Tag - Free Family Fun

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FFTC’s Guide to Local Parades in the Twin Cities
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45+ Fun Physical Activities for Kids of All Ages, Categorized
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45+ Fun Indoor Games for Kids of All Ages, Categorized
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Experience Feed My Starving Children with Family Fun Twin Cities
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Early Halloween Haunts Around the Cities
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Field Trip at Silverwood Park
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The Holidazzle Parade — Don’t Miss the Last Season!
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Making the Most of the Twin Cities Book Festival
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Summertime Together: French Regional Park Play Area
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Summertime Together: Elm Creek Park Reserve Play Area

FFTC’s Guide to Local Parades in the Twin Cities

Parades are some of the best family fun in the summer.  They are free, you get candy, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort.  Just bring a blanket or a chair.  Oh, and some pillowcases for all the tootsie rolls you will be collecting.


This guide is brought to you by Wheel Fun Rentals.


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45+ Fun Physical Activities for Kids of All Ages, Categorized

Physical Activities for Kids from familyfuntwincities.com

Get the children moving with this list of physical activities for kids! They are categorized into age appropriate groups, but as always, these physical activities for kids can be enjoyed by those who are ready and willing to have fun and get some exercise. How did you like to stay active as a kid? What physical activities do you do with your your kids? Let us know!

Physical activities for kids ages 2-4
Physical activities for kids ages 5-8
Physical activities for kids ages 9-12
Physical activities for kids ages 13-17
Physical activities for kids of all ages! Read More

45+ Fun Indoor Games for Kids of All Ages, Categorized

Indoor Games for Kids

Rainy day and indoor games for kids of all ages! This list is categorized into age appropriate groups, but as always, these indoor games for kids can truly be enjoyed by anyone who is ready and willing to have fun. What indoor games did your family love to play growing up, and what indoor games do you play now with your kids? Let us know!

Note: Most of these games are classics that can be played without any fancy equipment, but if you would like to purchase a game, we have included links to our Amazon store. While your price does not change, we receive a small commission on any purchases made through our site.

Indoor games for kids ages 2-4
Indoor games for kids ages 5-8
Indoor games for kids ages 9-12
Indoor games for kids ages 13-17
Indoor games for kids of all ages!

Indoor games for kids ages 2-4

1. I Spy

A great game for your child to get to know the world around her. For a child who has never played, you can start by picking out an object within plain view, not mentioning the object, and saying “I Spy something blue.” If there is only one child, then she can keep guessing until she gets it right. If there are multiple children then they can take turns looking around and guessing. The first child correct gets to spy something next. Simple and fun!

Variations – Limit the number of guesses each child gets. Or, say things like “I Spy something that is a circle.” The difficulty is easily changed by what you are actually spying (smaller or less obvious things) and how you describe what is spied (bumpy or soft things, for example).

2. Balance Beam

This is more easily set up than you might think. Go get the masking tape, tape down a line of any length, and have a blast! Challenge your child to only walk on the line all the way to end. And definitely tape down further lines at different angles. Spirals and zig-zags are always fun.

Variations – The fastest child without stepping off, walking it heel-to-toe, walking it backwards, with eyes closed (socks off so they can feel the line), and jumping down the line (both feet still on!) are all great variants. If you want to get real about it, you can certainly lay down and secure 2×4 pieces of wood!

 

3. Touch-and-Feel

This is a great way to focus young kids on the sense of touch in a world so focused on the sense of sight. Get their mind to associate information to something other than just the way it looks. The point here is to put interesting objects into containers that a child must reach into and identify without looking at them. You’ll most likely want to use shoe boxes for the container as they are usually readily available, can be easily cut with scissors, and do not let any light through. Making the boxes can actually be part of the fun – have the kids color, paint, or draw on them, but make sure to cut out a child-sized hand hole on the side of the box beforehand as we don’t want good art to be cut out J! Put an item in each box and have your kids take turns guessing what the items are. Encourage questions and offer clues as needed. After identifying the objects you can have one of the children go get the items to put in next.

