Category - Thrifty

Extended Another Year! MELSA smARTpass Program – An Arts Access Program for Metro Public Library Users
Twin Cities Apple Orchards — Southeastern Fun
Free Twin Cities July Events & Activities
Feel Like a Kid Again in June
Free Rides on Cafesjian’s Carousel in Como Park
Twin Cities May Budget Family Events & Activities
Family Fun: Visit The Raptor Center
Read Across America Day: Seuss-tastic Events Around the Twin Cities – That You Can Attend With All of Your Kiddies
Try Hockey For Free Day – February 25, 2017
Hang Out With the Vulcans at Snow Park at the Fair

Extended Another Year! MELSA smARTpass Program – An Arts Access Program for Metro Public Library Users

The MELSA Libraries (Anoka County, Carver County, Dakota County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Saint Paul, Scott County, Washington County), that the smARTpass Program will be extended another year, beginning September 1, 2017. Library patrons will continue to have this option for free or reduced-price tickets to arts activities and museums. Like the Museum Adventure Pass that went before it, this program is not guaranteed to be around forever. We recommend taking advantage of it but also thanking the venues for their support. It would be sad to lose this resource.

MELSA smARTpass program Read More

Twin Cities Apple Orchards — Southeastern Fun

Southeast Metro Apple Orchard

For a list of orchards spanning the four corners of the Twin Cities metro area, visit our FFTC Guide to Twin Cities Apple Orchards.


Whistling Well Farm | Hastings

Southeast Metro Apple OrchardThis is a quaint orchard that welcomes you to enjoy farm life. Named for the whistling well on their property, Whistling Well Farm is run by Charlie and Carol Johnson — and sons Chad and Neal. With no entrance fee, you are welcome to roam around the farm at your leisure.

Whistling Well Farm has all the basic amenities of a typical orchard: gift barn, food barn, and animals. They have a donkey and a goat. While the animals didn’t do much when we were there, they were still fun for the kids to see.

Whistling Well Farm is maintained with the help of a springer spaniel named Emmy. In fact, she has her own picture book for sale (written by Charlie). They also sell small stuffed replicas of her.

But the best part of Whistling Well Farms? The chickens!

I can guarantee that your children will spend the rest of your visit in the chicken coop coaxing the non-hungry chickens into eating more corn from their hands. I must admit, it was lots of fun to have the chickens actually eat out of your hands!

Or, if your children have no interest in actually feeding the chickens, they may take corn kernel by corn kernel out of the cob and make a pile of feed for the chickens.

For its unique farm experience, I recommend Whistling Well Farm.  It is worth the drive.

Orchard notes
Open: Picking season begins around Labor Day, check their website or call to confirm.
Hours: Daily, 9am-6pm
Cost: Free admission and limited children’s activities
Picking & details: Stop by the farm and pick up some apples, visit with the goats and chickens, and make a wish at the whistling well with all donations going to local charities. The orchard’s Apple Festival runs the first three weekends in October.

Fischer’s Croix Farm Orchard | Hastings

Open: Mid-Sept-Oct
Hours: Tues-Sun, 9:30am-5pm
Cost: Free admission, fees for additional activities
Picking & details: Enjoy the fall season at this beautiful orchard on the St. Croix River. Pick-your-own apples and pumpkins and, for more family fun, take a tractor pulled wagon ride to the corn maze (weekends only) mid-September to October. Straw Mountain and the Apple Express are popular with kids and all ages will enjoy a visit to the barnyard. The Food Wagon is open on weekends, from late September through late October. Catch the Annual Apple Festival with fun family activities running the first two weekends of October.

McDougall’s Apple Junction | Hastings

Please note: This orchard is now permanently closed.

This is the perfect Mom-and-Pop apple orchard. It’s a fairly sizable orchard with more than fifteen varieties of apples, and admission into the orchard is free on weekdays!

As you drive into the property, a fun atmosphere welcomes you. The Apple House and Outdoor Market supply you with many different opportunities for purchasing their own honey roasted peanut butter, apple paraphernalia, already picked apples, pumpkins, chrysanthemums,  and the ultimate favorite for everyone in our family: Pick Your Own Apples. While we were visiting, the Haralson apples and Honeygold were available for PYO.

The apple trees at McDougall’s are well tended. They are small which makes it possible for you to reach almost all the way to the top. And full of apples. They are pruned for maximum fruit bearing.

The Apple Junction Playland at the back of the yard has a $3 admission fee for kids. There is also a suggested 50 cent donation to climb the newly constructed Observation tower just outside the playland.

The playland is intended for children ages 10 and under and contains a children’s maze, all terrain trikes, slides, swings, a climbing wall, sand box, a thirty-two foot wooden train, milking a (pretend) cow, and a small prize.

Apple Junction also has a goat mountain (read: goat pen that has a mountain of straw for the goats to play on!), a straw mountain for humans to play on, new duck races, a calf named Cupcake, and some bunnies. There are also plenty of picture stops.

If you want to, you can take a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch and come back with pumpkins for the season. Each fall they host a Pumpkin Festival and an Apple Festival. This is a dynamite orchard and is definitely worth the trip!

Orchard Notes
14325 110th St S., Hastings, MN, 55033
Open daily from 10am – 6pm
Click here for an update on what varieties are currently being picked in the orchard.

