what I find really cool: incorporating natural elements into new playground designs seems to be the trend. More places are popping up where kids get the opportunity to interact with the landscape and, perhaps, develop a greater appreciation for it. Here are seven places I’ve discovered that have those goals in mind:

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

tm big marine beach

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.

tm elm creek park reserve

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

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.

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Archived: 10 Ideas for Free or Cheap Family Fun in July

Bring on July, a month fit for beaches and ice cream, outdoor games and perhaps even evenings that can stretch a little later than usual. We’re back with 10 more ideas for low-budget family fun – plus our Top 10 Fireworks Displays and FFTC’s Guide to the Aquatennial could help round out the rest of your family’s free time in July.

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eidem homestead

Daily Life on the Farm @ Eidem Homestead, 4345 101st Ave N, Brooklyn Park, 55443

When: July 8 & July 22 (Wednesdays)
Cost: $5/pp, ages 4 & under admitted free
Details: Travel back to the turn of the 20th century at this historic farmstead. Kids can get as hands-on as they’d like — participating in farm chores such as feeding animals, picking crops, and hauling wood. Inside the farmhouse, work in the kitchen or assist in spinning wool. Want to visit the farm for free? Attend one of their Storytimes (Tuesdays in July, 10am-noon w/ the exception of 7/28 when stories are read 7-8pm). Read More

Make Your Summer Great! You Asked, We Listened.

 

Twin Cities Guidebook

The guidebook you need for this summer

We can’t wait to tell you about all the great stuff we have found for you this summer.

Barbie Atkins (who was once my supervisor at my first job) stated she would like, “A compiled list of festivals and/or city celebrations and parades.”

We were already in the process of making this happen, but it was nice to get a confirmation.  We plowed ahead with the project and are pleased to bring to you our new guidebook.

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Round Up of Minneapolis Wading Pools — Opening Saturday!

Below is Minneapolis Park’s List of Wading Pools with addresses and links to the their website for more information on each pool.  For More Information and up-to-date closures, see the Park’s Pool Page.  Water Parks Open June 13th. Read More

Indoor & Outdoor Fun: Twin Cities Nature Centers SW Metro

It’s another April day in Minnesota where we just can’t quite get spring weather to commit – and I’m back with my second round in a series of the indoor and outdoor entertainment to be had at Twin Cities nature centers. In my previous post, I highlighted the activities at three NE Metro locations.

Today, I moved in a south-westerly direction (for no reason other than the fact I could find three in a roughly 10-mile radius that worked with my schedule) and hit up another trio of nature centers I believe you and your young ones would enjoy. I found Westwood Hills Nature Center, Richardson Nature Center and Wood Lake Nature Center to be exceptionally family-friendly and great for a day destined to be spent either indoors or out. Read on for more details.

Westwood Hills Nature Center
8300 W Franklin Ave, St Louis Park, MN 55426

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Friday • 8:30am-4:30pm

Twin Cities Nature CentersIndoor fun: The indoor portion of the nature center is on the small side, very appealing to kids. One colorful corner is stocked with books, puzzles, games and stuffed animals; other areas have drawers to pull out containing natural objects to touch (beware the compost drawer if you’re squeamish about vermiculture!). An on-hand naturalist engaged my kids in a game of I-Spy with wildlife around the room and gave me the scoop on preschool and family programs available throughout the year at Westwood Hills. Get a sampling of those, including the Nature For the Very Young drop-in preschool programs open to the public here.

Outdoor fun: Weather permitting, bring a picnic and spend some time in the outdoor play area. There are both a traditional playground climbing structure and a small nature play yard containing stumps, logs, shelters and one really cool work of art (see collage above). Within a stone’s throw of a suburban neighborhood is a lake, winding trails, a beautiful observation deck, and a landscaped habitat for Westwood Hill’s resident Barred owl.

Richardson Nature Center
8737 East Bush Lake Road, Bloomington, MN 55438

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Saturday • 9am-5pm

Twin Cities Nature Centers

Indoor fun: Colorful, eye-popping relief murals decorate many of the walls of Richardson Nature Center. Grab a scavenger hunt card and see if you can pick out the wildlife in the detailed scenes. My oldest child did this while his preschool-aged sister explored the book nook, stacks of puzzles, a crawl-through coyote den, and other hands-on exhibits. Then, the two collaborated on a predator-prey puppet show for my viewing pleasure.

Outdoor fun: Sheltered within the Hyland Lake Park Reserve, Richardson Nature Center is the starting point for many trails and a Nature Exploration Area where kids can putter around with natural building materials. Check out a bird, bug or frog kit from the front desk to explore the prairie and wetlands. Close to the indoor exhibits is an outdoor raptor viewing area.

Wood Lake Nature Center
6710 Lakeshore Dr, Richfield, MN 55423

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Saturday • 8:30am-5pm

Twin Cities Nature Centers

Indoor fun: Again, I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of how many interactive exhibits there were for kids at my third stop of the day – Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, a little preserve of land sandwiched between city and first-ring suburbia. The preschooler is always content with a set of miniature animals no matter where she goes; my 9-year-old prefers activities that involve a touch screen. Wood Lake has both — simple toys and books for younger visitors and some creative exhibits that older kids will enjoy operating. We especially enjoyed matching sounds in nature with the creatures who make them.

Outdoor fun: When the weather warms up, it will be great fun to spend time in the Wood Lake Nature Play Area, watching the kids interact not with screens, but with logs, boulders, sticks and other natural materials. The play yard is fenced in and completely conducive to creative play.


Yes, we visited all three of these Twin Cities Nature Centers in one day. Though we had a great time, I don’t advise trying to fit so many in. Pick one, slow down, explore and enjoy. Stay tuned this spring for the next installment of FFTC’s Guide to Twin Cities-area Nature Centers!


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