Variations – Offer points to those that guess correctly, or put in foods that may be wet, like spaghetti noodles or grapes.

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Experience Feed My Starving Children with Family Fun Twin Cities

Last year, I visited Feed My Starving Children for the first time.  It was a wonderful experience.  And one we have done again and again with my kids. This year, you can join FFTC on Monday, November 23 from Noon-2 p.m. 

If you are interested in joining us, we have reserved 20 spots for you to join us.  They have very strict age guidelines.  All volunteers need to be over 5 years old and the adult to child ratio is very important to adhere to.  If you want to come, but need childcare, please let us know under the contact button.  We will arrange for you to be able to come.

Click here to register to join our FFTC Packing Team.

Read more to check out our experience.

Feed My Starving Children Read More

Early Halloween Haunts Around the Cities

The Twin Cities goes nuts around Halloween, and it’s very exciting!  At the same time, Halloween can be kind of scary especially for little ones.  And truth be told, we at Family Fun Twin Cities have just recently started to take advantage of the Halloween Celebrations ourselves. We’ve rounded up some of the best activities for our families for your benefit and just ours!

One word of caution:  don’t drive  downtown Minneapolis during the Zombie Pub Crawl–happening Saturday, October 11.  Just Saying!

Here are some ideas for Halloween Fun for the early in the month.  You might as well get as much use out of those Halloween Costumes as you possibly can, I always say! Read More

Field Trip at Silverwood Park

fieldtrip2013

If you can, try to get No-Coast-Craft-O-Rama’s  Field Trip  presented together with mnartists.org and Three Rivers Park District on your schedule. It will be held at Silverwood Park on Saturday, September 20  from 11:00 am-5:00 pm.

It will not disappoint since there will be  no drama, just loads of fun. Read More

The Holidazzle Parade — Don’t Miss the Last Season!

logoRight along the Nicollet Mall between 4th St. and 12th St. in downtown Minneapolis, you can experience a little bit of Christmas magic in the Holidazzle Parade  each Friday and Saturday evening from November 29 until December 21st.

From 6:30 to 7:00 pm the streetlights are turned off, and the holiday parade lights are turned on.  And you can enjoy the cold brisk Minnesota air and celebrate the season in a truly fantastical way.  This is the last season of the Holidazzle, so if you’ve never experienced the tradition or need to make sure you see it again, you’ll want to make a point to get this holiday season.

We arrived by 5:30 to claim a spot on the curb.  This was a very good idea since by 6:00, the street was packed with people and we were saving space for 12.  It was also not a super cold night.  So since it was a pretty wonderful December evening, it was very busy along the Mall.  We brought a blanket and for the most part, 6 of the 8 kids were able to fit on it.

 

 

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As we waited for our friends to arrive, we were entertained by the dazzle sellers–whatever kind of light up gizmo you wanted could be purchased for a price.  Also, the MIA was offering Rickshaw rides (or as one sign said, “A One Man Open Sleigh”)  up and down the road in front of us.  They looked like fun and kids rode for free, but there was a price for an adult ride.

 

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We brought snacks, but if you were hungry, refreshments were available for purchase.

 

Right before the parade started, the streetlights were shut off and there was a collective gasp of awe.  I, myself, cracked up.  It was hilarious!  However, to get the full effect of the parade, the street needed to be a dark as possible.

 

Our friends arrived and we took a picture of our children who were (for all practical purposes) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.

 

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And then the parade started.