Orchard Notes
8973 St. Croix Trail South, Hastings, MN 55033
Hours: Open daily 9am – 6pm through November.
Picking: Click here to see what’s currently pickin’ at Whistling Well Farm.

Free Twin Cities July Events & Activities

Twin Cities Free July Events and Activities
Fill your summer with FREE events in the Twin Cities during the month of July!

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Feel Like a Kid Again in June

June is ridiculously crazy busy!  There is so much  happening that I hope we were able to catch it all! Here are our favorite ways to Feel Like a Kid Again in June.

Feel Like a Kid Again in June

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Free Rides on Cafesjian’s Carousel in Como Park

Cafesjian’s Carousel

Cafesjian's Carousel in como park11 a.m.-4 p.m.
FREE Ride dates for 2017:
  • May 30, Memorial Day
  • July 4, Independence Day
  • July 25, National Carousel Day
  • August 24, State Fair opens
  • Sept. 4, Labor Day

Last year, Cafestian’s Carousel in Como Regional Park expanded their hours to include all Mondays. It has become a spring tradition of ours to visit the beautiful antique merry-go-round when the temps are cooler and the price is unbeatable. For those of you who love a Minnesota State Fair connection, the hand-carved horses called the Fairgrounds home until the 1980’s. A St. Paul couple saved the carousel from the auction block, carefully restored the horses, and eventually were able to raise enough money for the carousel’s permanent pavilion in Como. Read More

Twin Cities May Budget Family Events & Activities

It doesn’t have to break the bank to entertain the family away from home in the Twin Cities! You’ll find seasonal and ongoing events and activities listed here that all cost $5-$6 or less per person to attend.

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Family Fun: Visit The Raptor Center

Today’s Flash Family Fun Idea suggests you bring kids of any age for a fun and educational visit to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. Here are five reasons why:


  • Tours are low-cost and often. Tuesday – Friday from 10:30am to 3:30pm, tours step off every half hour. With so many times available, it’s very likely you’ll get a guide all to yourself! Kids ages 3-17 and seniors pay just $3 for a tour; adults are $5. The fees help with the care and rehabilitation of the birds.
  • In my experience, when I’ve gotten a personal tour, the guide has tailored it to the ages of my children. Don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t have much of an attention span. Or, if you’ve got an inquisitive older child, they can ask as many questions as they like. This could make a wonderful outing for a homeschooling family.
  • The birds are beautiful! Get up close to bald eagles, kestrels, owls and falcons. The Raptor Center treats about 800 injured birds a year with the goal of releasing them back to the wild. If you’re interested in witnessing a release, an annual event is held in the fall at Carpenter St Croix Valley Nature Center in Hastings.
  • Your kids can’t get their hands on the raptors, but there are drawers of objects such as feathers and talons that little ones can touch.
  • A children’s corner contains play vet sets, stuffed animals, x-rays, coloring sheets and books if you end up waiting a short time for a tour.

And here’s another tip: free parking is scarce around the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. If you’ve got some extra time (and a stroller), consider parking on a residential street in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood and walking a few blocks. The Raptor Center is located at 1920 Fitch Ave, Falcon Heights, MN 55108.

Read Across America Day: Seuss-tastic Events Around the Twin Cities – That You Can Attend With All of Your Kiddies

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’s birthday and the NEA (National Education Association) is celebrating the 20th Annual Read Across America Day.

Visit Seussville on Read Across America Day

Play games and learn more about Dr. Seuss at

 The Twin Cities is joining the fun with celebrations at these locations:

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Try Hockey For Free Day – February 25, 2017

Try Hockey for Free Day is an initiative that allows kids ages 4-12 to try hockey at no cost at participating rinks

Try Hockey for Free Day is an initiative that allows kids ages 4-12 to try hockey at no cost at participating rinks

Try Hockey For Free Day
Various arenas around the country
Saturday, February 25, 2017; FREE!

On the fence about making the investment to put your kid in hockey? I understand. I’ve been there myself. And I highly recommend you give the sport a try for free on Saturday, February 25th.The event gives kids a shot at experiencing the basics of hockey without financial commitment. It’s strictly for fun! Plus, coaches will be on hand to offer tips and provide equipment. Learn more and find a location near you at the Try Hockey for Free website.

Who knows? This might be the beginning of a lifelong love of hockey. It certainly helps us get through our long Minnesota winters!

Arenas Participating in Try Hockey For Free Day

Participating Hockey Arenas include:



Hang Out With the Vulcans at Snow Park at the Fair

Despite the bone-chilling temps the last couple years, I took the kids out to the Winter Carnival Snow Park at the Fair to change their minds about the St. Paul Vulcans. See, the little ones had always been wary of that wailing fire truck. Not to mention the red-cloaked men who once tried to ambush their mother at a parade in order to paint a huge black V on her cheek. I was willing to forgive and forget because the Krewe are the ones responsible for reviving the Minnesota State Snow Sculpting Competition and organizing a super fun Snow Park at the Fair around it.
Here's how the St. Paul Vulcans managed to win the hearts of my three girls

Here’s how the St. Paul Vulcans managed to win the hearts of my three girls (and why we’ll be back at the Vulcan Fun Day this Sunday): Read More

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