 

holidazzle collage

 

Some tips to enjoy the Holidazzle 

  1. Don’t park in the 8th Street Ramp.  It took us over an hour to get out and on the road.  It’s the closest one and the busiest.  You will get stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to the stairs and the elevator.  The Crowne Plaza Hotel ramp is $1 more ($6 instead of $5), but that extra dollar is totally worth it.  Our friends from Champlin texted us as we were in line in the ramp waiting to get out and they were almost home.  Go for the Crown Plaza, people.  If you do park in the 8th street ramp, you might as well get in line at Candyland and enjoy a delicious confectionary treat before you brave the parking ramp itself.
  2. Arrive at 5:30 if you want a spot in the front of the sidewalk.  It gets really crowded and pushy.  And Bring a blanket.  It will help to keep your bottom a little warmer and help to stake your spot.
  3. Have everyone go to the bathroom before you get outside.  Fighting through the crowds is not fun when you have a little one who needs to use the facilities.
  4. Remember to have fun.  People will be pushy and people will jockey to get around you, but you aren’t there for them.  If your kids are having fun or if you are looking forward to seeing the lights, then it’s all worth it.

Some of the highlights for me.

  1. It was fun when the streetlights turned off.
  2. The people in the parade who walked by us usually tried to give as many people a high five as they could.  The kids loved that.
  3. They didn’t stop the traffic on 7th street so the parade had to stop at each red light to wait for a green light to continue.  That cracked me up!
  4. The Circus train was the best float.  All my kids loved it!
  5. My favorite characters were the Christmas lightbulbs.  Each lightbulb was a man/woman, and they walked down the street separately bending wwwwaaaaaayyy over into your faces.  They were hilarious!  If I ever was able to volunteer for the Holidazzle parade, I would so want to be a Christmas lightbulb.

The Holidazzle parade has been a Christmas tradition in the Twin Cities for years, and it is definitely a fun experience!  Don’t miss out.  There are four weekends to catch the fun before it’s gone forever!


good photos courtesy of Patrick Kelley


 

Making the Most of the Twin Cities Book Festival

The amount of children’s book authors in the Twin Cities area is amazing to me.  This is such an great place to live if you are a book lover — and who isn’t?  Throughout the year, we have opportunities to meet authors at bookstores like The Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus. However, a couple times a year, there are events that bring many authors into one place.   One of these events is the Twin Cities Book Festival from Rain Taxi. The Children’s Pavilion alone will host 13 authors.  Besides the authors, there will be activities available all day, including:

Scheduled Activities:

Free Face Painting (10:00 – 3:00)
The musical stylings of Duke Otherwise (11:30, 1:00. 2:30)
Meet Captain ReadMore! (1:30 and 2:30)
Beyond the Book: Fun Activities with Scarletta Press Authors
10:00 -11:30 am: Greg Bancroft, Betsy’s Day at the Game
11:30 -1:00 pm: Stephanie Wallingford and Dawn Rynders, A Day at the Lake
1:00 – 3:00pm: Gary Cook, The Best Saturday Ever!

All-Day Activities:

Storywalk featuring Moo! by David LaRochelle & Mike Wohnoutka
Author Book Scavenger Hunt—win a deck of cards if you find all the answers!
Fold-a-Book with the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library
Book Necklaces with
Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Poetry on the Spot with author
Stephanie Watson
Get Carded! Show us your library card and wear your “I Got Carded” button with pride.

You could go just for these activities for as long or short of a visit as you like and have a very nice family outing.  However, if you want to make a little more of it, getting to know the authors is a fun way to make the experience a little more intimate.  Most of them also offer encouragement for young writers.

Elizabeti’s Doll Trailer at ARTISTdirect.


S.A. Bodeen is the author of the award-winning Elizabeti trilogy.  This series of children’s picture books follows a young Tanzanian girl as she adjusts to the birth of a baby brother, a baby sister and starting school.  In the first book, Elizabeti’s Doll, Elizabeti finds a rock that she adopts as her doll and cares for it as her mother cares for her new brother.  The trailer for the reading of this story  can be found at ELIZABETI’S DOLL Trailer @ARTISTdirect.  Bodeen will also be signing copies of her award-winning young adult novels.


SabudaquoteRobert Sabuda creates pop up books.  Actually, he creates critically acclaimed pop up books.  If you and your kids enjoy book arts, I really recommend checking out his site.  He offers a lot of pointers in Pop-Up Questions and also some instructions for making your own pop up books on his website.  I think it would be really fun to study his website this week with my grade schooler and then go visit with Mr. Sabuda.


BullardLisa Bullard will be releasing Turn Left at the Cow — a young adult mystery — just in time for the Book Festival this week.  If you want to prep for your visit, you may want to visit Ms. Bullard’s Children’s Literature Network post, where she gives some excellent ideas for brainstorming your own stories — including making a map collage or utilizing Pinterest.  Speaking of Pinterest, you can go get 13 clues to the story at the author’s Pinterest board for the book.


ratLynne Jonell writes the Magic series that started with Hamster Magic, Lawnmower Magic and currently Grasshopper Magic.  She also wrote the Emmy and the Rat Series which has won the Minnesota Book Award.  If your kids are fans of the Emmy series, they can design their own personalized bookmark for reading these books.


Deborah Jo Larson will be appearing with her picture book, One Frozen Lake.  Ms. Larson has ice-fishing coloring pages you can download from her site. 


Mary Logue is an author and poet and rug maker.  She has published children’s and adult’s books.  Her latest children’s book is Sleep Like a Tiger.  You can see the trailer for it below.


WinteroftheRobotsKurtis Scaletta is another author with a book releasing this week.  You can be among the first to get your hands on The Winter of the Robots and get it signed by the author.   Mr. Scaletta offers some really cool Extras to go with each of his books.  Like some of the other authors on this list, his Q & A page on his website is a great place to go if you want to get some insight into his creative process.  He also reminds you that most writers (like musicians) have day jobs.


 

I have already embarrassed myself over at Free Family Fun with my article on Stephen Shaskan.  If I could remember my password, I would have just moved the article over to this site, but unfortunately, I can’t, so you’ll have to read it over there.  But to sum it up Stephen Shaskan is a really cool person and he has a really cool website.  You will enjoy checking it out.  Shaskan also writes music.  Below are some of the kids songs he has written.  (There is a big space after this plugin.  Keep going, there are more authors.)


 

Obert Skye is a new author to me.  His website is somewhat unfinished, so I don’t have much to recommend from it yet.  He will be at the book festival with his latest book, Pinocula.  This is a part of his Creature from My Closet series which he talks about in the video below.  This video kind of gives you a peak into his personality, too.


Fall2013_Rite_Bejing_800x500Lauren Stringer will be at the festival with her latest book When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky. This book is about an infamous riot in Paris after the opening night of the ballet, The Rite of Spring.  This ballet, is being performed this month for free by Ballet Minnesota.  Wouldn’t it be fun to get the book signed by the author and then go see the ballet.  What do your kids feel about the story?  Is it something to riot over?


If you aspiring young writer also likes creating comics, they will want to meet Yasmine Surovec  — the creator of the Cat versus Human website.  She will be sharing her latest book, I See Kitty.  I’ve included one of her comics below.  If you are a cat person you will enjoy her website.

http://www.catversushuman.com

http://www.catversushuman.com


Kristen Tracy writes children and young adult novels.  She is also a poet. Below is a link to her poem Rain at the Zoo from American Life Poetry.

 


Stephanie Watson writes the Elvis & Olive series which we have started reading at home.  They are perfect books for grade school girls.  She has most recently written the picture book, The Wee Hours.  You can see a trailer for it below.


 I hope you and your family find this useful and can pick a few favorite authors to get to know.  They can be some of the most interesting people.

Joy Peters is one of the creators of FamilyFunTwinCities.com.  Her writing focuses on providing an arts-oriented family lifestyle on a small budget.

 

  

Summertime Together: French Regional Park Play Area

This is our last installment of Summertime Together.  Honestly, I can’t believe how fast it’s gone.  But that’s what happens when you are having fun, I guess!  For our last Three River Parks Play Area Review, Anne and I met with our eight children at French Regional Park.  We had both heard of their play area and were curious to see what it had to offer.

In the West Metro

French Regional Park

5:00 AM–10:00 PM
763.694.7750
12605 Rockford Road
Plymouth, MN 55441

Located in Plymouth, French Regional Park is worth checking out.  I am a bit fond of this park since my maiden name was French.  So quite honestly (and dorkily) I like to say I own it in my special way–I don’t.

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It was the perfect summer day for a trip to the park.  Slight breeze, sunshine, and smiles were all we needed.  Oh, and we can’t forget the self-proclaimed lame lunches.  Anne and I both made lame lunches, but our children were fed and free to play, so no one could complain.

 

 

 

 

The first thing that we noticed as we parked the van was that the structure was a wooden structure. It was refreshing to see a well-kept wooden playground that was obviously loved and maintained.  It brought me back to my childhood.  Half of the playground was hidden in the back, so it was hard to see everything it had to offer.  What we saw, though, was enticing.  The kids hopped out of the van and made a beeline for the nets.

That’s right!  The main attraction was the maze of cargo nets.

French Park Nets

Is it difficult to maneuver?  Yes!  Did we worry about the almost 2 year old?  A little bit.  Was it fun?  Oh, my goodness!  Yes!  I have never seen someone from my family so willingly drop themselves headfirst, roll into a somersault, and come up smiling.  I had some near heart attacks, but as soon as they were standing and smiling, I was able to let it go.  A little.

At the top of the cargo net structure that must stand about 30 feet tall, is a large fort.  For some reason, unknown to me, we called it the barn.  From the barn, there are steps and bridges and tunnels to play as well.

After a bit, I started to explore the rest of the play area.  they have a smaller structure with slides and steps and a smaller cargo net crawl space for littler ones.  Not only that, but they have a sand box and a couple of tire swings and “baby” swings.

French Regional Park Sand

There were plenty of picnic tables and shaded spots.  The bathrooms were clean and in the Park Center right beside the play area.  There is a lot of grassy area, too!

Anne and I were very impressed, and our kids really had a fun time.  We will be going back again.

Highlights

  • There were a lot of different choices of self guided activity and plenty of  space for adults to join in.  I’m sure the nets would have held me, but I’m slightly (okay, deathly) afraid of heights, and the nets go up really high.  If I had had the courage I could have gone all the way to the top.  At one point, I was “stuck” inside the net helping Anne’s little girl.  That’s the way to get to know someone.  Just throw yourself on them trusting whole-heartedly that they will catch you.  
  • Water was easily available and the bathrooms were very accessible.  On a summer day, both of those things are important.
  • With tunnels, cargo nets, slides, swings, and sand, there really wasn’t anything it didn’t have.

Disadvantages

  • In one spot, you can climb the cargo net from the ground up 9 or 10 feet.  Then, you needed to swing your leg over and drop yourself into the net.  It was not an easy thing to do.  I was nervous watching Jack, my 3 year old, do this since I couldn’t reach past his foot in case he fell.  That one spot, however, was the only spot that I  felt could have caused serious damage.  And for the three hours we were there, numerous kids scaled it without a single injury. 
  • If you have an independent little one like Anne and I do, they can get lost very quickly on this appartus.  Jack was self sufficient being able to hold his own (only one time getting his face stepped on), so I didn’t need to worry too much.   But if we took our eyes off Anne’s youngest, she was gone in a flash.  Generally, we just needed to walk around the corner to find her.
  • Some of the nets hang low.  If a child flings themselves down onto the net and you are under it, there is a mighty good chance they will hit your head causing you harm.  My advice?  Don’t walk under the nets.

When I asked my kids what their favorite thing to do at French Park was, 3 out of the 4 said the nets.  They called them the ropes, but same difference.  I think the same was true for Anne’s kids.  Those nets were exciting and a completely different experience than anything else we’ve done.

French Regional Park

5:00 AM–10:00 PM
763.694.7750
12605 Rockford Road
Plymouth, MN 55441

Summertime Together: Elm Creek Park Reserve Play Area

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Hours: 5:00 AM–10:00 PM
Phone: 763.694.7894 (Elm Creek Chalet)
Address:

12400 James Deane Parkway
Maple Grove, MN 55369

 

 

 

 

In the North
Elm Creek Park Reserve is on the far northwestern corner of the Twin Cities. In fact, Highway 610 doesn’t yet go much farther than the exit to get off at the park.
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You would be hard-pressed to find a kid who won’t like Elm Creek Park Reserve’s Play Area.  Our family affectionately calls it the Rainbow Park.

After parking in the lot, you cross a bridge or run through the grass to begin this amazing playground experience.  It has all the traditional fun of the playground fort and slides (but on steroids since the slides are 25 feet long).  Beyond that, though, there are so many other features of this playground that are hard to explain, and I am up for the challenge to try.

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First of all, we call it the rainbow park because a big chunk of the playground is covered in recycled tires–whatever those rubbery mats are made of–that is a a beautiful rainbow pattern.  The colors are bright.  The mat goes up a steep incline to the base of the slide fort.  At the top of the incline sits a bench with a covering creating a perfect Parent Perch to look over the entire playground and be close to the fort if someone needs help although the fort is designed so well that there is really no need.  Parents can join in playing with their kids instead of rescuing them. 

 

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Right next to the incline is a retaining wall that created a perfect place for my 5 year old to practice her daredevil moves.  There is a giant boulder that has a rope ladder from it to the rest of the playground .  The whole thing is surrounded by a fence with only one opening, so it’s easy to protect your little ones. On top of the retaining wall and over to the side are three “swings.”  They don’t look like swings.  They look like saucers hanging down from 2 bungee cords that can easily fit 4 children.  These are the only swings, but my kids couldn’t get enough of them.  They never sat empty for long.

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In front of the incline was a structure designed for younger children.  It looked like a lot of fun, but my 2 year old was so happy that he could play almost completely unassisted with the big kids so I only caught him there once.  In front of that structure was a huge sand box.  So bring your sand toys.  Even if you don’t bring your sand toys, your kids will enjoy excavating a 30 foot dinosaur buried in the box.

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There were some rope contraptions for older kids to play on (or adventurous 2 year olds) including a big geometric double helix-type structure.  Some sites call it a spiderweb, but it was like two pyramids wrapped together.  The other rope-like construction was this egg shaped gizmo.  I have no idea what it was exactly, but you climbed in the entrance and up to the first level or top level.  There you sat while someone spun you.  Sometimes the egg was at full capacity with 20 kids and other times only my four.

Off to the side of the main playground was another setup (orange and yellow)  and down at the bottom of the incline was yet another (gray and blue).  These constructions included a zipline with a seat, maneuvering devices, and other general playground fun.

The backside of the play area (behind the fort) are woods and there are walking paths that go around the playground through the rest of the park.  The playground even has plenty of green space with a lawn between it and the bathrooms and plenty of picnic tables.

We spent all day there–the only way we were able to leave was by promising them  ice cream.

Highlights:

  • Plenty of places to be able to supervise your children (i.e. Parent Perches)
  • Many different choices
  • Overall safe environment
  • Lots of picnic tables–in shade and in the sun
  • Beautiful woods as a backdrop
  • Clean and easily accessible bathrooms
  • Spacious enough for crowds of children to play without running over the little ones.

Disadvantages

  • So many choices, four children could be in four different areas making it difficult to help them all if they needed it.
  • The comfortable seating made it ideal to forget about your children and just relax
  • With crowds of children, it’s easy to lose track of yours. 

My good friend Dacia brought her kids there last week and was amazed.  She texted me saying that it was “over the top.”  And it is.  It’s amazing and you won’t regret bringing your children for a day.  Pack a picnic and your suits (the man-made swimming pond is located close to the play area, but you don’t even see it) and enjoy the day at this amazing park.

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Hours: 5:00 AM–10:00 PM
Phone: 763.694.7894 (Elm Creek Chalet)
Address:

12400 James Deane Parkway
Maple Grove, MN 55369

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